Tired of using the same names for the characters in your stories? Do you feel like you depend on the same generic names to spice up your writing? In fact, there are several methods that you can use to create unique and interesting character names.
Part 1 of 3: Create Unique Names
Step 1. Use a first name as a last name
Since first and last names generally sound very different, breaking this tradition would make your character that much more interesting.
- Example: Anna Joey, Robert Gidedon, Paul Michael
- This is a very subtle approach and it would make the most sense for a story that takes place in a time and place that is similar to yours. Here are some options that can be last names or first names: Curtis, George, Paul, Jordan, Logan, Dylan, Wilson, Kerry, Owen, Keith, Austin, and Oliver.
Step 2. Look for names in the most unexpected places
Look at the credits of a TV show or a movie, there you will see a lot of unusual names and the combinations of names that can be found here are almost endless. When you go for a walk, bike ride, or car, take note of the street names. You could even borrow the name of a foreign city, a distant nebula, or a rare plant.
Because this is a broad approach, it can be applied to a wide variety of genres, as well as male and female characters
Step 3. Look for an unusual name in a book
Look in the phone book or a baby name guide. In particular, baby name books have a wide variety of unusual names and interesting spelling variations.
- For example: Razilee, Kadiah, Joval, Jantanie, Keryl, or Kaline.
- For inspiration in choosing a name for a character, take a look at a mythology book in the library. However, unless you want it to be obvious (for example, Athena), don't choose the Norse, Greek or Latin myths. Make sure the name can be pronounced easily. Keryl, Razilee, and Genoviah can be pronounced with little effort, but no one wants to have to pronounce Kazlistynez, no matter how unique it is.
Step 4. Design a name with other words
J. K. Rowling, for example, is said to have created some of the Harry Potter names by first describing a character and then creating an anagram of the descriptions. There are a number of strategies you can use to design such a name. For instance:
- Mix of common names together. For example, Sarah and Josephine could become Josah and Saraphine; Garrett and Adrian could become Adriett and Garran, etc.
- Try different spelling variations. Replace Mikhail with Michael, Gaebriel with Gabriel, etc.
- Rearrange your name (or a friend's). If your name is Bob Smith, shuffle the letters to get something like Thibbs Omi. Your friend Eileen could be Neelie, Anabel could be Belana, and so on.
- Like the previous point, use anagrams. However, use anagrams of words. "Laughter" can be Ra Sis and "jump" can be A stol. Also, this is useful for creating your behaviors. Ra Sis could be a comedian and A stol could be a high jumper. This helps in mysteries, too. A clue that says "sunsign" could point to someone whose name is Brali (an anagram for Libra, which is sunsign).
Step 5. Make up a random name
If you want something really unique, give up supporting the name on anything you are already familiar with and try to invent something entirely new. This may be especially appropriate for a science fiction or fantasy story that does not fit the current cultural context. You could also make up names for each character, but have one with a traditional name that sets it apart from the rest.
- Write a random string of letters, select a set that looks promising, and tweak them to create something you like.
- Alternatively, you can cut the letters out of a magazine, toss them in the air, and choose a combination based on how they fall to the ground.
Step 6. Name them after your favorite character
Try not to make it too obvious, as you don't want to directly copy the name of an existing character.
- For example, if you want to name your character after Katniss Everdeen, you should not name your character Katniss Everdeen. Instead find names similar to her, like "Katherine" for "Katniss" or "Dean" for "Everdeen", but don't name your character Katherine Dean. You could face a lawsuit.
- You can also use celebrity names to create new names by mixing or matching. For example: Justin Bieber and Kate Alexa could become Jexa Kelbeir.
Step 7. Modify or misspell existing words
Take a word or phrase and misspell it to create a new name.
- For example, you misspell "my dog" to make it look like: mypherro. Then choose an interesting letter combo for the results. For example: Phyrro, Myphe or Herpy.
