What’s in a Name?

the bard clip

How I find monikers for my characters

We fiction writers have our tips and tricks for how we do what we do. And sometimes we get stuck. Personally, I can get stuck on a character name for days. And I can’t go forward until I fight the right name. It has to look right. It has to feel right. It has to sound right. And it has to sound like a real name. Like somebody you’d meet in your daily life.

Let me count the ways

Over the years I had many ways that I’d try to find just the right name. Sometimes it came out of the blue. Sometimes I’d go through phone books or other directories to find one that grabbed me. I’d scan through the obits of newspapers. But usually I’d end up thumbing through several baby name books. Yes, I have several and they have proven the wealthiest source of character names for me.

Is there meaning in the meaning?

One of the things I love about my baby name books is that they not only have hundreds of names to choose from – but that they tell you what the name means.  And this was my ‘aha!” moment with these resourceful little books. If I knew the characteristics and purpose of my characters I could find a way to match them to a name.

For example the main character in my book False Witness (insert link here) is Billy Frayne. William means ‘determined’ and Frayne means ‘stranger’. Put the two together and you get a determined stranger. This for me worked incredibly well because Billy goes off looking for a stranger to get to the truth he is determined to find. Another character in an upcoming novel is named Kennie. To ken is to know. This too is applicable to this character.

Exception to the rule

Now I don’t always use this method. Sometimes the name just comes to me.  The universe just serves it up on a silver platter and I’m off to the races. But when I get stuck thumbing through my books looking for the meaning of names often does unearth just the right one for me. It’s not always easy and it’s not always quick but it does work for me. So, if you get stuck – give it a try.

How about you? What are you secrets for find the right character name? Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2013

3 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I’m terrible at naming anything- countries, characters, cats, whatever. I use baby name books, too, and there are several websites that provide the same information. If you name your characters by meaning, you can even set them to search that way- easy peasy!

    All of my main characters have gone through at least one name change during the revision process, and I can only think of a few minor characters who haven’t, as well. I can have a “working title” name, but I can’t leave it alone until the names are absolutely perfect.

    Hi Kate & Welcome,
    And by the way, Kate is one of my all time favorite names. 🙂

    Yes you could use those parameters for name searching and it would be easy-peasy. Great idea!

    I don’t know if I could change a character’s name mid-stream – it would probably make me a little bats to do that. Especially since I’d have to make sure I replaced all the old names with the new names – but I say whatever process works for you is the one to use.

    Oh for title I have a book of cliches, idioms and similar references to help inspire them. But I have to admit I can spend even more time looking for the right title. Aaarggh!

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Writer Chick


  2. How ’bout the reverse? Have you ever thought of or come across a name you liked so much that you made a point of saving it and using it later? Maybe created a character or place just so you could use the name?

    LOL! You totally busted me on that. I most definitely have. I still have a bunch of them waiting for homes. But don’t get me started on that stuff, lest my head blow off my shoulders and orbits the moon.
    🙂 Annie


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.