What's His Name Again?

Andrew Mcqueen  
Today I share a daunting experience in writing that, like most of my peers, have endured during the process. Character names.
What's in a name? that we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Sound familiar?

William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet

Today I share a daunting experience in writing that, like most of my peers, have endured during the process. Character names. When I started writing my graphic novel, I didn't have a clue as to how to pitch my project to a comics publisher and which writing group can look at my work. Hell, I didn't know where I get my character names from.

I stumbled upon up to several naming websites and found behindthename.com which has information on every name across the planet. What blew my mind was how my protagonist, Rhea Ortiz, has a unique meaning behind her name. According to the website Rhea's a latinized form of Greek. In Greek mythology she was a titan, the wife of Cronus, and the mother of Zeus, Hera, Hades, Demeter and Hestia. Also, in Roman mythology Rhea Silvia was the mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

And with that I chose Behind the Name as my source for naming characters.

Where do you go for naming your "children"?



Thanks for the tip, @Imjustdru. I have found this video helpful (it has that Shakespeare reference, too).

May-12 2023


Interesting. :grinning:

May-12 2023


Someone recently started a topic in the forums in this vein, and there was some debate on the importance of names. To my mind, they’re of utmost importance. I shared my personal story there, and hopefully it helped some folks understand why I think names are so vital.

When I was born, my parents had no idea what to name me. You’d think that with nine months to figure it out, they’d have been prepared. But nope, they had nothing. The only reason they picked a name was because one of the nurses refused to let them leave until they did. On a whim, they picked the name “Melissa.” They threw “Louise” on there too as a middle name, after my great-grandma.

Fast forward a few weeks, and it’s like they never picked the name Melissa at all. They never called me by it. I’ve just been “Lulu” for as long as I can remember. The name Melissa just does not fit me. I actually kind of hate it. Most of my friends have no idea what my legal first name is, and whenever someone learns it, they all make the same “ew, gross!” face and say it doesn’t suit me. And it’s true. It really doesn’t.

Definitely wish my folks had handy websites to browse—like the one you shared—back in the 80’s! I might have been properly named if they had! Oh, well. At least I have a tolerable middle name.

May-12 2023


i also love behind the name!

Often times if I want a specific themed name and behind the name isn’t cutting it I’ll also look for other websites too. Occasionally I may name characters after people I know too. I also really like fantasynamegenerator too, I’ve used their elf name generator before.

May-14 2023


I have extensively used this site for ideas for names, not always the exact name that is generated, but it gives me the inspiration to modify something that it generates so that it is more fitting to my story. Since I am almost entirely writing fantasy and sci-fi, this site has been sufficient for my needs.

When I am not writing fantasy and sci-fi, but other fiction, I generally use names or spins of names from my real-life encounters. The reason is that names often attach to emotions and personal experiences that can be adopted and worked into a story. Names are powerful, and attaching an event, emotion, scent, touch, or other sensation to a name can elicit many memories that can be adopted into scenes and scenarios for my stories.

May-15 2023


Thanks for the resource. I like this blog post! Usually I just use the “pluck from the air” method. Although lately, I have been changing some names in certain stories because my first choice just didn’t seem to fit. I like to think I have to wait until the character tells me their name.

May-15 2023


I often do appreciate when a character’s name has significant meaning in relation to the character and his or her story line. Many times, characters are named after their story comes to be, and the name is catered to the character. In real life, a person’s name is created just as his life story begins. While there is some merit to the self-fulfilling prophecy aspect of names, most ordinary people have names with nothing to do with their personality or life story. I find it unrealistic when nearly every character has a custom-made name tailored to fit their life story. Not every character needs to have the most unique, custom catered name. Plenty of people with ordinary names are extraordinary people who do extraordinary things.

May-15 2023


Names are the hardest, well, after writing the first sentence. Sometimes, I use typical names pulled from the names of the year listing, sometimes, when I need a name with a different country, I use several ones to get one that feels good. In the end, I am not sure they matter except they need to resonate

May-16 2023


Excellent topic! Does anyone else put in “place holder” names like I do and then switch them when you find something that works better?

I really like using unusual names, probably because I’m such a big fan of fantasy. I especially like when they’re somewhat symbolic. In my current romance WIP I named my protagonist Shelby because I’m a fan of Shelby Lynne, and my character’s dad is a rock journalist. I named my male love interest Rune because I think it’s really cool, he’s of Norwegian descent, and because the word means secret besides meaning old norse letter and my character has a big secret. Then I found out Shelby’s of Norwegian descent and interestingly both names are unisex.

I hope you’re all having as much fund finding the right names as I am!

May-20 2023


My main character has changed names with every draft – meanwhile, while his love interest’s surname has changed, his first-name pretty much was the first thing that I discovered about the character.

May-21 2023


I mostly use www.meaning-of-names.com/ (which for some reason is down right now) because I like the search function that lets you look for names by meaning. www.thinkbabynames.com/ is the only substitute I can tolerate. It also has an easy “search by meaning” function and offers suggestions of alternate spellings and variations or similar-sounding names when you click one.

Of course I usually double-check whichever names I’m interested in to make sure the information about the name meaning and ethnic origins are correct. A lot of definitions for foreign names are pulled straight out of someone’s ass.

Sometimes I’ll make up names by modifying an existing name, adding or changing a prefix or suffix, or combining two names. Like, if I wanted a girl name that means “green” but I don’t want to use Emerald or Esmeralda, I can look at the word “viridian” and find that the name “Viridiana” already exists. But maybe I think “Viridia”, “Viridi”, “Virilee” or just “Viri” would be cuter. Maybe I get the idea to create a mermaid character who communicates in a way that can’t be replicated by human speech, so her name is unpronounceable, but it means “green jewel of the sea” so in human language her name is translated to “Esmarina”, a combination of “Esmeralda” and “Marina”.

May-21 2023


Oh thank you for this topic. I have hundreds of pages on different world building topics for my story that I never get to share and naming is one of my favorite.

I enjoy coming up with names for characters, places, and things.

In my more futuristic stories, character names often consist of made-up names that are grounded in the evolution of current-day names, hopefully giving them a realistic rather than fantastical feel. Like Aaron. Common contemporary name. What if I spelled it more like it sounds, a common trend in modernizing names. Then I get Aren. Same name really, but different.

Alternatively, I select names that best suit the character. At first, I wanted to give my character Mindy Persaud a more exotic name, Menami. However, because of her role in the plot, I realized that a more subdued name would be more appropriate. Initially, I settled on Belinda, with the intention of using Bindy as a nickname. However, I felt that naming a South Asian character Bindy might be too, I dunno—predictable, so I changed Belinda to Melinda and Bindy became Mindy.

For alien characters, their names are unusually influenced by something about their respective cultures or biology. Since the Xaonusi possess a unique double larynx, they struggle with pronouncing certain guttural sounds found in English. Consequently, their language sounds very sibilant to human ears, characterized by an abundance of S, X, and Z sounds produced at the front of the mouth. As a result, I selected names like Sylaris, Zeonie, and Ashral for these characters, entirely fictional to the best of my knowledge.

May-21 2023
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