AllCharacterizationCreative WritingWriting Tips

Finding Names for Your Characters

By July 24, 2019 No Comments

Hello Writers and Readers, and welcome to this weeks post on the naming of characters. Some see the naming of a character as an art form, something deep and meaningful, others go, “Charles, yeah he sounds like a Charles,” both ways are equally good, but let’s go more into depth on the name of a character, with the help of ShaelinWrites. ShaelinWrites is an awesome content creator, and fiction writer, on the platform of YouTube, we urge you to go check out her content and if you like it then subscribe, she has a lot to say about writing and is willing to share her own process with those who watch her channel. Now watch the video above and then we’ll give you a shortened summary that’s a little less fun than the video, but if you need notes we have gathered them down below for you. Enjoy!


Naming characters is one of the funnest, and least stressful parts of writing, unless you make a big deal out of it, then it might be stressful. But that’s neither her nor there, there are two camps when it comes to naming, going for meaning, and going for what sounds right. Both have ups and downs, but no matter what name you choose people are still going to apply some connotations to it, especially if it’s a common name, like Steve. It’s a high likely hood that your reader has met a Steve, and has gotten to know that Steve’s personality, and when reading a book with a character named Steve they may apply a picture of their friend in real life over your character. So it may be worth it to give it another thought before naming a character in that way, unless that’s what you’re going for, which could be cool, like a spy named Steve so he’ll blend right in. But one thing you should definitely think twice about is naming your character after controversial figures, like… we don’t want to get into any examples, anyone that popped into your head when we said controversial is probably what we’re talking about. But the point is that people apply meaning to the name of a character even if it was unintentional, it’s one of the many qualities we humans share with english teachers.

Shaelin provided the idea of jotting down a list of names that you like, so that you can return and try to find if any of them fit a character. If you find one, great, if you don’t then there’s tons of other sources online, just by searching the phrase “Baby Names.” But sometimes you’re feeling like setting certain parameters around a name, like it needs to start with a ‘J’ and have two vowels, which is a common thing, like Spiderman’s spider sense, except for writers and much less interesting. Sometimes your parameters are a little less feeling based and more realism based. Like taking into account a characters ethnic heritage, how much does that play in, perhaps you have a family from China, then you need to develop a first and last name that make sense for that cultural heritage. But maybe the family immigrated to an English speaking continent, and after a few generations they started to have similar names to the english speakers, like John, and Steve. It just depends on how prominent the culture is to the parents. There can also be the example of having a character set in a different time frame, where some names aren’t as common or don’t even exist, so you have to research names that would make sense for that time period.

Names are also good for characterization, if a character goes under a nickname it could possibly tell a story, provide an idea of the time, the culture, or maybe even just be a shortening of the name, like Elizabeth to Ellie, or Liz. But the original name can show characterization for the parents, it can show what they value, and their culture as well. And by supplying someone with a reason for a nickname it can give a character a sense of history, and immerse the reader deeper into your story. There are also two types of nicknames, there’s logical, the one listed as an example previously, and illogical, where a character has a nickname that doesn’t really make sense, like Alexander being turned into Chib, it can imply more of a story and also give the character a really unique name, and a little bit about their personality.

For those of you who don’t really like to give characters names meaning just because it doesn’t make sense for parents to do that, you need to remember this is fiction and you can give the parents whatever reason to name someone in a special way. Having names with meaning is more or less for the people who really care and want to find that deeper part of a story, they want to find the authors little touches here and there. There are a few ways Shaelin said that can help give a characters name meaning, the first being the literal meaning of a name, whether it be in a different language or is you googling what your name means on google. And the other way was through allusion, or referencing a previously done work that some people could find and enjoy.

To end lets just say that names apply an image to characters, it can give a person a more completed look. Names often just come to readers, like a dream in the night, except maybe a little less strange than a dream, unless of course you’re writing a fantasy novel in which case names can be as weird as the dreams in the night. But alas, the post has come to a close, we hope you’ve enjoyed both our summary and the video by Shaelin, we’ll be putting links to anything we find relevant to her, have a nice time of existence!


Check out ShaelinWrites channel by clicking here.

View the original video on YouTube, by clicking here.

Check her out on Tumblr.

And find her on Twitter and Instagram, @shaelinbishop