Today I am going to share with you my go-to resources for finding character names. For why the perfect name is so important, see my earlier post here.
- Scrivener Random Name Generator: Scrivener is an incredible tool. Period. I could go on about it for hours—I really could. Anyway, one of its great features is a name generator. It will randomly generate character names for you, and you can sort (if you choose) by first or last name, gender, beginning or ending letter, and ethnicity. Seriously, they have everything from Ancient Assyrian to Norse to Tongan. You can also search by meaning, or type in a name to look up its origin and meaning. In addition, it has a shortlist feature, so you can select the names you like and compile a list that you can then send to various documents within Scrivener. But the coolest thing? You can upload your own names into the database to customize it. I could see this working really well for the fantasy folks.
- The Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon: This book was published by the Writer’s Digest, and my dad picked it up for me at a book sale almost ten years ago. Since then it has been my go-to book for names. There is a section at the front talking about the use of names and how to pick the best names for your genre, but the bulk of the text is names, sorted by origin. Female and male names are in sub-sections within each origin category, and ordered alphabetically. It has most of the standard origins (English, Latin, German, Norse) as well as some rare ones (Native American, Arthurian Legend, Basque).
- Baby Name Books: Baby name books were my very first naming resources. I use them nowadays when I want good standard names for modern books or the like. Some titles that I have used quite a bit include The Reader’s Digest Baby Name Book, Baby Names Around the World, and Beyond Jennifer and Jason.
- The History of Christian Names by Charlotte Yonge: This is a great in-depth resource for first names. Yonge does not just list the names, but gives an entire commentary/history lesson on every name’s development and origin. For lovers of history or mythology this is a goldmine.
- Family and Friends: It may seem odd, but this is actually a really good one. Oftentimes other people’s suggestions will be different from your first thoughts, and they can help you break out of those naming ruts.
How do you find names for your characters? Have you used any of the tools or books above?