A-Z Challenge,  Writing

N is for Names

N is for Names!

Today I’ve got another question for you all. If you are a writer, then I’m curious…what kinds of names do you give your characters? There are certainly a few naming trends in books that I notice these days. One of these is names that don’t actually exist and are made-up for the fantasy/futuresque/alternate universe-ish world. The other that I always notice is male names for female characters.

The first doesn’t bother me, and sometimes I do this myself…not always, I try to mix it up and choose some pre-existing names and some names of my own creation. It’s kind of fun creating brand new names, but when there are too many of them, it can get a bit annoying (especially when you can’t pronounce them!).

The other trend, of boys’ names for girl characters, does get on my nerves a bit. This actually originated (okay, I don’t know if it *actually* originated here, but it is certainly popular) in horror movies. And I love horror movies, but the trend of this in modern books is just not working for me. I don’t mind the occasional oddly named female, or female with a male nickname (Chris for Christine, etc.), and I know that these days especially, there are no limits to what people are named (which can be great!). However, it’s becoming a little too common for me, I think perhaps because of the way some of these characters seem to be treated?

Girls’ names are awesome, too, and I don’t like the idea that a girl is more special or somehow stronger because she’s named Elliot or something. I think girly names should definitely be appreciated! My female characters always have, I suppose, traditionally feminine names…I don’t consciously do this, but it always tends to happen. You don’t see many male characters with girly names, though, do you? At least I haven’t…so maybe that’s what bothers me about this trend!

What do you think about these trends? Notice any more? What kinds of names do you tend to use? And if you don’t write, what kinds of names do you prefer reading?


  • Colin Smith

    I try to come up with character-appropriate names, either by sound or by meaning. For my most recent novel, I had the dual issue of coming up with names that were in vogue at a particular point in time in English history, and alien names. When it comes to alien/fantasy names, I try to create names that are both character-appropriate, and readable. And if there is potential confusion as to how the name is to be pronounced, I'll somehow work it into the story (as J. K. Rowling did in GOBLET OF FIRE, when she realized few people knew how to pronounce "Hermione"). 🙂 Nothing, not even a name, should impede a reader's ability to read a novel. If the name is an actual person's name, then you have no choice but to use it. But when you're making it up, why give the reader an excuse to be frustrated with you? 🙂

    Great topic, Joyce!

  • Crystal Collier

    Naming characters after animals or things. That gets me. Okay, find if they're named after a place or river or whatever, but there had better be a powerful psychology behind the name choice! I really don't mind boy-named girls or odd names as long as they're not contrived to communicate the person's role in the story: Darkenrawl.

    Anyhow, Great thoughts!

    True Heroes from A to Z

  • cleemckenzie

    I wish I had a strategy to share for how I name my characters, but I don't. Most of the time the characters come already named. Sometimes, I fiddle with the name until it captures the feeling I want. I guess that's as close to a strategy as I can come.

  • Deshipley

    Ah, naming. Coming up with character names is a vital part of my process, and I can only move so far along in my plotting before I've found the names I need. Making names up or searching them out among baby naming books/websites is about the same level of ease/difficulty for me. Sometimes the name's about meaning. More often, it's about sound. And it's always about feel. If the name doesn't feel right, a placeholder won't do; knowing their name helps me know who they are.

    As for girls with boy names… for me, it depends. If I get an impression like, "Look! I'm a girl with a boy name! Isn't that special of me / indicative of how special I am? 😀 " then… no. A character's specialness is not a product of the name. The name may reflect it, but it's no kind of source or guarantee. On the other hand, if the boyish name suits the girl's personhood, fine by me. There are plenty of, say, Samanthas who feel more comfortable as a Sam or Sammy, which is plenty legit, and I've toyed in the past with the idea of naming my hypothetical future daughter Kevin. I view it all as pretty case by case.

    It's true, you don't see a lot of boys with girlish names. One that always jumps to my mind is the narrator in L.M. Mongtomery's "The Story Girl"; his name was Hilary. I guess feminine names have ended up with a bit of a stigma for both boys and girls, which is a shame if for no reason other than it really limits the pool of perfectly wonderful names some people are willing to choose from.

    /End mini-essay on names. (I get really into names. XD)

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