Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Random Writing Tips – Finding character names

So you have a character in your story.  What will you name them?  Will it just be a standard name like Bob, or Sue, or will it be unique?  But if all you know are Bobs and Sues, how do you find unique names?

I’ve found two easy ways to find names for characters.  Although, not everyone will have access to my first method, which is to just open a phonebook at random.  (For any younger readers, here’s the Wikipedia page for Telephone directory.) We still get phonebooks where I live, and I’ve kept a couple from when I lived in a higher populated area.  To show how easy it is, this is the name I came up with by opening the book at random to two pages (for first and last name) and plopping my finger down at random: William Stemmerich.  Of course, you may have to try a few times, since William Stemmerich sounds like the name of kid who would get picked on in school, and that may not be the type of character you were going for.

The second way is to use Wikipedia.  This is really good for foreign names.  Say you wanted to have a character from France, but you don’t really know any French names.  On the France Wikipedia page, there is a listing of the important members of the French government.  I tend to stay away from Presidents or Prime Ministers, but who outside of France knows that Claude Bartolone is President of the National Assembly?  But instead of using Claude Bartolone, I usually use Claude and then the last name of someone who proceeded him in one of his offices, say Élisabeth Guigou who proceeded him as a Member of the National Assembly.  So the name I’d have is Claude Guigou, or Élisabeth Bartolone if my character were female.

They may not give you the perfect name, but they’re quick ways to come up with a name that may grow on you.  If not, you’ll just have to do more work to find a better name.

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