Hello! My Name is…

For me, choosing a name for a character is one of the most nerve-wracking things I have to do. I worry that I’ll get it all wrong, that they won’t fit their name, that it will sound stupid.

Besides, thinking up all those names all by yourself (especially if you want to use names from cultures other than your own) is nearly impossible.

Here are some of my favorite resources for naming characters:

Nameberry
Nameberry is like my one stop shop for first and middle names. They have handy lists of names which is great if you’re looking for something specific? Say Colonial Names for Boys or Girls? How about Mermaid Baby Names? Or Saint’s Names? You get the idea – if you need categorized name suggestions, this is the site for you.

Behind The Name
I also love this site. I use it more for naming secondary characters or even background characters. It’s easy to go to the randomizer, choose a nationality or ethnicity and have the site generate a name. I just keep clicking until I find a name that…er…clicks.
I also love looking at their lists. A couple favorites are the list of Scottish names and Irish names, simply because a handful of these appear in my own heritage. One neat feature that I enjoy is the ability to look at a name and see a list of its usage in other cultures. I chose the Scottish name Christie (which is masculine and not at all how I have heard it used here in the States) which is the diminutive of Christopher and has a nice list of uses from other places. It was this feature that helped me with my family tree making and led to the Scottish ancestry of my main family.

Using these sites has saved many of my characters from having really dull and overly modern names. Hoping they can help you too!

Character Family Trees

I was working on Chapter One (still) and hitting a wall, so decided to take a bit of a break to do a little world-building exercise. All of my characters have first and last names, of course, but I thought it would be fun to give them middle names. I like that as a “percolating” activity – I have some thing to work on, but it is sufficiently low pressure as to allow me to think about how to break-through or go around the wall I have come up against in my story.

I was googling around for Colonial era names and found this tidbit on naming conventions. It was an interesting (and quick and easy) read, but induced a little bit of panic as well.

I had only gone so far as to name the current generation of characters, the ones that actually have appeared on the page so far. I hadn’t actually thought about where they came from. This lead to jotting out a real quick family tree.

If I stick with the traditions, my characters names have to come from somewhere. Every name needs a bit of a story. What made this easier was that I could fill in the Grandfather’s names just from the names I had already chosen (oldest = paternal grandfather, second = maternal grandfather). It was the younger two that provided the twist I needed.

The twist was the discovery that my four brothers have a mother that’s Scottish (who knew?). I discovered that when I realized that the third son’s middle name was actually his mother’s maiden name. The youngest brother is named after their mother’s favorite brother. The greatest part about their Scottish roots is the natural conflict that will arise over loyalties during the Revolution. <rubs hands together with glee> See Highland Scots and the American Revolution.

Granted, this is a world-building/character exercise, and the bulk of the information that I jotted down last night may never make it into the story in any meaningful way, but it does inform the story. And it serves to give me something to drop into the story in bits and pieces.

On a side note, I have been working on mine and my husband’s genealogy for 15+ years off and on. The naming conventions referred to in the above article are real – I can attest to that. It’s incredibly frustrating trying to keep all of those same named parents, grandparents and kids straight. It was that revelation that caused me to be an absolute stickler about record keeping in my own family tree – and my character’s!

I haven’t decided yet if I need to print out an actual form to fill out, or if the scratched out tree in my notebook will suffice, but I will write everything down, always, lest I exchange one John for another!