Most parents go through dozens if not hundreds of names before settling on the perfect name for their little one. This method is no different than the painstaking process that writers go through when attempting to pick or invent a name for anything in their story. From attempting to make sure it fits a character’s personality to ensure that it falls within the scope of the cultural background they have in mind, attempting to find the perfect name is a time consuming and sometimes incredibly infuriating task for an author.
Jei and I are very opposite in how we handle naming. While we both have come to embrace both the necessity and the enjoyment of coming up with the perfect name for a character, place or thing, our methods differ. He tends to take his time, handling each name one by one, turning them over and over until he finds the perfect fit, while I tend to make long lists of various names with little thought before going back through and using the method of elimination to find the best fit.
While the methods we use work for us, they may not necessarily apply to the masses. We all come to our own creative conclusions through different processes. So, instead of attempting to outline the multitude of methods possible, we have decided to simply provide the tips and resources we have found helpful.
Names should be easy to pronounce and read – An over complicated name can lead to the reader being put out about recalling the name you have put so much effort into implementing. If you insist on having a longer or more complex name, be sure that it can be shortened into a nickname or abbreviation of some sort.
Do your research when using historical names – If you are intending to place your story in a historical time, be sure to do your research on the most common names or the naming conventions that were used back then. This will keep your world within the realistic scope and not break the reader out of their revelry due to historical inaccuracies.
Always google and check translations of the potential name – While this may seem unnecessary, trust me when I say that making sure you are not about to name your character some vulgar word in another language or will relate to a horrific real person in history, is in your best interest. Such names can turn into a distraction or accidental association with something outside of the world you have created for your reader.
Keep location and intended culture in mind – If you are placing your story in an Asian type world the names should reflect this. The only exception is when the name itself is meant to stand out for storytelling purposes. Again, do your research and understand what kind of culture you will be reflecting when you go through your naming process.
Stick to your own naming conventions – Should you choose to create the world from scratch, keep in mind that consistency throughout will breathe that extra bit of life and realism to your world. If necessary whenever you go to add a new name, have a noted section that outlines the naming convention you have chosen.
Keep all potential names in a database for later – All of the effort to find the perfect name for the place, person or thing that you are focused on leaves a lot of other potential names behind. Because of this, I have made it a habit to bank those names for a later date. This allows you to keep a cache of them in your back pocket for either later in the story or for a different narrative altogether.
Along with these guidelines and tips, we have also had a lot of success utilizing things like Name Generators, Baby Name Databases, Historical Name Lists and Translation tools to help us find potential names. The only other piece of advice we can give you when jumping through the hoops to find the perfect name is not to force it. If you need to put a placeholder for a time then attempt to find the name later, then do so. Don’t let the lack of a name stop you from continuing to write and create.
What is your method of finding a perfect name? Share with us in the comments below!