We have a baby on the way (6 weeks & counting) and so have recently put a lot of effort into name choosing. We were sure (no particular reason) it would be a girl, and had a list of around five we both liked. The second scan revealed it to be a him and threw us right off. It’s a lot harder to choose for boys, we’ve found. (Perhaps too many males are Dicks?)
I’ve just finished the first draft of a 10k-word story with a fair few characters in, and it tickled me that despite it just being a bit of fiction I’m hacking together, I still anxiously labour over name choices. I thought I’d share a few naming considerations I toy with and a few resources I’ve uncovered.
First up, I am shamefully dreadful at remembering character names in books or films. Books: I just about manage to remember the main character, sometimes their adversary. However, I can comfortably remember any number of first letters. This leads to flummoxations if two characters have identical initials. Action point: I decided all characters in my stories should be unique in the first letter of their names. I’d even tried breaking this rule in the book I’m working on, and finally, at around 50k words in, changed one character’s name because I just kept mixing (Kiyoshi and Kazafumi–Japanese names, just to make things needlessly difficult!) the two up whilst writing.
Rhyming names, too, can bother me when reading. Bobby and Robby, or even Bobby and Toby… I would confuse these. However, rhyming names could suit brothers or even similar characters striving for the same goals. Bobby the Brave and Robby the Rotten, perhaps. If you like this idea, there are plenty of lists of rhyming names online.
Similarly, syllables can come into consideration. Todd and Tex–no no no, but Todd and Tyler… hmmm, still a no for me, but possibly passable. Todd and Timothy, though… I think I could deal with those (as long as Timothy never becomes Timmy or Tim (and Todd never becomes Toddothy)).
Enough of what not to do. What to do? When we failed to come up with any boys’ names we liked, we scrolled every single name on this list of 1000 names, managing to narrow it down to fewer than 10 maybes. I’ve done similar for Indian characters, as I’m not all that familiar with Indian names.
Every time you write a story, you have to come up with (hopefully) more than one name. And you (hopefully) have some intended meaning/theme/lesson/fable for your story. So why not name the characters with some deeper meaning? Simple anagrams can be fun. Curtains rise and we meet Hose Earl (or maybe Rosa Heel)… what do you think of my main character so far?
Another fun and useful site generates a bunch of names for you based upon selected input criteria? (Top names for our son based on this: Danica (sounds like female porn star), Kyle (Minogue?), Ellis (Elephant?), Scout (not even a name), Shannon (er, boys’ name?), Jack (booooring), Oliver (knew an arse named Oliver when I was young (women seem to like this name, though)), Alfred (ditto the arse thing), Elias (best of the bunch, but still a bit off), Louis (half loo, half piss). (Here’s another similar site)
Giving your characters names that means something appropriate to their role or personality can make you feel like a terribly clever writer. There are even a lot of common names that have really bad meanings. Getting a bit sillier, how about slapping rude name on a sub-character? Here’s a long list of dirty names, from Eric Shun to Fonda Cox.
Finally, here are a few more links that could come in useful:
- US top 10 male & female names by year (so you could check what kind of names were common back in 1925, for instance)
- UK graphs of name popularity over time, back as far as 1905 (my name has never been in the top 100!)
- A nickname finder, because your main character could be given different nicknames by different of your sub-characters.
- Some info about name popularities in different countries.