What is in a name?

Hello-my-name-isNames are how we identify people we know. Sure, we sometimes use descriptions, but if we are talking to someone who also knows the person, their name is the quickest way to identify them. When we hear some names it immediately causes emotions, like the name Yoda, or even Dumbledore. Then there are the names that can cause fear and hate, Ted Bundy in the real world or Galbatorix in a fantasy world.

So now that I am writing a story of my own I am having trouble naming my characters. I want the names to be something that can be remembered as belonging to my characters if someone wishes to talk about the story with someone else who has read it.  I also don’t want the names to distract from the mood of the story, image if the dashing young hero enters the scene and introduces himself as Fred Lipshitks.

For NaNoWriMo I am working on a fantasy story, so this adds the pressure of coming up with names out of the ordinary that still sound like names. I have turned to the help of a couple of name generators, Mithril and Mages being one of my favorites, but was not sure how I felt about getting my names from that kind of source.

So now I am turning to my visitors for help. Do you have a sure fire way of coming up with names for your  characters? How about a trusted source for inspiration?

Have you ever written a story and thought you had the best character name ever, only to find out someone else has already published it? Would that stop you from using the name in your story or would you feel the need to change it? That is one of my fears and hope I never have to face that one.

Well, thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my blog, I appreciate the follows. I look forward to reading your comments if the mood strikes you to add to this topic.

Until next time…


11 thoughts on “What is in a name?

  1. If you’re making up names for fantasy, I like to ground it a little to make it less eye-rolly. I think it helps to have a mix of real names and made up names. Just a couple real names thrown in there will help a lot. I know that some people will give characters made up names, but a nickname that is something familiar. I personally don’t use that technique but it’s pretty common.
    I like to use baby name websites like NameBerry to look for names. You can take a “real” name and alter it so it still has a familiar feel, but is still something your own. You can look for names from other cultures that sound unfamiliar to English speakers. That can also help you give your characters names that sound like they are from the same culture.
    They have lists of names that follow a theme on these websites, and they can show you the popularity of names.
    I could go on and on about this, so maybe I’ll write a post on this subject on my blog soon! (WritingMotor).

    1. Wow, thank you for that good information. I hope you do write a post about this, you have some good ideas and I would definitely read that one.

      I like the idea about using foreign names so that they sound unusual to English readers, I might use that one.

      Thanks for stopping by, I hope to hear from you more.

  2. When I’ve written fantasy I try to break up common names and fuse them to make a new name. Then it’s familiar enough to be easy to pronounce and remember but just strange enough to feel like it’s part of a different world.

  3. My suggestions are to put some work into some solid conlangs, to use already-existing names (or English words), or to make a few fake conlangs for names; I’ve written a post about it here.

    I find twisted-up names annoying — rather as when parents decide to name their daughter Jordyn to be unique, and then the poor girl not only has to spell her name for everyone and suffer seeing it misspelled everywhere, but also shares it with over twenty-thousand girls born in the last four years.

    1. Hi Ella, I got to read your post and it is fantastic (expect a comment on that post soon). I appreciate you stopping by and hope others follow the link to your blog.

      I also have to confess, I had to look up what a conlang is, very interesting. I found http://conlang.org/ and will have to spend some research time on this subject. And for any other noobs like me, conlangs is short for Constructed Languages, like Klingon and such.

  4. I refuse to coin unique names simply because I do SciFi. I decided to just use real names because my characters are real people, and a hokey “futuristic” name would simply be a distraction. I do mix ethnic origins between surname and family name. It’s subtle, but suggests the future.

  5. Try looking up foreign names too – sometimes there are beautiful African names or Indian names with special meanings that can add a rich layer to fantasy, and somehow they sound more like names than the made up ones. Personally, as a reader, I enjoy all the funny names for the characters we are supposed to dislike or laugh at, and kids joke books are a good source of those. Terry Pratchett is a master of the totally outrageous pun names, but he gives a nod to their outrageousness by having the other characters notice it (how could they not?).

  6. Good luck with your writing. But I have to comment on what this: “Sure, we sometimes use descriptions” — I forget which famous writer said this, but to paraphrase, he said you can’t introduce a character, not even the guy on the corner who sells papers, without a description. Character is just as important as the name, and if you know your character it’s easier to give him/her a name. Ted Bundy is a simple name, but because we know who he is and what he is, it carries enormous weight. It’s all about character, otherwise one ends writing one dimensional characters that no one really cares about. 🙂

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