Character Names: Where Do They Come From?

Character names – where do they come from? From the stork? No silly!

From resources, both internal and external, online and offline.

From personal experience, I’d say character names come from our imagination and our life experience. When those two place do bring a name to mind, we research. All writers I know like research of some kind, from the internet, to books, libraries, to asking random strangers at cafes (one of my favorite sources.)

Here are some online and book resources for the fiction writer looking for help.
Bettina Clairmont, a paranormal and erotic writer, shared this site with an online writer’s loop I’m in.

She told us, “It lists tons of names and their meaning and origins. I personally always try to avoid starting more than one character’s name with the same letter, so I’m always in need of new and interesting first names.”

Social Security Administration

Another friend, Margaret Lucke, (House of Whispers, Juno Books), says that the SSA site allows you to see the top 1,000 names given to babies, male and female for every year since 1897.

She says it’s “fabulous if you want to give your character a name that’s appropriate for her age. It also lets you see how the popularity of a particular name has changed over time, top names in different states and more.”

Baby Names:

Again from Lucke: “Similar to Behind the Name in some ways but it also gives advice on choosing a name and has discussion boards where you can lurk as the members discuss the merits of particular names. Want to know what names a contemporary reader might find sexy and appealing? This is a good
place to find out.”

The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook

The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn KenyonA book on my shelf is The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. You could spend hours looking up the name of everyone you know and learning the meaning of the name and its culture of origin.

The Stars

One of my latest inspirations for naming my characters has been obscure star names. Did you know that many of the starts were named by early Arab scholars? Such origins synch well for the Arabic inspired culture in my fantasy novel.

Articles on Naming

Do American family names make sense?

c. 2009 – 2024 Beth Barany

Who Beth Barany works with are aspiring and published science fiction and fantasy authors. She helps them get their books done and out into the world to the delight of their readers.

Find out more in her book, The Writer’s Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book, or Plan Your Novel Like A Pro: And Have Fun Doing It!


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