How do you name your characters?  

Image courtesy of FakyFakersin

     It is a question I have seen quite a few times, so I’ve decided to share my process and hopefully get a few tips from you in return.  

     Some characters may come to you fully developed and knowing exactly who they are, name and all, simply looking for a voice to tell their story.  For those characters that are waiting to be born and molded, naming them can be as complex and intimate as naming a child.  In essence, these characters are your children, they are your brainchildren.   Here are a few methods that I use when naming characters:

1.  I know you: Sometimes characters can remind us of people that we know; be it their physical description or personality traits.  When this happens, I play on the name or nickname of the real person that I know.  For example, if a character reminds me of my neighbor “William”, I might name them “Bill” or even “Liam”.  

2.  You mean…: If a certain character trait stands out to me, I might surf baby name websites looking for names that fit those traits.  If my character is the leader of a group in the story, I might name them AlephFallon, or Harlod depending on their gender and which one “speaks” to me most.  A more obvious and literal example of this is the seven dwarves from Snow White.

Image courtesy of dorne

3.  You look like: There are times when I can see the character’s “image” clearly in my head.  When I get a sense of things like nationality, complexion, eye color and/or stature, I might do an image search online for actors/actresses or models that fit the mold.  If I find someone that undeniably resembles the image I have in my head, I will either use that person’s first name or play on the name the same way I do in #1 above.

4.  Randomize me: When all else fails, I will use Scrivener’s name generator.  It is a great tool that allows you to narrow the results based on things like gender or nationality.  You can also choose whether you want only first names, surnames or a combination of the two.  It even gives you the option of using alliteration or setting the obscurity level.  Do you want a basic name or something off the wall that fits perfectly in a sci-fi novel?  If I am looking for a full name (first and last) I tend to mix and match the results rather than using a name exactly as generated.

What are some methods you use to name your characters?  Are your methods similar to mine or do you have a few tricks of your own?