That Would Make a Nice Character Name!

Names are powerful things, especially in fiction. When you give a character a certain name, you’re on the way to making him well-rounded. The name you choose has an etymological meaning, cultural weight, and a sound that can be pleasant or dissonant to the ear. It’s important to be mindful of a name’s meanings when you’re contemplating giving it to a character.

Whenever I hear a name, I think something like, “I wouldn’t name my kid that, but it might make a nice character name.”

Current favorite names:

1. Ezra
2. Teresa/Theresa
3. Sarah (I don’t really like “Sara” without the h)
4. Jesse (for a guy)
5. Liam
6. Joseph
7. Ava
8. Levi

I’ve noticed a trend where a lot of novelists give their female main characters masculine names, like Max or Rocky. Maybe they think it makes the character more edgy or something. I also don’t like last names used as first names, like Madison or Carson or Mackenzie or Parker. I like traditional, somewhat old-fashioned names with a lot of meaning behind them.

What kind of names do you pick for your characters?

11 thoughts on “That Would Make a Nice Character Name!

  1. I pick whichever name my character tells me is their’s. I had a character who just seemed like an Adam, but I decided I wanted him to have a different name and tried to change it…nope. It went back to Adam slowly but surely, and then my manuscript was a mess because I’d default to Adam and then remember I’d changed it in other instances…it just didn’t feel right.

    If a character’s name doesn’t automatically come to me, I know it’s not time to write yet. Although I love your list above – that same manuscript one of my main characters was named Ava : )

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    • That’s what I like about writing. If there’s a character who seems like they should have a certain name, you can actually call them that name. Not like in real life, where you meet people who look like Adams or Marys or Pauls, yet their real name is something different – you can’t just rename them to what you think they look like! Thank you for commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I usually always try to have my main characters’ name have some kind of meaning. Since I write fantasy, I try to use names that aren’t super common, but aren’t a weird concoction I thought up. I use real names for everyone. I’ve been struggling naming the main characters for my latest book. The woman I wanted a strong sounding name for, something short. I used “Svara” as a placeholder a while back. But the name didn’t have the meaning I like to have. So for now I am using “Rune”, which means “Secret”. Having a name to fit a character is a nice thing. I think it depends on what you want to convey and what genre you’re writing for.

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    • That is true; you can’t really use the same names for fantasy that you would for realistic fiction. “Rune” is a nice name; it sounds strong and it has a good meaning behind it. I like simple, easy-to-pronounce names. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. In my novel FIVE, I have an ex-police detective by the name of Ray Kurtz. I’ve been told that the name harkens blatantly back to “Heart of Darkness” and that I should change it. The thing is, that IS his name. Nothing I’ve tried has given me a suitable replacement.

    For me, the sound of the name is everything. It can’t just look good on paper, it must also sound good as it rolls from the tongue. The name must give some small insight into the character.

    In the sequel to FIVE (oddly, if aptly called SIX), I have a bad guy who talks to cars, and kills them if they don’t talk back. His name is Richard Ryder. He, like Ray Kurtz, refuses any attempt at a name change.

    Good topic!

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    • The same thing happens to me. I have a few character names that probably should be changed (for copyright reasons or because the meaning is inappropriate), but I can’t bring myself to change them because that’s how I’ve identified the character for so long.

      I like your names – and even though I didn’t like “Heart of Darkness,” I don’t see why you couldn’t have a character with the same name as one of Conrad’s characters. It doesn’t seem like such a blatant reference to me. “Ray Kurtz” has a nice ring to it.

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  4. Hey! I’m waiting for “Judson” to pick up momentum! I used to go by “Jud”, but didn’t “Oklahoma” pretty much ruin that name for all time? POOR JUD IS DAID! Lordy! Parents need to spend a lot more time deciding on a child’sname. It can be a life altering event.

    — Judson

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    • That is true – parents do need to be more discerning when picking a name. I feel bad for all the kids named Aiden these days. It seems like everyone’s naming their babies Aiden. What’s going to happen when little Aiden goes to kindergarten and ends up in a class full of other Aidens?

      Nothing wrong with Judson to me. It’s a nice name – I like “J” names. ๐Ÿ™‚

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