Creating Names in Fiction

Creating Names in Fiction

When it comes to creating names it’s hit or miss for me. Sometimes I know right away what I want to name a character, a city, etc. But what happens when I don’t? Or can’t choose between two or more names?

For the latter, sometimes I ask you, my followers, through a poll? Like this one.:

For the former I do one of several things. But first let’s start with names I know I want to use. Usually the names I’ve created pop into my head. For my young adult fantasy the female main character has the name I’ve always wanted to use if I had a daughter.

Like the heroine in The Soul Traveler Kyna Lynn James. Why? I liked the name Kyna (pronounced Kee-nah). Her middle name also popped into my head as well. But the best part is what her name means.

In Gaelic Kyna means intelligent. And Lynn means lake, waterfall or pool. Which works well  because water symbolizes the source of life. And according to backstory because she also has the ability to travel to other worlds. An ability that was once respected. Because her predecessors once helped guide beings to other worlds for a new, better life. And though Kyna is intelligent she also often acts rashly or without forethought.

As you can see I like using the meaning behind a name as clues. I even like to look up the name meanings behind my favorite characters. For example Harry in English can mean house protector or army commander. Fitting right?

Another consideration about names is pronouncement. If it’s hard for readers to pronounce or is easy mispronounce then it gets cut from the list. What list? Well aside from asking for opinions when I can’t think of a name I make a list of names. For example, in my fantasy world of Harbingers of El Tinor, I had called one country the Badlands. I thought it was so cool and people would know what it was.

Then a college writing friend put in his two cents on how it was a bit cliche. He was right. And it painted an image that the country was a barren, desolate wasteland. When theirs is rich in soil, culture and money. All the while their country’s looked down upon because they don’t have a god. So I went through a series of names until I landed on one that felt right.

What process do you use to create names in your fiction? Do you write lists? Research the meaning behind the names? Or do you do something else?

jacob nordby blessed are the...
Credit image: leilaworldblog


    • Yeah that’s the beauty of science fiction and fantasy too. Have a glossary of terms from everything from plant life to money of names I created to keep track.
      And my followers chose the name Alejandro.


  1. For my novel, I had to name A LOT of characters from a variety of countries. Since the book is about figure skating, I had to make sure the fictional skaters’ names didn’t resemble those of any real-life skaters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love using baby name meaning sites. And I seem to gravitate in naming my villains with names starting with the letter B. Done it three times so far.


  2. I like to dig into name meaning and history as much as possible, though like Alex said, science fiction gives you some freedom to just make up stuff that sounds good. Although even with a completely made up name, I like to think about what that name’s meaning and history might be in whatever society it supposedly comes from.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly I think names are my favorite part of brainstorming. I have a spreadsheet of my favorites and three baby name books 😅 I try to go with uncommon but pronounceable names.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes I look at most popular names by year. Or select a character’s trait to reverse find out what baby name means it. For example boy names that mean king will give me: Rory, Reagan, Leroy.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The only time I’ve looked for names that had meaning was in my first novel, Fiendish. I wanted something that meant (even loosely) Beauty and Beast (of some sort). So off to Google I went until I found two that worked in a contemporary setting. The beast was WAY harder than beauty. After that I just use names that pop into my head. I recently went through a mid-writing name change. My erotic romance the MMC was named Peter, but one of my CPs had a character, Pete that I HATED so I couldn’t keep looking at the name in my own WIP. LOL So the group helped me pick a new one, Ian won.


  5. 99% of the time my characters show up with names. And they do not like it at all if I try to change them. For some reason, lots of them show up with J names–it’s rather a joke among my CPs now. *snort*


  6. I always try to look a the meaning behind names. Sometimes, I use them SPECIFICALLY for the meaning and other times, if I really like the name, I don’t care what it means (it’s half and half, but I do usually check the meaning) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too. Sometimes I use a name who’s meaning is the opposite of my character. Kind of like a red herring or he/she yet to live up to their name. For which their character arc would help them to live up to it.


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