June 24th 2019
"How do you select the names of your characters?"
This is a question I’ve been asked a lot, and it’s one that a lot of authors dread trying to answer. I’ve heard answers that range from “I just come up with one”, to “I spend days researching names to try and find something that fits the character”, and “the character tells me what I should call them”.
Where Do I Fit Into That Spectrum?
Interestingly enough, I’m actually all over the place.
When I started writing the first draft of “Of Wolves & Men” I knew that I was going to have a number of key characters who were going to need names that didn’t disgust them.
At first I started to scribble names down randomly, but that didn’t work.
Then I tried doing character interviews to find out a little more about them, and that’s when things got interesting, because in some cases I learned who their family members were.
But that didn’t answer the question of what I should be calling the characters themselves…
So What Was I Supposed To Do?
Well, the obvious answer was to look at the baby name lists, but that wasn’t going to give me everything I needed. But it was a good place to start. So here’s a few I tried:
A few of my characters then started to perk up when I started reading names aloud, and trust me when I say that it wasn’t a short list.
Which left me with last names to find, and a few characters who still hadn’t put their hands up during roll-call.
My Next Move Might Be Surprising...
I used to be a role-player, so I was very familiar with the idea of random tables, including one book that helped game masters design really complicated dungeon maps.
And all by rolling the dice…
So I went searching for random name generators, and the list was pretty extensive. A lot of them aren’t available anymore, but here are a few that are:
Note: Some of the sites listed above have other random generators too, so you might find yourself spiraling into hours of endless button clicking. You have been warned.
Some of the more interesting names came from sites that allowed me to select people’s backgrounds, or places of origin. A couple of them even claimed to have been built with information from census data.
This allowed me to flesh out a few more of the characters, but there is one more resource I’ve been using more recently.
Yes, I dared to enter the depths of time-loss that is Pinterest. It started as a move of desperation, but then I learned that Pinterest allowed users to create sub-boards.
Next thing I knew I was archiving names as I came across them, filing them by male, female, unisex, last name, and name generators. But here was the nice thing about the hours I spent looking at name lists, origins and descriptions… It allowed me to finish out the naming of my cast, and provided names for a few of the extras too.
Plus, I gained a very large list of names that other folks could check out.
So, Who Almost Ended Up Being Called Roger Evans?
STF File # REP0107-002-3
Racial Heritage: American/Western European
Height: 5ft 10in
Hair: Dark Blonde, Wavy, Shoulder Length
Facial Hair: Clean-shaved/Slight stubble
Left/Right Handed: Right
Dress Style: Tends toward t-shirt with long/short sleeved shirt over the top, dark colored jeans, sneakers, wrap-around sunglasses, and hoodie (in cold/wet weather)
Check Out The Rest Of The Entries
Several authors take part in these weekly blog challenges from the “Open Book” group. So, click the link below to find out how the other writers approached this question.
About The Open Book Blog Hops
“Open Book” is a group of writers who get together each week to answer some of the questions that people pose about our work.
Each week they ask the writers to write a blog post on the same topic, and then share their post with each other’s readers.
It’s a great way to get some insights into how different writers attack the same challenges in different ways.