My Name Is? 5/3/15

In Writing on February 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Naming characters in your stories can be tough. One of the biggest problems I have, is remembering what I’ve named peripheral characters. Of course I write them down, but whether or not I can find my notebook of names at that very moment- well -we’ve already discussed the cyclone that develops around my desk as I write. (Already been down the dry-erase route, bulletin board, etc.)

I have a few baby name books (picked up for pennies in thrift shops), and obviously there are a lot of baby name sites, many of which divide names into categories. One of the books I have is called ‘Cool Names’ and of course, practically none of them are.  Some  chapters collect celebrity baby names, musician names, literary names, rapper names ,etc. Many are ridiculous- but my point is that there are numerous sources. And sometimes you need a douchey name for a- not so great character!

Personally, I would never, ever use someone’s real name for a character based on them, for a myriad of reasons. I would feel like my hands were tied as to what attributes I could assign to them, and I would feel them metaphorically looking over my shoulder. Not good for honest writing. However, I will often use their real name temporarily, then replace it with a fictional name in the final draft. It’s just easier to write about someone using their actual name, and not having to ‘check your files’ They’ll never know.

I also check lists for the most popular names of 1985-or whatever year I’m writing about (and based on the age of the character. Someone who’s twenty in 1985- would likely be named from the popular names list of 1965- and so forth) There are lists of popular surnames as well, often alphabetical. Compared to creating a story, naming your characters is often the least difficult task- and sometimes it can be almost fun. It’s where you filed all of that ‘fun’ that can sometimes present a hurdle.


  1. Thanks for sharing our post on naming characters! Great point about considering the character’s age and making sure to think about names from their birth year.

    TWL Assistant Editor


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