How much time do you spend selecting the names of your characters? Do they pop into your head and stick? Or do you pour through baby name books looking for the one that calls to you? Or do you pick the names (or variations on the names) of your favorite public figures?
Ever since I was in grade school and sat next to a fellow by the name of Barry Perry (who was never called just Barry), I’ve been fascinated by names.
I think long and hard on the names of my characters … testing first and last together for rhythm, verifying authenticity with the locale and time period, and ensuring the name reflects the personality of the character. If, during the course of writing a book, a character’s personality evolves into something I didn’t foresee when I started, I’ll change that character’s name.
I confess, though, the most common reason for me to change names partway through a book is realizing that I have too many that begin with the same letter.
I use a couple of resources to name my characters: a standard baby name book and a book called Names through the Ages by Teresa Norman. The Norman book breaks names into Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English, French, and American origins, and assigns time periods to their usage. Very helpful for a historical writer. I also use another great book, the Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. This book goes further on the origin side of things, breaking names into 45 countries/places of origin, and also has articles on character naming.
If you don’t have the funds for a book at this moment, you can have a look at a few online sites:
Behind The Name First Names – provides meanings for various first names
Behind the Name Surnames – provides meanings for a selection of last names
Social Security Administration – gives lists of popular names by year
Or if you need more help, check out some of the character name generators:
Here’s hoping you have as much fun naming your characters as I do.