You have the plot, you have the characters, you have the backgrounds, but you still do not have the names.It can be quite daunting coming up with the names of characters. In my opinion it is one of the harder parts of writing a story. It may take days, and sometimes even weeks for you to come up with a name. If you are lucky, the name that you have always been waiting for will pop into your head as soon as you come up with the character.
But that is not all the time.
So what can you actually do when you want that perfect name?
Refer to your own country.
What I mean by this is that instead of thinking of the more common names first, think about names from your native language. For example, I am from South Africa where there are eleven official languages. What I usually do is think of the meaning that I want my character’s name to have and then try to find names in one of the languages that sounds good and is easy to pronounce.
Google the name you are looking for.
So, you just found out that the name you are looking for is either unpronounceable in your language, or doesn’t have the feel that you are looking for. Worry not, your best friend Google will save the day! Just go to Google and type in something along the lines of:
Feminine names meaning (e.g love)
Google will give you many pages worth of baby naming sites and other websites that will help you find the name you are looking for. If you decided that none of the given names are to your liking, then just search for something else. I usually just type in feminine or masculine names and then browse through them all and try to pick one that sounds the most like what I am looking for. Sometimes the most unexpected name will catch my attention, and it is mostly the one that will suite the character the most.
Use a dictionary.
Yes, laugh it out. How silly can this get, right? Well I used to look through the dictionary a lot when I wanted a name when I was younger. I would open a random page and then try to find a word that sounds nice and also has a great meaning. If it does not sound name-like enough, just add a few letters, or change some sounds and make it suite you characters.
Give your character a random name.
Sounds fun right? Let’s say the perfect name pops up in your head and you really like it. Well, then that’s fine. If anything, it’s great. Then it was meant to be. You can also make up names from thin air. Some actual people do have names whereby their parents used the first letters of their relatives and a wonderful name was made. Sometimes they add two words together. You can also do that if you see fit. Just make sure that the name does not mean something vulgar in another language.
So you have a name. Yay! Make sure you do enough research about it, though. There are some names that also exist in other languages. For example the name Nari. I first found out that it was Korean and it means lily flower. Pretty, right? But then I typed it on the google search bar and tried to learn more about it. I found out that it is also Japanese and it means thunder. I mean, Thunder is an awesome name! But imagine having your character’s name mean something extremely negative in another language?
The name should go well with your plot, era and the character’s background.
This is part of the research, but it is mostly the research of your story. Make sure that you understand what type of era your character is living in. Some names were not there in some eras. So people who know better will point it out. As insightful as it will be, it will also get annoying quickly if readers keep on pointing out the same thing.
Your plot, remember that? Yeah, the name should also go well with it. Sometimes the character’s name can explain their life in a way, or be the opposite of the life that they are living. Like if you name your character Hunter. It can be implying on the person’s strength rather than their good hunting skills. That would be too obvious anyways.
And the character’s background. I read somewhere that you, as the writer, do not name the characters. Sorry, kid, but the character’s parents name them. So you have to remember who the character’s parents are, where they grew up and the type of place that they live in. Just like in real life, all of those factors will influence the parents choice when naming their child. E.g. they could name their child Success because they were not very successful in life, and the name is what they wish for their son/daughter to have.
The country also counts as the background of the character. If your character is from Nigeria then, naturally they should have a Nigerian surname. If they have a different, let’s say South African, surname then there has to be a good reason behind that.
Some extra tips.
Make sure that the names you choose are easily pronounceable. Readers get easily annoyed. So if they stumble upon a name they cannot say, then they’ll skip it. Then no one will really remember you character.
Names are forever. That sounds so deep, but it’s true. If you name your character then the name will stick forever. It will become hard for you to change it. So try taking this like naming a child. If you give your child a name, you won’t want to change it five years later, right? Have the same mindset when naming your characters.
Have fun with it. It is, after all, your story, right?