Naming Your Characters

An article on character naming in The Write Practice blog got me thinking. The article discusses when and when not to name a character in your story. When you do need a character name, how do you come up with something unique, quirky, original?

photo of street art depicting the women of Troy.
Street art, downtown LA. Photo credit: Bob Gillen

Forget about the phone book. Go to IMDb.com (the Internet Movie Database). Choose a movie, any movie. Skip the cast list and scroll through the crew names. You’ll find dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of names for each film. Scan the list and select a few you find interesting. Mix up some first and last names. Avoid copying someone’s full name as it appears.

photo of large chess pieces
Chess pieces. Photo credit: Bob Gillen

You can also go global with IMDb. In your story you may have an American female character who meets up with a British man in a bar one evening. You need an appealing British name. Search for British films in IMDb, maybe something contemporary, such as the Harry Potter series or a BBC America television series.

photo of bronze - kids with dog
Kids with Dog. Photo credit: Bob Gillen

Check out the crew lists, especially in the graphic arts and CGI sections. Again, choose several interesting names and mix them around. What could you do in a bar setting with characters named Conor Prestwood or Nigel Meddings or Nic Bedwell? Contemporary films will likely have not only a larger crew list, but often a more diverse list. Movies shot in international locales, using local crews, will give you access to even more diverse name choices. The right character names will make your story all the more memorable.

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