how to find character names?

by taylor
(oklahoma)

Question: I'm having trouble deciding on a character name. I really like unique names, but some of my favorites (such as Ever or Haven from Evermore) are already taken by other authors. I don't want to copy names from people who originally thought of it first, but I don't even know where to begin thinking about original names. Is it okay to copy some (but mot all) character names from other authors? Will it be considered plagiarism if I do? Please help me!


Answer: The real risk in using names of very well known characters is not that you will be accused of plagiarism but that your readers will recognize them and your work will seem less original. Of course, you are free to use any common name in the phone book without such risk, but don't think you can give a character a name like "Sherlock Holmes" or "Lady Gaga" without everyone raising an eyebrow.

Your best bet, assuming you are writing fantasy, is to create original names yourself. In addition to the phone book, you can get ideas by thumbing through a dictionary, a "Baby Names" website (perhaps change the spelling of some traditional but rare names), or perhaps by looking at some very old genealogies.

You will also find random name generators on the web, some of which are geared towards fantasy. I would suggest you not use the names these generators produce without changing them a little to fit the world you are creating.

In the end, you want names that resonate with you - names that, in your mind, could only be associated with your unique characters. So your best resource is really your own imagination.

Comments for how to find character names?

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Feb 27, 2012
Choose names that have a significance.
by: Stephanie

When I plotted my first novel, I decided on the roles each character was going to play, and the relationship each had between each other.

Then I used their goals or characteristics that they had to choose a name. For example:
I had a character who was going to sacrifice herself in the story. I searched names that meant "sacrifice", "strong", "noble" etc. And came up with the name "Kyra".

Also, I keep a document of girl's and boy's names on my computer. And other names that could be used as a street, avenue, or city in a fictional story. That way, when I have a new story in mind, I just open up that document to choose a name. It narrows down the search as I have a list to choose from.

Sep 13, 2013
Name That Character! Best Way to Find the Correct Name for Your Western Novel
by: Kateri Maloney

When I pick a character name for my books I try very hard to keep within the boundaries of the era I am writing.

Sine I write Westerns, I look at census reports from the 1800s! There is a plethora of names from every part of the world on the American census. Even better, the census started in 1790 and are available to 1930! Talk about the names!

Check out my blog for all the help and info you need!
http://katerimaloney.blogspot.com/2013/09/name-that-character-best-way-to-find.html

Thanks!
Kateri Maloney

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