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?

Synopsis? WHY??

Ok, so I managed to read through the entire thing again (my manuscript if anyone is wondering) and although I still fear that it’s all lard I think it’s time that it went out the door to actually glimpse the light of day. (Ie. someone else is going to have to read it and comment.)

A few people have read it of course, but since they’re either related to me or want to stay on my good side since they’re my friends (and supposedly want to remain that) I don’t necessarily trust their objectiveness. Hence my need for someone to read it and let me know what they really think.

Actually, I just got my very first critique partner and I just sent her the first chapter (and will be getting one from her soon). I’m quite excited about it, albeit nervous. I’ve never had a critique partner before.

Now… I have a few problems… Hence the antagonistic title of today’s blog entry.

1. No matter how I format my manuscript it WILL NOT fit into 400 pages! If I keep it at Times New Roman font is 385, which is fair. But when I make it any kind of Courier font (which is what you’re supposed to submit it with) all of a sudden my page count is up at 490!!! HELP!

2. How strict is the 100,000 word rule? I currently have 102,000 words. Time to start cutting? How can I cut my baby? *starts fretting*

3. I happened to see a contest for completed manuscripts and thought I’d enter. They need a synopsis. Que? I don’t have a clue how to write a synopsis, and the deadline is quite soon so I don’t have a whole lot of time to do it either. Why do we have to use synopsises? *cries* Can’t I just send the first chapter? *sniffles* It’s not fair… Is there a Synopsis Crash Course out there somewhere?

Ok, so I’m panicking slightly here. Here I thought I was almost done, and then these things happen… *grumbles*

Will crawl back into my hole now and try to figure out how to write a synopsis…

Guilt

Yes, I’m feeling rather guilt ridden right now. No, I haven’t murdered someone… It’s just that I’ve done absolutely nothing for my book for over a week and it makes me feel really guilty. I think I’m getting nervous since it’s getting close to finished, and it feels like it’s not good enough and I have no idea what to do about it.

A critique partner would probably be a very good idea, but I’m not entirely sure how to go about finding one. It’s got to be someone who knows what they’re talking about of course, and someone you trust.

I have a friend who reads it and comments, but she comments more on if I make a typo or grammar mistake than anything else. She’s going to read it again now though that it’s almost finished to see how it flows. I’m reading it myself as well but I keep feeling that it’s lacking and it terrifies me. I’ll ask her to be really cruel and brutal after she reads it this gime… since I really want this book to be good.

Then I also want to just get it done and over with as well… It’s a bit of a split feeling. Because I really want to start writing the next manuscript… I’ve got two characters in my head and their story is just nagging to be written. When I will find the time though I don’t know. With a new job and everything I find myself rather short of time. I admire all these authors who manage a family, job and writing all at once. I can barely manage a job and a life.

I guess I should get back to proofreading… But I keep procrastinating since when I’m reading it I keep thinking ‘It’s crap. It’s crap. It’s crap.’ And I don’t know how to stop…