Creating characters is one of the most exciting aspects of researching for a novel, but it can also be one of the most challenging. One of the biggest hurdles is coming up with unique book character names that are memorable and fitting for your story. In this blog post, we will explore 11 tips on brainstorming character names for your novel.
1. Take the Character’s Age into Consideration
Your character’s age plays a significant role in the name selection process. A name that may be fitting for a baby, like Daisy or Noah, might not be appropriate for an adult character. Similarly, an older character might have a name that was popular the year they were born. Take the time to research popular names during the era your character was born to find a fitting name.
2. Think about the Character’s Parents
Another fun practice to try when choosing book character names is to think about a character’s parents. Ask yourself if the character’s parents lean toward traditional, eclectic, or modern. Then, use that information to brainstorm their naming choices and what they might have chosen for their child. Here’s an example: a female character who has parents who beat to their own drums might name their daughter River or Sage. Whereas a female character with more traditional parents might have the name Elizabeth or Grace.
3. Keep Your Genre in Mind
If you’re writing a fantasy novel, for example, you might choose names that are more exotic or otherworldly. On the other hand, a contemporary novel may benefit from names that are more familiar and modern.
4. Use Easy-to-Pronounce Names
It’s important to choose names that are easy to pronounce and remember. If a reader has trouble pronouncing a name, it can pull them out of the story and disrupt their reading flow.
5. Don’t Ignore Your Character’s Origin
The origin of your character can provide excellent inspiration for name selection. If your character is from a specific region or country, research popular names from that area. This can add depth and authenticity to your story.
6. Look Back to Your Family Tree
Your family tree is a great source of inspiration for character names, too. Consider using the names of your ancestors or family members for your characters. This can add a personal touch to your novel and make it more meaningful.
7. Get Creative with a Prefix or Suffix
A prefix or suffix often adds a unique twist to a name. Adding a prefix like “Dr.” or “Miss” to a name, for example, can add an extra element to your character. Adding “Dr.” to a character’s name—Dr. Sheila Monroe, for example—quickly communicates to readers that Sheila is a doctor. Adding “Miss” to a character’s name—Miss Madeline—communicates to readers that the character is a girl (age 18 or younger).
Similarly, adding a suffix like “Jr.” or “Sr.” at the end of someone’s name conveys additional information to readers. Using the “Jr.” suffix, such as Maxwell Thomas Jr., quickly communicates to readers that Maxwell’s father has the same name, which conveys that Maxwell comes from a more traditional family. Whereas the “Sr.” suffix at the end of a name, such as Henry Holmes Sr. tells readers that Henry is an older male in his family, that he is older, and may even communicate to readers that Henry has more wisdom than other characters in the story.
8. Try an Alliteration
Alliteration is the repetition of letters or sounds at the beginning of words. This can be a fun way to create a memorable and catchy name. You can use an alliteration for a character’s first and last name like Samantha Smith or Max Miller. If you’re feeling extra creative, use an alliteration for your character’s first, middle, and last name. A female character’s name using an alliteration could be Lilly Louise Lambert. A male character’s name could be William Wyatt Whitaker.
9. Combine the Names of Your Favorite People
If you’re having trouble deciding on a name, consider combining the names of your favorite characters, friends, family members, or authors. This can create a unique name that has personal meaning to you.
10. Follow Baby Name Inspiration Accounts on TikTok
One fun way I like to get inspiration for book character names is to follow baby name inspiration accounts on TikTok. These accounts highlight classic, popular, and uncommon baby names that can be a great source of inspiration for naming characters in your story.
11. Use a Name Generator
If all else fails, consider using a name generator. Many online tools can generate random names based on your specifications, such as gender, ethnicity, and origin. This can be a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
3 Extra Tips When It Comes to Naming Characters
Once you have a few book character names selected, follow these three tips to make sure each one is the best fit for your story:
Make Sure All Book Characters’ Names Start with Different Letters
It’s important to avoid giving several characters names that start with the same letter. For example, having a Timothy and a Thomas in the same story can be too similar and confuse the reader. You want to make sure that readers can always keep track of who’s who in your story.
Don’t Use Famous Names
Finally, it’s important to avoid using famous names in your novel, such as Elvis, Robert DeNiro, or Taylor Swift (as a few examples). Using famous names in your fictional story is distracting and takes readers out of your story. Stick to original names that are unique to your story.
Do Your Homework Regarding Name Origins
If you have a character with a specific background, you’ll want to be extra sure that you give that character an appropriate surname from the region the character is from. For instance, if you have a male character who is from Sicily, Italy, the surname you give him should be accurate for the region.