Writer Woes: naming characters

Hey all! Long time, no talk. Welcome to 2018, I guess. Things have been going pretty well in my neck of the woods – AT LEAST THEY WERE UNTIL MY PHONE CROAKED. But that’s beside the point.

I’ve been getting a lot of writing done in both my professional projects and my fanwork ones. I’m procrastinating a little on some things, which I apologize for. I’m in the process of updating everything on this blog and my main webpage – photobucket decided that they don’t host images for free which was the whole point of them. I’ve been using photobucket for well over a decade and now I have to find something else. Thankfully, WordPress has space built in. So pardon the ugliness, I’m working on it.

(I’ll also be including the 10 facts about me and some goals at the end of this since that’s a tradition for the first post of a new year)

Anyway, there are a lot of things that plague writers. Writers block, not enough time in the day, characters not cooperating, too many ideas, not enough ideas; the list goes on and on. But one of the ones that drives me up a wall is naming characters.

I hate it.

I hate naming characters.

And I freely admit that.

why I hate naming characters

Okay. I love character development. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing. I love watching characters come to life. And one of those big steps is naming the character. I can have everything else detailed out – personality, history, appearance – but then get stuck for ages on names.

But LL, it’s just a name!

Yes, it’s just a name. But if it doesn’t fit the character and story and tone and everything then it just…

Falls flat.

Then add in that I don’t like having too many characters to have similar sounding or same letter names and I have a daunting job ahead of me.

Names are hard.

so how does one work around this?

There are a few answers for this one. Or suggestions. Whatever. It feels important to bring this up again: JUST BECAUSE THIS WORKS FOR ME DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL WORK FOR YOU. TAKE ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT!!

  1. Keep a list of names you find interesting.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re someone who struggles with naming characters, start keeping a list of names that you like or find interesting. Maybe you hear a really cool name while you’re at school. Maybe you hear it while you’re watching anime.

But this gives you a nice base of names to look through when you get stuck on naming characters. Maybe you’ll wind up using the names, maybe you won’t. But at least if you get stuck, you have something on hand to start looking through.

2. Name Websites

Another one that is fairly self-explanatory. So…your list of names has failed you. Now where do you turn? For me, that answer has always been name websites. They make your search history look a little funny since most of them are baby name websites, but writers have bizarre search history anyway.

My favorite name website is: Behind the Name. They give you multiple ways to search and have tons of different names. They also include surnames, which are another beast altogether – I’ll give more on surnames in a little bit. It can be a bit of a rabbit hole, so do exercise caution when you’re looking through. You can get stuck here for awhile.

Nameberry is another one that I enjoy. They have a list of popular names that updates often. So if you’re looking for popular names, they’re conveniently listed right there! And if you’re looking for a name that’s a bit more unique, you know what to avoid. It’s easy to navigate, has tons of different categories to search within – like ‘old lady names’ and ‘literary names.’

alright! now we have a first name!

yes! the difficult part has been achieved! A name has been picked.


Oh no.


What’s worse than picking out a name for a character? Picking out a surname.

I don’t know what it is about them, whenever I start trying to think of a last name for a character, my mind goes blank. It took me ages to figure out a surname for Aria (the protagonist of Opus Aria). There are a few rare occasions where I know what name I want right away (Darien Marcellus, John Stratton), but most of the time I sit there and go “uhhhhhhhhhh” for an indeterminate amount of time.

Working through the surname issue is pretty similar to working through the first name issue. I have several websites that I use to help me out when the handy-dandy list of names fails me.

  1. Name Generator is one of my favorites. This is because it allows you to input your character’s first name – which means you get to see how the name looks right away. And how it sounds and all that jazz. Usually I toss the name in there and click ‘generate name’ about 30 times and see what I get.

2. Random Surname Generator is another one that I like quite a lot. This one only displays one name at a time, however, keeping a word document full of the names it generates is a good way to keep a record of them. It has a good variety of names, some more standard, some pretty out there. It’s a good resource.

3. Behind the Name’s Random Name Generator is another cool one. This one is a little more complicated – there are a lot of choices on it. You can choose how many given names there are, what gender the name is for, and it gives you the option to input your own surname. Or it can generate a random one for you. There are a lot of categories to choose from (now including fantasy and other creative names).

Then you hit ‘generate a name’ and see what happens!

Sometimes it works and you get a cool name, sometimes it doesn’t. Make sure to keep a note of names that kind of interest you. Always add to that list!

that’s all I’ve got

Alright, that’s just about all I’ve got for you guys. I could keep sending links to different types of name generators and the like, but we’d be here for the next eternity. Don’t be afraid to Google “[insert type of] name generator” – you’ll be surprised at the results you get. Some of them are better than others, but when you’re stuck on what to name something, anything is helpful.

I hope this helps some people out there! Do you have any strategies that work for you?

Happy writing!

Now some facts and goals to start the new year!

  1. I will claim that I don’t play support on Overwatch, yet I’m basically maining Zenyatta (a healer) in competitive this season. Oops.
  2. I love crocheting – especially without a pattern.
  3. Fact 2 has nothing to do with the fact that I cannot read crochet patterns. (It has everything to do with the fact that I can’t read patterns.)
  4. I’ve recently set up a dual monitor set up and I cannot go back to having one monitor. It is insufficient.
  5. I am horrifically unorganized in everything except my writing career.
  6. I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I will remember excruciating detail about events from well over a decade ago.
  7. I love Jeopardy and miss being able to watch it on a regular basis. Mom got me a daily Jeopardy calendar two years running now ❤
  8. I play too much Overwatch, but I love it so whatever.
  9. I take on too many projects, but I love it so whatever.
  10. I’m finally starting to do sewing on some of my cosplays. Mainly altering existing clothing. Maybe sewing isn’t terrifying.


  1. write a little bit every day
  2. complete 404 error visual novel
  3. publish Opus Requiem and the Opus series omnibus
  4. work on drawing since I want to get better
  5. keep on keepin’ on

That’s all~ Welcome 2018, y’all.


1 thought on “Writer Woes: naming characters

  1. Pingback: Writing Woes: character names…FANTASY EDITION | Rants from a Starving Writer

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