What’s In A Name?

Blanche, Muffy, Winchester, Bruiser, Tiny. Each name and nickname evoke something in us. They imply something.

Each time you choose a name for a character in your work, that name determines how you want your reader to react to the character—the image you want the character to portray.A simple name will set the tone of your work and determine how the character will act. And, when you take the time to name a character, that tells the reader the character is important to you and to your story. He has meaning, and you want your reader to remember him. If the character isn’t a vital part of your story, don’t name him—simply refer to him as what he is (waiter, lawyer, lifeguard). These words let the reader know a bit about the person but keep them from becoming too prominent.

Not only will names aid in the description of your characters, they help set the time period. For example, Beulah, while popular in the late 1800s, isn’t a common name today. As a reader coming across this name, you most likely would imagine an old woman rather than a young girl.

How can you choose the perfect name?  Every author goes about it differently, but below are a few tips that can help.

  • Use an online name generator
  • Read phone books
  • Walk though a cemetery
  • Search the Internet
  • Ask your friends

There are things you should avoid when naming characters as well.

  • Names that don’t match the time period
  • Names that sound the same or start with the same letter
  • Names that are hard to pronounce

What tools do you use to name your characters? Share them with us. We’d love to know.


About Michele Jones

My passions are writing, cooking, and family, and you’ll find a little bit of all of that—and maybe even more—on my pages.


  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  2. Great post, Michele! I rely some on name generators (except the one in Scrivener) but I also search for popular baby names for the time period my character was born. I come across a lot of names in my job and if I see one I like, I have a list on my iPhone. Naming characters is important and I’ve been known to change character names when writing a story.

  3. I rely a lot on the internet, name generators, and a few books I have with character names by origin. I also keep a list on my phone. Sometimes, I’ll name a character and write several chapters before realizing the name just doesn’t fit. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the character lets me know they need a new name!

  4. Naming characters is tough. I’m one who can’t write the story without the names either, so I spend an inordinate amount of time with various lists, the MLB rosters, and my daughter’s graduation program.

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