Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Name Game

                Choosing names for your characters can be fun, or it can be irritating. Personally, I like picking out names, but sometimes I can’t choose between two, or three, or just choose any in general. I guess all of my name-researching will come in handy if I ever decide to have kids, though! Worse, if you don’t know which kinds of names you want for your story or novel, you can spend hours poring through lists of names. I don’t know about you, but that’s not high on my to-do list.

                Here, I’ve divided types of names into four categories: Biblical, Middle-Ages and 18th/19th Century, Contemporary, and Futuristic.

-Biblical: Well, for this I’d do a Google search. For this time, it seems hard to strike a balance between too mainstream and so unknown that it sort of seems like you made it up. I’d suggest Behindthename.com, biblical names. Some personal favorites for this time are Arieh, Isaiah, and Adina. I’d suggest not naming any characters Jesus, though. Just a tip.

-Middle-Ages and 18th/19th Century: I think you should use plain English names for this time. Names like Mary, Robert, and Elizabeth work well. People at the time weren’t very frivolous, so it makes sense that their names weren’t either. For the nineteen-hundreds and twentieth-century, I’d follow this basic guideline, with a few additions. Also becoming popular were names that were slightly more current, such as Cornelia and Alexander, as well as Zachariah and Emma.

-Contemporary: Well, obviously, this is the easiest category for which you could come up with names. I would choose names that have fared well in the top 100 baby names per year, though not at the top of lists. If you’re looking for an unusual name, I’d do a twist on a conventional name. Or you could choose a name based on characteristics or the history of the name. For example, you might expect Mary’s to be bland and plain, but Mariah’s are a different type of girl, and therefore, a different type of name. You can also go by definition, using one of the many name sites.

-Futuristic: In my opinion, this is the hardest. You can look into the past to find names, but you can’t look into the future to find potential names. I’d suggest doing twists on current names, by swapping vowels or adding on a name-suffix. I usually go with one-syllable or two-syllable names, and for my futuristic novel that I’m planning, all the girls’ names end in ‘i’ or ‘a’, and the boys in ‘o’ or ‘u.’ For example, writing a character named Lonta instead of Lana.


  1. Another good way to find names is to search the most popular lists from the year your character was born in. :) It's been pretty helpful to me. For futuristic or alternate-world, which is what I write, I usually just use or make up any names I want. :) Great post!

    1. That's a great idea as well. Thanks for the tips!


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