Finding names for your cast of characters in your next novel can be daunting, fun, challenging, a joy, and a mess.

Thank the writing gods for the ol’ find and replace button on Word, can I get an amen? Can’t tell you how many times I changed my mind midway through a novel concerning a character’s moniker.

How do you turn a groan-inducing chore into a fun treasure hunt? Here are a few ideas when all your frazzled imagination can come up with is yet another John or Sara.

21 Creative Ways to Name Your Character

  1. Get out a map of the world, a globe, or an atlas. You could search street signs and river names in your own county, go across the pond for something more exotic sounding, or call your heroine after a famous city.  Sure, Paris and Brooklyn are a bit overused and trendy these days, but how about Ireland, Berlin, Vienna, Marseille, Libya, Louisiana, Indiana, Berkeley, Havana, or America? Plus, when you choose a somewhat unusual first name, you can take it easy on the surname.Indiana Jones
  2. Baby name books or baby name sites. Used to be we writers used the ol’ fashioned book form, but now you can scroll until you find the perfect name. You can also search for specifics, like good names for baby vampires, baby names for people from Mordor, how to name my troll, etc.
  3. Take a stroll through your local humane society. Not only will you get some cuddles and furry luvin’, but those employees are really good at naming their four-legged friends.
  4. Get out your high school yearbook. Take a walk down memory lane, and remember people you only thought you forgot. Also, it’s good story inspiration fodder.
  5. Go to the library and stroll the aisles. This is especially helpful if you know you need a surname that starts with a Y.
  6. Ask your friends and family on your social media accounts what their middle names are.
  7. Ask your friends and family on your social media accounts how they came up with the names of their children.
  8. Look at your family tree. If you don’t have one, join Ancestry. The bunny trails in your family genealogy will keep you hopping for a long time, and you’ll never run out of names for your characters, or places for them to live.
  9. Scroll through your music playlists for artists whose names you hadn’t thought of until now.
  10. Do the same with a stack of records and CDs at your local thrift shop.
  11. Write down all the names of every pet you’ve ever owned, every neighbor you can think of, your three best friends from your childhood, and several street and avenue names near your house. Mix and match them until you find one that has a good ring to it.
  12. Phone books. They do still make them. Yours is probably in the recycling bin, but maybe a neighbor has one you can borrow.
  13. Your phone list from your child’s school or your church.
  14. Look up the cast of your favorite movies on Internet Movie Data Base.
  15. Write down your favorite cartoon characters and see if one of their names catches your eye. Sylvester? Sam? Linus?
  16. Flip over your DVD collection and look through the whole cast. Pay attention to the credits at the end of movies.
  17. Look up the list of all of the Presidents of the United States (and their spouses).
  18. Read your Bible.
  19. Scroll through your phone and email contacts. Say hi to the people you haven’t talked to in a while while you’re at it.
  20. Ask your mom what she was going to name you had you been born the other gender.
  21. Use a site that will give you a random name. 

Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff (and your small characters are just that). Find a great name that makes you smile (or seethe, depending on the need), keep it easy to pronounce, google it to make sure you aren’t accidentally pirating another novelist’s name, and get back to writing that book.

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How to I name my novel characters? Tips for authors

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