We’re kicking off our ASK US PUB QUESTIONS series with the very first reader question from Savanna. Thank you for the kind message attached, and we’re super excited to answer your question!
Savanna wants to know: In your current WIPs, what are the names of your major characters and how were you all inspired for the names?
Love this question. For my regency novel the names just came to me. I literally was lying in bed, thinking ‘what would I name my heroine?’ and Ava poofed into my brain. I thought ‘well, that was easy. I bet I’ll have to ponder longer for my heroes name.’ Eric poofed in next. No exaggeration. And not once while writing or editing did I ever think the character names didn’t fit or could be better.
For my YA Fantasy: I kind of knew how I wanted each ‘tribe’s’ name to sound, what letters would be most prominent in them. So I took some days to craft the names from nothing but similar letters until I had a list of names that perfectly suited all my primary and secondary characters, with many extras names left for tertiary characters. Some of the surnames however, were inspired by worldwide mythology, especially African, Greek, and Egyptian. For my YA Dystopian, all the names are Bible names. I was intrigued by the how many lovely names there are in the Bible, beyond the usual David, Rebecca, and Daniel. Asaiah, my heroine’s name for instance is a name after my heart. And don’t get me started on Ozias or Masriel or Nahaliel! *chef’s kiss.*
In the end, my inspiration for names really varies.
– Lucia, The Regency and Fantasy Writer!
You really need to keep the genre in mind when brainstorming your “baby” names. Because let’s be real—this is about on the same level as naming your kids! Since I write in the young adult space, I’m constantly hunting websites for what names would’ve been popular roughly 18-ish years ago. From there, I narrow it down to the names I like most and discover ways they might fit with the characters’ personalities, sometimes it’s pure irony!
The manuscript I’m currently querying is a retelling of Roman Holiday with a gender-bent twist, so I wanted the names to play off of the two leads in the movie, while still feeling like they were real teenagers (i.e. Joe Bradley is Josie Bradford, Princess Ann is Rowan Adler!)
—Sarah, All Things YA!
This probably will sound cliché, but for almost all of my characters I use symbolism. I spend googling baby names for each and one of them. The 3 novels I have written are fantasy and paranormal romance. The novel I am currently querying is a fantasy romance novel with elemental powers in each world. Almost like Avatar meets ACOTAR. My main heroine’s name is Aether. A quick google search will lead you to find that Aether is the fifth element in medieval times. My other main character’s name is Aiden which according to google means little fire (Yes he can manipulate fire!). I just love to give the reader a little bit of foreshadowing with the names and sometimes I just like to use the name to trick the reader into believing the name has some importance with their personality!
-Alexandra, YA & NA Romance Writer!
As a picture book writer, one of my favorite moments in crafting my stories is developing the characters and giving them the right names. Sometimes, I get inspiration using my kids’ or my life as a reference. For example, in one of my books my main character is a seven year old boy whose best friends are Aniya and Cam. I got those names from my son’s real friends in Kindergarten. In another story, I used my own family as inspiration. My main character is named Julieta, after my grandmother, and then I have other characters who are named after some aunts, uncles and even one of my best friends. For me it’s very important to make sure that the names selected are a good fit for the story and the characters’ personalities, culture and background. For example, in some of my stories I use Spanish and my characters are Latin, so when that’s the case, I need to name them accordingly to make the story stronger and more accurate.
Another way in which I have found names for my characters is by using “lists of popular names” online. For instance, one time I needed a name for a dog in my story. I tried using my dogs’ names and even the ones of my friend’s pets but it wasn’t working. So I went online and searched “most popular names for dogs”. There were many options but nothing that resonated with me. Finally, I went into my local animal shelter’s website and there I found the name for Stevie. Perfect!
Regarding the main character of my WIP, I can share that it’s a girl named Cecilia (Ceci), after one of my cousins, and her aunt is named after my sister Natalia. As you can see, again I’m getting the inspiration from people who are close to me and that I love.
-Mariana, The PB author!
I absolutely love coming up with character names. I’ve been told by my former MFA cohorts that I’m really good at naming characters. What nobody knows is that my top secret strategy for naming characters is super simple. I get my character names by mashing up names of characters/celebrities I love. This always keep the names of my characters contemporary enough for my young adult books and serves as fun little easter eggs for people who are able to figure out which character/celebrity inspired the name. So far, my mom has been the only one able to decode my little naming gimmick. For example: in my latest novel that I’m querying, there are characters named Olivia, Josh, and Sabrina. Anyone who has browsed my Twitter can probably take a wild guess how I unintentionally got those names into my manuscript.
Sometimes there are flaws to my character naming trick though, like trying to come up with a name that someone I know doesn’t have. The last thing I want is for people to think a character is them because they have the same first name. So, as much as I would love to name a character Taylor because of Taylor Swift, I can’t because one of my best friends from college is named Taylor. It’s just a fun way to name characters. If a name doesn’t work for whatever reason, I choose another one. If all else fails and I’m struggling to come up with a character name, I always turn to baby naming websites, so anyone who sees my search history would probably be worried. My answer: I’m single. I’m just a writer and we all do it to name our characters sometimes.
-Reem, All Things With Heart in YA!
What are YOUR inspirations for character names?
(Also, got a question you’d like us to collectively answer? Leave a comment on our Ask Us Pub Questions page!)