Writing Tips: What’s in a Name?

name cloudSometimes you’re working on a novel, but don’t feel happy about a character’s name. Maybe it doesn’t ring true for the setting or the time that they were born. Then there are those awful realisations that a third of your characters have names that start with the letter H. Or what about those moments when you are deep within the story, and the writing is going well, when a minor character turns up and needs a name. For some reason having to suddenly decide what to call them throws you into a spin. What do you do?

Here are a few places you can look for names that will solve some of these issues. Let’s start with the last problem. Lost in your book, you need a quick-fix name solution. If you’re using Scrivener, problem solved. Click on Edit at the top of the page, then Writing Tools and then Name Generation. Click Generate Names to have an instant 50 names to choose from. If none of them is quite right, click Generate again.

You can keep an old phone book handy – the fatter the better – and flip through for inspiration.  The alphabetical order means you can avoid the H problem. Use a spare half hour to list in a notebook some surnames that have potential for future projects. Sometimes a name will inspire a story all by itself – I love it when that happens.

Christian names can be sourced by Googling: popular girls’/boys’ names of the 1970s (or whatever decade your character was born in). You will discover a wealth of useful sites, e.g., www.essentialbably.com.au. Here you can find names that are appropriate for the time of your character’s birth.

There are also a fair few name generator sites specifically for authors. Personally, I mostly enjoy choosing my own character names – it’s part of the creative process – but when you get stuck or want to avoid the H problem, you might give these a go:




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