September 19, 2007


One of the most frequently asked questions I come up against as an author is: "How do you come up with names for your characters?"

There are a number of factors that have to come into consideration for a character's name.
First of all is the question of meaning. I like for a character's name to have some sort of meaning that correlates to something in that character's personality. I have two invaluable resources for coming up with names, an old, battered baby name book, and the babynamesworld website.

Second, there is the sound of the name.

Third is spelling, fantasy characters can't be named mundane things such as "Bill" or "George"... however, a mundane-seeming name can be spiced up merely by re-thinking the spelling; thus, "George" becomes "Jorge", "Jeff" becomes "Geoff", etc.
If I don't like the way one name looks or sounds, I might even combine two or more names to create something new. For example, I liked both "Katrina" and "Katelyn", but neither one seemed quite right for a character. I combined the two and voila! "Kaitryn" was born.

If the character is a dragon or some other fantasy creature, the names become easier because I can just make them up. These names tend to pop into my head quite easily for some reason. Dragons need strong sounding names with lots of syllables. Gryphons have beaks and therefore their names need to have lots of hard sounds and few liquid sounds. Their names are more abrupt and tend to end with a "k" sound. Unicorns and Pegasus need names that roll off the tongue with lots of "l's", "w's" and "r's".

For countries and other things that need to be named, or in times of great frustration, I tend to swipe my fingers across the keyboard several times and then search the results for any interesting sounds that could be the beginning of an idea for a name: thus were "seheowks" named. The benefit to this method is that if no interesting ideas spring to life from the haphazard assortment of letters that come up on the screen, at the very least I get the satisfaction of whacking on the keyboard for a while. :-)