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A Guide to Choosing Character Names

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

Deciding on character names can be painfully difficult, especially when you aren’t even sure where to start. Googling names is a frustrating process, as your search results can vary from super common names to allegedly “unique” names that magically don’t have an origin (and you suspect someone made up on the spot). The key to finding the perfect character names is knowing what you’re looking for. Here are some questions that can help you get started.

Choose a First Letter for the Name

Certain characters just feel like their names should start with specific letters. And plus, sometimes you can just have name preferences that are determined by the first letter. I use a lot of names that start with A or J, for instance, because I think they sound cool. Googling something like “names that start with A” can dramatically narrow down your search results.

Choose a Name Meaning

The coolest names are the ones that mean something. For this, try picking out an attribute your character has and looking up names with that meaning. Is your character brave? Look up “names that mean brave.” Is your character pyrokinetic? Look up “names that mean fire.” You can get some really awesome names this way.

Choose a Name Length

Name length depends on the character. Think about how long you want the name to be. Short and abrupt? Short and sweet? Long, but with a clear nickname? Long, with a clear nickname, but they don’t let anyone call them by it? Long and pretentious? The possibilities are endless, and figuring out name length can help you find what you’re looking for.

Finally…Shipping Your Characters? Choose Names that Sound Good Together

I can’t tell you how many character couples I have whose names just…don’t sound good together. And since ship names are adorable, try making sure that the names you’re thinking about for both your characters sound good together before you definitively decide on them. It saves you a lot of “ugh, all these ship name options are so ugly!” and makes the choice a lot easier.

You don’t have to use all of these methods (usually, one or two is enough to narrow down your search results) to find a suitable name. I hope this guide helps you find the perfect names for your characters! Now, get searching!

Madison Milligan is a senior at TCU and a writing, psychology, and Spanish triple major. She's passionate about fantasy, piano, art, writing, learning languages, and putting an end to psychological stigma.