Naming Characters

Giving a name to a character is an important part of writing a good story.  Novelists often spends years writing and revising a book, so they’d better at least enjoy the names they pick!  My novels are fantasies, so I wanted the names to be unusual.  The names I selected came from the Internet, from existing names, and from my imagination.

When I first started Wings, Waves, and Wisteria, my main characters were a boy and a girl, twins.  I named them Steve and Steph so that their names echoed the twin relationship.  Later, I decided I wanted more unusual names to make the world seem more like fantasy.  I searched the Internet for unusual baby names and came up with Sabarain and Sabrielle.  I still love those names, but both kid were nicknamed Sab and that was confusing.  I changed Sabrielle’s nickname to Bree, but still had complaints about the similarity of the names.  Finally, I changed Sabrielle’s name to Ayareli (named for a former student).

That brings me to my second category of names, collected from life.  I pay attention to names of my students, street names, actors on TV, etc.  Rachaella was named for a street near my home.  Tarq was named for an actor on a TV series.  I just really liked those names!  I never create characters that are similar to those they are named for–it is just the name I borrow.

Finally, I make up names.  Jol, Eliv, and Daav are all from my imagination.  Sometimes I change the spelling of a common name (Cary) to make it unusual, or change a letter (Olyvia).

Naming characters is all about finding a name that fits who you want the character to be.  It should be pronouncible, although some of my horse names are pretty hard (they are all based on cool ancient Welsh names).  Sometimes, your mind will surprise you.  I didn’t realize until I was into the third draft of Wings, Waves, and Wisteria that my antagonist’s name, Eliv, was an acronym for both EVIL and VILE.  Now that’s good character naming!

Post your comments:  What are some of your favorite book characters’ names?  Why do you like the name?

On my Kindle:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins   (Okay, it’s not available on Kindle, drat it.  I borrowed it from a student–thank you, Kate!)

24 responses to “Naming Characters”

  1. zoha cochinwala Avatar
    zoha cochinwala

    The name must suit your character’s personality

  2. True, Zoha! I liked the name of your novel character: Flary. Where did you get that name?

  3. Hi Mrs Ulleseit,
    Naming characters is very hard. It does have to fit with the character’s personalty.

  4. Yes, Andrew, it does. What are some of your favorites from books you’ve read?

  5. Zoha cochinwala Avatar
    Zoha cochinwala

    I got it because when I think of dragons Flary just popped into my head

    1. See how smart you are? It’s a perfect dragon name. )

  6. My favorite book character’s name is Sabrina. I like this name because when an author uses that name in a book, the character with that name has a sly, swift, nice personality. I think that our names have personalitys that represent us. For example, my name, Kathryn, means pure. Pure means a good attitude or good spirit.

    1. That’s great, Kathryn! I like your good attitude 🙂

  7. I got my character’s name jay because jay reminds me of my cousin who likes to pretend to be a detective.

    1. Yes! Another great way to get names!

  8. I have a pretty good idea in my head about what a name’s personality is, like a Stephen would be snobby and whiny and Parissa would be bossy. So depending on what my character’s personality is, I choose a name.

    1. So true, Priya! You could never call a big, athletic girl Buffy, for example. 🙂

    2. Well, I wouldn’t agree that a “Stephen” would be snobby and whiny, but this technique is pretty useful when you want to get good character names.

      1. They must have meant STEVEN is snobby and whiny, not STEPHEN. 🙂 There is something to that, though. For example, I would more likely believe a Steven to be snobby and whiny than a Bruno.

  9. My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

    1. Hi, Piter, and welcome! I love teaching writing, and yes, this blog is my hobby. Where are you from?

  10. I love the names you put in Road of Sandal.

  11. I really like the name Jasper because he can be strong and that is my brother’s name.

  12. I had some trouble with names in my NanoWrimo novel. Each character got his name changed until I found that name that would work.

    1. I had the same problem with the brother and sister in Wings, Waves, and Wisteria. First, they were twins and I called them Steve and Stephanie. Then I decided I needed more unusual names and called them Sabarain and Sabriel. I still love those names, but they wanted to call each other Sab for short, and it got really confusing. I tried nicknames of Sab for him and Bree for her, but most of my readers said it was still too similar. In the latest version they are Sabarain and Taryn, but I still like Sabriel better!

  13. I named my character Jerry because I was alway a fan of the television show Tom and Jerry.

  14. One of these days I’ll name an antagonist ‘Thade’. Anagram of ‘death’ and ‘hated’. 🙂

  15. The names that I thought out are based on Japanese names. For example, ‘Arashi’ means Tempest, usually used for a character that uses ice-wind-lightning based magic, or a playful fun character. Then theres ‘Raika’ Rai means lightning, and Ka means breeze.

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