Resource Guide: Naming Characters & Creatures

names

When you’re naming characters, you want to be careful that the names fit in multiple ways. Think of it like naming a child – what characteristics will a certain name endow upon them? Here are some resources that will be helpful in creating names for characters – head straight to the bottom if you’re looking for help in naming creatures.

Get the era and country right

“Brandi” doesn’t belong in Victorian England. If you want to keep your readers immersed in your story and not cringing over your name choice, make sure each character’s name fits the era and their background. Here are some resources for finding the right name for the right time:

  • The Social Security Administration has a handy list of the top names in every decade since the 1880s – check it out to find names that suit characters born in each time period.
  • Want to get even more specific? Baby Center has the top baby names for each year from 1880-2017.
  • Nameberry has lists of names in multiple categories including different eras, celebrity-inspired, nature-inspired, and many more!
  • One more for the road… Belly Ballot has names from multiple cultures and decades.

Keep your characters unique

If you name your characters Saara, Saadia, and Sebastian, they can end up molding into one amorphous blob that your readers will have trouble differentiating from each other. Common wisdom says to give each character a different first initial so your readers can keep them easily separated.

Keep your characters organized

You can use tools in Scrivener or Storyist, or you can try a character-focused tool like Charahub. If you prefer to stay low-tech, give each character a page in your notebook in a character section and make sure you profile them to ensure that each is distinct in your mind. If you’re looking for a character profile outline, we created one! You can find it here.

Make names pronounceable

Ytleia, Hevovitastamiutsto, and Xiydia were walking down the street… wait, what? Don’t trip up your readers with confusing names. If you must give a character a long, consonant-heavy name, make sure you also give them a nickname – it’ll also save you from having to type the whole thing over and over.

Avoid hyphens and apostrophes

You’ve seen these ones – “Yli’ra’gia-vita,” or something similar. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Try name generators

Name generators can be immensely useful for coming up with random ideas that may spur great names for your characters. I have not often found that generators show me exactly what I’m looking for, but they are great as inspiration.

Naming Creatures

Many of the same rules apply when naming new creatures. Don’t give multiple types of creatures or races similar-sounding names; make their name pronounceable, avoid hyphens and apostrophes, and try this creature name generator.

You can also consider looking up fantasy creatures from around the world – there are many incredible mythological creatures out there that you can use (the link is to Wikipedia, which boasts a long alphabetical list).

If you’re naming creatures within your made-up race or type, try to create naming conventions that suit the race. “Hank” and “Qrar Orbdelver” probably aren’t brothers unless Hank was raised by humans or you’re writing a comedy. Also, think about how the creatures speak and communicate. Lizard-like creatures with tusks that speak out loud probably use harsh consonants and sibilants (think “Kluxeg” or “Glogork”) while teeny-tiny fairies with chime-like voices might have names like “Sky” or “Silver.” While some of these are clichéd, you get my drift – make sure the name fits the character no matter what they look or sound like.

Do you have other resources that you’ve found to be helpful? Tell me about them in the comments!

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