What’s in a name?


I’ve recently started a new story. It’s contemporary YA and I love it. The characters are fun and surprising and one is so nasty I can hardly believe I’m writing her (I usually veer towards nice). However, starting a story means I need to come up with names.

So many names.

Names for my main characters are mostly easy enough. Usually they come with the image in my head. Nice names, or names with a particular ethnic sound or names that read like an up herself girl I wouldn’t want to meet.

But then I need more names.

Towns.

Schools.

Parents.

Boyfriends.

Little sisters.

The list goes on. And these names need to work together.

Coming up with all of these for someone as indecisive as I am can mean long minutes of staring at the screen and not getting much writing done.

I recently opened this up on facebook and had some great suggestions for places to look and I thought I’d share them (and put them somewhere for me to find later).

  • Baby name websites – great for meanings
  • Street names
  • ‘steal’ from movies
  • Other people’s facebook friends list
  • Scrivener actually has a name function

If you have any other ideas please add in the comments.

11 Comments

  1. As someone who can be a bit of a procrastinator, I’ve developed one strategy for names and it’s served me well over the years – I choose the first name that jumps into my head. Sometimes I may chose the second or third name, if the first name inspires a string of thought that leads to a ‘destination’ name. But usually it’s the first.

    I’ve rarely changed a name after the fact and when I have, the old name seems to hang around ghostlike, asking me – am I SURE I’ve made the right decision. 🙂

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    1. I just changed a name in my WIP and hated it. it’s a minor character and every time I read it I’d get annoyed. So she now has name #3 and I’m hoping this one sticks.

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  2. There’s a great baby name site called Nymbler. It suggests names that are similar to one or a bunch that you specify., based on origin, usage and other criteria. I love it for coming up with sibling names.

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  3. Yeah, school and street names (and town names if set in a fictional town in the UK) are those I find the hardest. Particularly schoolnames. I seem to have a thing for calling them Holly-something or something-Brook or – as I grew up in a catholic school – having calling it Saint-something, which is often not appropriate for the story I’m writing. Hmm, just have to do more research in that…

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  4. Like you, I tended to stare at the screen wasting minutes and hours of writing time. Now, so I don’t loose the momentum of drafting I often use placeholders for character names, because I just can’t choose one. I once had a character named XYZ until the third draft and another called Blondie. But when I do get around to naming them, I used baby naming websites. 🙂

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