- Write the lyrics of a song without spaces to find interesting combinations. Ex: all we are is the wind could become Llwea, Arei, Isdus, Hewin, etc.
Step 8. Change gender
Change a male name to suit a female and a female name to suit a male.
Keep in mind that not all names have equivalents in the opposite gender
Step 9. Look up names
If you search for names in a name generator (intended in most cases for finding baby names), hopefully you will be able to find a name that suits your character.
Part 2 of 3: Start with a Letter (or Letters) You Like
Step 1. Make a list of the letters that should go or want them to go in the name
If you are not sure, choose one of your favorite letters. For example, let's say you want a character with the letters L and S in their name because you like the way they sound or feel that they would fit the character's personality.
Step 2. Choose an ending for the name
Common name endings for girls are: a, na, ela, ina, ena, etc. Common name endings for boys are: o, ardo, ando, an, on, etc. Choose a termination that you like or create it!
Step 3. Name it something you like or the first thing you see when you look up at your screen or out the window
If what you see or choose is not a good starting point for a name, think of synonyms.
For example, if you are looking at the moon, think of a synonym, such as "celestial body" (it could become "Celestial")
Step 4. Add more letters to the letters you like
You may like the letters "o" and "a" and you can add an "n" and "h" to make "Noah."
If the name still doesn't convince you, add a couple of syllables, but don't overdo it
Part 3 of 3: Find a Name That Matches Your Character
Step 1. Use a name that fits your story
Choose character names that correspond to the world, time frame, and country where your story takes place.
- Your story will be more believable if the names of the characters sound appropriate for the setting. For example, a story that takes place in China will likely have different character names than a story that takes place in Africa.
- Another technique, used by John Braine, is to use place names from a region or area in which the story takes place.
Step 2. Choose a name that is easy to pronounce
Most readers don't have the patience to try to figure out a character's name every time it is mentioned. Also, a difficult name to pronounce may break the flow of the story and confuse the reader, rather than immerse them further.
- Look for names that are easy to say out loud and can be pronounced easily.
- Avoid using a lot of strangely spelled names for your characters, as they could confuse and alienate the reader.
Step 3. Think about how the meaning behind a name might work for the characters in your story
The meaning of a name can help you connect it with one of your characters based on their personality. Think about how the meaning of the name reinforces the personality traits of the characters.
You can also use a contrasting name to create some friction between the sound and the meaning and personality of the character. For example, a rude girl might be named Grace, or a nerdy boy might be named "Brock."
- If you want a sci-fi name, mix and match. There are many names and you can create a very unique character by combining sci-fi names.
- Names like Aristotle, Sebastian, and Bridgelle are suitable for more classic stories, while Andrew and Tom or Emma and Sarah are good basic names for more current stories.
- Change a common name to give it more interesting shapes. For example, Chris could become Kryss, Kris Chrys, or even Cristal.
- Using names from other countries or with meanings can give your creation personality.
- Take a unique trait of your character and translate it into a different language. You can add or remove letters if you prefer.
- Look for names that indicate what kind of power your characters possess. For example, Eina for someone who has snow powers.
- If you have a favorite name, use it if it fits the character, period, place, or genre of your story.
- Write down all the interesting and unusual names that you see, as they will be very useful.
- Use names that you like and change them a bit. For example, if you like the name Ella, try Rochelle or Rachelle, Elli, or Alla. The most important thing is to be creative!
- Look for names whose meaning matches the character. For example, if your character is based on the moon, you could search for "girl names that mean moon" and you could use one like "Moon." This will help you come up with names, and readers will be able to remember them better.
- Do not call your character after another character that has already been invented, especially if they have a similar personality. You could face a lawsuit. Check that no one has used the name before.
- Do not use the first name that comes to mind, think about it and discuss it with another person before finally deciding on the name. What may be good for you may sound like the name of a prescription drug to the reader.
- Make credible names. Generally, you can be as creative as you want, but in reality, if you name one of his characters something like "Mr. Marky Mark", no one is going to take your story seriously.