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Ask Baby Names

Baby name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

The #1 Tip For Naming Fictional Characters

Hi Jennifer,

I noticed that you were an author, too, in addition to being a baby namer – and so I wanted to ask how you approach naming your characters? Do you have a process you go through? I am currently writing a fantasy novel and am curious! Thanks!

p.s. Just ordered your first book, Town Red, from Amazon and looking forward to reading it!

Sincerely,
Raechel W.

Dear Raechel,

First of all, thank you for ordering Town Red! I appreciate the support and hope you love it.

As for your question, yes. There is a process I go through naming characters. You can see my character naming tips here on BabyNames.com or on my blog, CharacterNames.com.

When I teach my fiction class, the most important piece of advice I give about naming characters is this: THE AUTHOR does not name their characters. The character’s PARENTS name them. Think about that. The character’s name depends on the parents’ personality, ethnicity, geographical location, history/ancestry, as well the time frame of your story.

If you’re a fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, you’ll know that there are two sister characters named Skyler and Marie. Aside from both names being age-inappropriate for the characters (Skyler too young and Marie too old) these two names don’t match. I can’t imagine one pair of parents choosing those two names for their daughters. I’m not saying there has to be a naming pattern for siblings, but if you look at our collaborative filter (“people who like the name X also like…”) you’ll see it’s pretty much spot on! If a couple names one son George, chances are the second will not be named Axl.

Okay, I could go on and on. But I recommend that if you are in the writing process of naming fictional characters you take the time to create their backstories, and their parents’ backstories before choosing a name.

Good luck with your story!
Sincerely,
Jennifer
p.s. Shameless plug for my series of mysteries with a metaphysical twist: Town Red, Way to Go, Taking the Rap. Friend of the Family comes out May 1st.

Jennifer Moss Books