The Right Name Makes a Difference! (Part 2)

Hi, everybody!

Yesterday, I gave you PART 1 of this post about naming and the importance of it. We discussed the specific questions that writers needed to ask themselves before considering how to name their characters. Issues like Ethnicity/Nationality and Timeframe, play a major part in the process of naming your character, and should definitely be taken into account.

Today, we are going to discuss different approaches to finding (and creating names), and I’m going to show you a simple, effective way I use to create Fantasy names (Super Special Bonus!).

So, now unto the juicy stuff…

Question #3: Where to look for names? 

This one is probably the easiest and yet hardest question of the bunch. There are several naming resources available for writers to chose from. And all of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

Approach 1: The Baby Name Book

You have an assortment of hundreds of baby names books swarming Internet and libraries, that go from your typical Christian names, to names derived from historical personalities, celebrity names and names created with a Science-fiction inspiration (seriously, I’m not kidding).

You have literally hundreds of choices in bibliography, and every book carries at least 1000 names. Some go up to 100,000!

This are a very good choice, because they not only give you the name, but also the origin, and sometimes they offer the form of the name in other languages (in case you want to change it a little bit)

The problem I see with this approach: It’s too time consuming. You have to browse hundreds of names in order to find the one you like, and most of the times there are names that are just too weird for anybody to use. So you waste a lot of time trying to find what you are looking for.  

 2: Online Name Generator. 

This one is a very good choice. If you type the words “name generator” in your Google search bar (or Bing, if you are into that), you are going to get about 20,000,000 results for your personal delight and enjoyment. Sure, when you compare it to this, the hundreds of baby books seem like a smarter option. But the difference in this case is that you just need one name generator to do all the work for you. You just have to input specific information and the algorithm of the site will take care of the rest.

A good thing about this option is that you can make a customized search and optimize your results a lot. It’s great in the sense that you can focus on the exact content you want and find results more efficiently. Also, name generators are free (Yay!).

The problem I see with this approach: It’s not reliable. Baby Names Books normally go through an editing process that includes fact-checking. It’s not that way with name generators, which are mainly created by other users in the web. Therefore, one can say they are probably as reliable as, let’s say, Wikipedia. This is not a big issue if, after finding the name, you do your homework and fact-check the origin and usage. 


Approach 3: Creative Hybrid Approach. 

As the name indicates, the Creative Hybrid approach combines the options above with your own creative experience.

This one is my personal favorite, because it gives you more control over the whole process of naming which, let’s face it, it’s pretty important. It’s amazing what a few references can do for you when you are having a block, and sometimes, just seeing the right letter or letter combinations can light the spark of creativity that you need to succeed.

For instance, let’s say you are in search of a name for your Urban Fantasy character, who lives in New York, it’s a college dropout and hangs out with zombie bikers in a run-down bar. Great character. Now he just needs a great name. You want something trendy and modern, but not too common.

So let’s do this. You open your book (or online generator) and browse a little bit. You pick the “English Names” section (because he lives in New York) and the “Modern Names” sections, since your book is UF. At the end, you come up with three good results:

  • Josh Edison
  • Brock Hedley
  • Carter Maitland

There, good candidates. However, they don’t feel to Fantasy or Zombie-Biker-Friend kind of character, so let’s tweak them out a little bit, shall we? For instance, the first name.

Josh is nice. If we take the “h” away, it becomes Jos… which can be changed into Jossen, Jossian, Jossiah 

If we take the “s” away, it becomes Jo… which can be changed into Joralth, Jorel, Joed, Joran… 

Like that, you can tweak and play as much as you want. Sometimes from a single name you’ll get five. Or more:

Edison: Edissen, Edissey, Edarth, Edizar, Edan…

Brock: Brocen, Brockner, Broalth, Brom, Broslan…

Hedley: Hedlen, Hedlan, Hedler, Heddar, Hedd, Heddims…

Carter: Cart, Carten, Carrion, Carthax, Carthen, Carth…

Maitland: Maitlam, Maithl, Marend, Matlen, Mallin, Mattland…

Following this approach you’ll always have a reserve of names to chose from, and if you record them as you think of them (like I do), when you run out you’ll just have to find your storage files and you’ll have names that are exclusively yours and already curated.


Hope you enjoyed this two page post, let me know how you liked it and tell me about your own naming approaches!

See you next time!


2 thoughts on “The Right Name Makes a Difference! (Part 2)

  1. In marketing, they say there are certain letters that appeal to people – K, X, L. (That’s why they named the store Lululemon!). I wonder if its the same with character names.

    1. Arel B. Grant

      I believe it depends on what you want to achieve with your name. And naming characters is an entirely different thing than naming a brand. It’s all very specific for the type of work each person does, in my opinion.

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