9 Cool Sources For Naming Your Characters

a phone / telephone book / directory Polski: k...
a phone / telephone book / directory Polski: książka telefoniczna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naming your characters can be one of the most difficult tasks when writing a story. I rarely get a good feel for my characters until I choose the right name for them. Here are some of my favorite sources for names:

1. The Telephone Book – I can’t tell you how many times the phone book has helped me find names for characters. It can be especially helpful when looking for unusual ethnic names.

2. The End Credits Of Movies – yup, I’ve done this — sat with a pen and paper while the credits at the end of a movie roll by. Nowadays, credits go on FOREVER and they are chock-full of interesting and unusual names, especially if the film was shot in foreign locations.

3. The 10,000 Most Common Surnames In The U.S. – based on the 1990 census but still useful for finding surnames for your characters.

4. Nameberry – baby naming web site by authors Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz who have written several books about choosing names outside the most popular name lists, i.e. Beyond Ava And Aiden.

5. Thousands Of Fantasy Names – long list of sources around the web to help you name characters in your fantasy story.

6. The Baby Name Wizard – this is not your run-of-the-mill baby name site. It has graphics that chart the popularity of names from the 1880s to the present day. Tremendously helpful when searching for names that are generationally-appropriate.

7. Unusual Names From The Deep South – many of these names could be used for characters from any region. And, of course, this is a great source if your story takes place in the southern part of the United States.

8. Southern Families: Surnames – again, many names that could be used for characters from any region. I think this is part of a genealogical site. Lots of uncommon surnames.

9. Your Magickal Name – this book was written by myself and my mother, Phyllis Vega. Lots of new age names, useful for fantasy, futuristic or simply modern characters who need an unusual name.

Do you have an unusual source for naming your characters? Let us know in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “9 Cool Sources For Naming Your Characters

  1. I love names! I used the baby name wizard when naming my younger daughter. A lot of my character names come out of my head. Or I’ll internet search if I need something specific (like Egyptian names). For some reason I find it easier to make interesting surnames, and I’ll just tack on a ‘john’ or a ‘mary’ to the front. Bc soooo many people are all named the same thing anyway in real life.. It makes me a little sad – there are so many wonderful names out there, but everyone just recycles the same dozen or so names.

    1. Name popularity goes in cycles–when my mom named me, she and my dad were living in Spain. Biblical names had been out of fashion for a while, and she thought it would be different to pick names out of the Bible. My grandmother suggested she spell my name Debra, like a popular actress at the time, Debra Paget. My mom thought my name and my sister’s (Sharon) were SO unusual. Then when they returned state-side, every other little girl our age was named Debra or Sharon! People do seem to stick to the fashionable names, whether they mean to or not!

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