How to choose the best name for your character

A name is very important to your reader. Names, first and last, define a character enabling the reader to envision the character. 

Do you struggle with selecting a cool name?

I do! Every time I sit down to develop a new character, I struggle.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about selecting the best name.  I’ve tried name generators and had mixed results. On rare occasions, a name comes to me and just fits. You know what I mean?

Other times as with the antagonist in my current WIP, selecting a name is a major pain in my ass. I’ve changed her name a dozen times or so it seems. Her name still doesn’t work for me. At times I’ve called her Madame X just so I could get a scene down. Come to think of it Madame X, hmm. No, definitely not.

I recently received a newsletter with a video about this very subject. And as usual, I learned something new.  This video is so good, I watched it three times. So I decided to share.

Here are the tips I gleaned from Chris Fox.

Start with an adjective that describes the character.

  • Short or tall?
  • Fat or slim?
  • Little/small?
  • Rugged or polished?
  • Young/old?

Next, add color.

  • Black, or white?
  • Pale or tanned?
  • Red
  • Dark /light

Combine these attributes with a noun that describes temperament or appearance. Such as…

  • Beard
  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Mad
  • Hateful
  • Funny
  • Humble

Or combine with social status.

  • Baker
  • Politician
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Knight
  • Farmer
  • Blacksmith
  • Social climber

Or combine with the region they’re from. A city, wealthy, and well-educated or a person from Europe, may have a longer first name. If they are from a small town their name is more often as not a shortened version or nickname.

  • City (highrise, small apartment)
  • Small town (suburban house)
  • Farm
  • Northern city/town
  • Southern city/town
  • Swamp
  • Mountains/beach
  • France
  • Africa
  • Italy
  • Ireland

A name comes from 4 primary categories.

  1. Patronymic: a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix
  2. Locative: If a person from a certain region, or country, you may want to anglicize a name or translate to a different language. Google translate is great for this.
  3. Socioeconomic/Job title/status: of, relating to or involving a combination of social and economic factors
  4. Nicknames:  a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place, or thing, for affection or ridicule
    1. Looks, behavior often attributed to this name.

My tip: What finally helped me select the perfect name for my antagonist?

Google! After using these suggestions I came up with two or three I liked. Then I Googled the meanings of each. Voila! Found what I needed.

At last, I settled on Margo Richardson for my troublemaker.


How do you select your characters name?

Want another great website to find a cool name?

Try13 Ideas for Creating Cool Character Names

For your watching pleasure…




27 thoughts on “How to choose the best name for your character

  1. I pick up names from TV – sports stars, movie stars, character names, chefs, etc, etc. Then I mix them up. So I’ll take the first name of a pop star and the second name from a character in soap opera and make up a name of a character.
    I love the name ‘Margo Richardson.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The way I do it is to pick a name that is unique but at the same time doesn’t stand out. That is how I came up with the hero’s name in my novel The Hartnetts. It is also how Ian Fleming chose James Bond

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed this piece and it gave me some great ideas. I’m not sure I would go to that much effort in selecting a name. I do take surnames I’m familiar from the location of my story. Then I grab the first name I’m comfortable and it’s not way out there. I agree that some names do not go with the characteristics of my characters. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Real people don’t get named this way. Real people are not named for what they are, but rather for what their parents may have imagined them to be. You are the parent – the creator …. so come up with a name from the very beginning and stick with it, no matter how things change. And things will change, of course. That’s how life works. And if your story is not like life then it will never work

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I shamelessly borrow the names of friends or classmates of myself and family to make ordinary folk fit the correct generation. If they are not ordinary or their parents had higher plans for them, choose or make up exotic names. But every writer has their own agenda; best not to use our nearest and dearest and what sounds like a terrific name for your hero might have beeen the name of the whimpiest boy in my class at school!

    Liked by 1 person

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