‘A rose by any other name, may smell as sweet,’ but what about our characters? Are all names the same? Can they be interchanged and still carry the same meaning and impact? Does a Fred give the reader the same impression as an Alfred? What kind of person do you picture with the name Marci, how about Mariamne, or Mary, or Meraera, or Malith?
Names have power in our stories. But how do we create the right name for every character?
When I first started writing, I bought a baby name book. When I created a new character I’d pick a letter I wanted the name to start with and then go through the pages looking at meanings and spelling variations until I found something to suit my character.
As time passed and I roamed the web more, I discovered a plethora of sites to find names. Most baby or new mom sites have a dedicated page for names. But I took my naming to the next level by choosing a name based on its meaning. Sites like the following are a small list of possibilities for search by the meaning.
- Behind the Name, allows you to type in the meaning you want and it provides a list of names from around the world that have that meaning. Or you can search by nationality.
- Name Berry allows searches by meaning as well.
- Belly Ballet gives you lists of names with their meanings.
If you don’t want to waste hours on the net and have Scrivener, there is a name generator built in. You can to pick a name based on gender and nationality. (Edit > Writing Tools > Name Generator > )
I have also found some apps I enjoy: (these are free for Android, but they might be found for Apple as well—or something similar)
- Name Generator
- Fake Name Generator is fun. It will give you a name: First and last, along with an address, occupation, fake SSN, and a long list of other stats.
Since I write most of my books with a medieval feel, I have several sites bookmarked for Old English names. Here are some of my favorites.
I have also looked for names popular in the old west. More recently I Googled ‘most popular names in 19—’. When you know the age of your character you can get a feel for the names many parents were giving their children the same year as your character was born.
Here is another free app for fantasy names
- Fantasy Name Generator. This one has an extensive list of possible fantasy characters to choose from, including: hobbits, elves, angels, dragon, dwarves, and a host of others.
By far, one of my favorite new finds as a fantasy writer is Donjon. You can create an entire world with this site. Each of the names below is link within site that leads to worlds of possibilities. You can name your characters, your world, and the locations in your world. There are occupations, population stats, maps, and diagrams. A person could spend days on this site—and never get a word written.
- Fantasy Name Generator
- Random Generator
- Fantasy Calendar Generator
- Fantasy World Generator
- Medieval Demographics Calculator
- Random Adventure Generator
- Random Dungeon Generator
- Random Inn Generator
Do you have any tried and true ways of naming characters? Share your insights and happy naming.
Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.