How to Name Your Fictional Character #WritingTips

How to Name Your Fictional Character

I’ve recently finished writing the sequel to my last YA supernatural novel, Oath Breaker, and hope to release book two (Oath Keeper) next spring.

With any follow-on book the hard work of naming your characters has been covered when you outlined your idea for book one. However, like any good story, it’s nice to add a few new faces to keep the storyline fresh and the characters on their toes.

I have the name of my main characters in my head long before I start to write. They have been forming, evolving, talking to me, and becoming three dimensional for a while, so I feel like they are part of my family. Secondary characters tend to trickle in over time as I begin to plan.

In Oath Keeper I have a new secondary character who adds a little light relief to the story. She’s ten years old, a feisty, loyal, and friendly little girl who wants to be in the heart of the action despite her young age. I loved writing this character, but the name I’d given her didn’t feel right.

whats your name

What do you do when you need to find a character name? Do you turn to the baby name book, or run your eye over the book spines on your shelf searching for inspiration? Perhaps you’re organised for such eventualities and have a document saved on your computer with possible name selections ready to use.

I opted to involve my YA Facebook followers. I started the Fantasy Author SL Wilson Facebook page quite a few years ago and continue to be blown away by the level of interaction from my page followers. These guys are great fun and always ready with a gif, photo, funny comment, or help if I need it.

I uploaded an image for inspiration and gave a brief description of the character, I then asked my followers for some help. As always, they overwhelmed me with their response.

What's my name_

What I love most about involving my readers is how passionate they are about the story. I didn’t just get a few name suggestions, I received well thought out ideas with explanations as to why their name choice would suit my story. They also shared beautiful and personal tales about girls in their family, or friendship groups, who fit the profile of my character.

Was it helpful? Yes, but it was also humbling to have so many people getting involved and being a part of the next adventure.

I’m always telling my page followers how awesome they are and would urge any author to fully engage with their audience on whatever platform works best for them. If you’d like to get involved in my FB page for lots of fun and fantasy, then please do feel free to join us HERE.

So, did I find an appropriate name? Yes, I did. Thanks to Jennalyn I chose to use her beautiful daughter’s name, Arianna (Ari for short) and loved how well it fit my little character.

If you’re struggling to find an appropriate name for your character then make sure to engage your audience. They are so invested in your books they will get it spot on. If that doesn’t work I’ve added the impressive list my fantabulous fans shared below, so please feel free to use their ideas.

I’d love to hear how you come up with character names if you are a writer. Or, as a reader, do you find it easy to connect with characters through their names?

What's my name 2

Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you enjoyed this post. Want more? Connect with me here:  Twitter @ShelleyWilson72, Instagram or check out my Facebook pages http://www.facebook.com/FantasyAuthorSLWilson and http://www.facebook.com/MotivateMeBlog. You can also find me on Pinterest

24 comments

  1. Great idea, it is so easy for an author to get stuck with names, sometimes you spot too many characters all with the same start letter to their names, or too many that all sound similar and it can be hard to differentiate between them.
    An author will know their characters really well, but someone picking up the book only once, has to be able to create those characters in their head straight away.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the idea of asking my followers for name suggestions! I have used the names of several of my high school classmates already – they were so excited and pleased at that and it boosted sales! – but this is a new twist!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I keep two lists in the back of a notebook of male and female names from the fourteenth century. Every time I come across a new name in a book I’m reading or in a family tree I add it to the list. I was 30k into the current novel when I realised I’d misnamed the heroine. She’s French, which makes finding a name for her much harder.

    The name that you’ve chosen for the little girl is wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice to have that interaction. I go down the Victorian names in various contemporary volumes. Or I make them up, which CAN cause problems with one of my eagle-eyed editors: a character in W&W was originally called Mrs Anaglypta Frost ..until ed pointed out that anaglyptic wallpaper wasn’t introduced until the 1980s …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I tend to factor in my character’s heritage. For instance, I have a character of decidedly Irish heritage, so I googled Irish surnames to start with, and picked one I liked, then did the same for first names. Et voila! Maggie Devlin was born. I also have a big, strong Viking of a man whose ancestry is definitely Scandinavian, so I did the same for him, resulting in Gunnar Wolfe, or “Gunn” to his friends. That sounded pretty strong to me. 😉

    The majority of my characters are from the south, since that’s where my books are set. Old southern surnames are easy to track down, and you can pull up long lists of first names, too. I keep scanning until I find a combination that jumps out at me. I have to believe this person is real, myself, before I can even start writing, and the right name goes a long way toward making that work for me. The names are solid in my head before I begin to type, so I’ve never involved anyone else in that part of the process. I work with beta readers throughout my entire draft to get input on how the storyline is working, but my character names are already firmly established by then. For me, it tells me who they are, since the name helps shape them as much as they help shape the name.

    Very interesting post, Shelley. If I’m ever truly stuck, or torn between two names, perhaps, I would certainly try sounding out my betas for input. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this, Marcia! Needing to believe the person is real before writing is so important. I think that’s where I got stuck as the name I’d originally given just wasn’t sitting well with me. Once I’d renamed her she was easy to write. Thanks for your advice x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suspect we all have our favorite ways to go about this process, just as we do our own way of writing, but it’s very interesting to see how others work. And I often give new ways a try, to see if they “fit” my approach. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but always worth considering, else how would we grow at anything in life? 🙂 I’m glad you found a way to solve your problems, and it looks like it’s going to help others, as well. It doesn’t get better than that! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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