Character Names

One of the more enjoyable parts in writing is finding the perfect character names. Or if not perfect, at least names that you feel fit and you like. There are lots of ways to do this. Sometimes a name might just come to you, or you’ve read it in another book, seen it on TV, maybe you even know someone with that name.

Other times, you’re struggling and you can’t come up with a name no matter how hard you try. These are the times when you might need some help, and I will share some of the places where I go to look with you.

Contemporary Names

These are probably the easiest, because pretty much any name goes. You’ve seen some of the names celebrities name their babies, right? I usually go to any baby name website to look for names that I like for a contemporary story.

Babynames.com

NameBerry

Babynames.co.uk

BabyCentre

Historical Names

When it comes to writing historical fiction, it helps if the names are at least plausibly from that era. If your Regency hero is called Maddox for example, people might call you out on it. For my historical fiction I tend to look at the above databases for names, and then double check their etymology to see if there was any chance they existed back in the early 19th century.

For me, in reality, Regency names were quite limited in which names were actually popular at the time – so to avoid writing books where a lot of people have the same name – I’m allowing myself some leniency on the names. As long as it’s not too far from the realm of possibility.

You can also find some places online where you can look at registers of people who actually lived at the time. Or steal a name from an author that you know lived back then. We all know Jane, Emily and Charlotte were names used in that time period!

For my four book series, I named the four siblings after characters in Shakespeare’s plays (their mother loved all things Shakespeare). So something like that is also possible. Choosing names that appeared in works published in, or before, the time period that you’re writing about.

Name Etymology

Fantasy Names

For fantasy names you can go either way, all depending on what kind of book you’re writing. You can make names up from scratch, you can use a name generator, you can use common names with slight variations.

In the few fantasy stories I’ve written I tend to do a mixture. Some names are made up, some are old gaelic or roman names, sometimes with a slight variation. Some are more common names with some variation. The advantage in fantasy is that it’s your fantasy, and the world you build will adhere to your imagination and your rules. If you want common names like John to be what people are called in your story, then that’s what you do.

An example of someone who used common names with a slight deviation, combined with some made up names: George RR Martin.
Jon Snow (John)
Eddard Stark (Edward)
Joffrey Barathian (Geoffrey)
All obviously based on real names. But then you have names like Sansa, which didn’t seem to exist before Game of Thrones.

Fantasy Name Generator

Surnames

I use a surname website for the last name of my characters, combined with just making things up. Sometimes I will look at maps of the UK when I need surnames and/or titles to get ideas. There are a lot of great names in street names and areas!

Surname Database

How do you name your characters, and do you have any tips on where to find names?

Gifts for the Bookish Writer

I know it’s been a long time since Christmas, but I wanted to share some of the lovely gifts I got that were perfect for me as a book lover and writer. Naturally, I got other great gifts as well, but these three deserve to be highlighted. It might give someone else some ideas what to buy their reading or writing friend.

A pair of warm, comfy booties for when you want to snuggle up for a good reading session. (Or keeping your feet warm at the desk when writing!)

My sister got me this sign, and it probably hits a little too close to home. It’s still hilarious though, and it’s definitely going up on the office door (once we have one).

I got this lunch box book (that I put in my gift ideas list before Christmas) from my partner. It was a hit with the kids in school when we went out every Monday with our packed lunches. “Did you bring your book today?” was a common question.

Gift Ideas for Writers and Readers

With the holidays coming up, I thought it might be nice to share some gift ideas for your friends or family members that are writers, readers – or both!

lunchbox

How about this Lunch Box Book from The Literary Gift Company? I wouldn’t mind bringing this beauty to work. You can find it in three different colours. If you don’t like that, The Literary Gift Company has a whole site filled with amazing gift ideas for the literary connoisseur.

mugA coffee mug for the coffee-drinking writer from Zazzle.

kindle-cover

Marston Bindery makes these amazing covers for Kindles and other e-readers that look like real books. This one is the original look of the first publication of Pride & Prejudice, but they have lots of other ones as well.

notebook

Or why not a beautiful notebook for jotting down all of those plot ideas that come to you at the oddest of times? This particular one is from Etsy.

hp-pillow

You can never have enough throw pillows, right? (Not right, according to my partner who has forbidden me from buying any more, but what does he know?) Here’s one in the shape of a Hogwarts letter, for all those of us who waited for ours in vain… And if you don’t want that, there are so many amazing things that you can find at Society6.

poe-mug

Another mug, because like throw pillows; you can never have enough! This one has Edgar Allan Poe quotes, but they have several other mugs and a lot of other fun bits and bobs as well over at the Writers Store.

socks

You could always wear a pair of socks that lets your surrounding know that you’re deep in a book and should not be disturbed, except of course to bring you your wine.

iphone6

An iPhone case that looks like the classic Moby Dick. I have one that looks like a generic book from BookBook, but this one is lovely as well.

There are many, many more gifts ideas out there for readers and writers, but I have to stop somewhere, and I think we’ve reached the end, at least for now.

Does any one else have any good gift ideas for writers and/or readers?