Name that Character

I admit it. I have trouble writing a story if the characters' names don't feel right. I frequently make changes, change those, and then go back and change again. (Thank goodness for the Search/Replace function!)

I prefer to use names that sound more like everyday people rather than label my poor characters with romance-speak names. (Hmmm... Blade Wulfe for the hero, and let's see... how 'bout Lady Chantilly du Tiffany for the heroine.) So where do I go when I need everyday folk naming ideas? The Social Security Administration has a great site where you can input the character's birth year and come up with a list of the most popular first names. Also, there's a listed posted of most common U.S. surnames that I've found extremely helpful when I'm not reaching for the Houston residential pages for ideas.

But here's a new (to me) resource that takes census info and randomly generates lists of male or female names. Very handy to get a nice group to choose from. You can even set how obscure or how common you would like the names to be.

Check it out and have fun, but don't forget that a good name is, in and of itself, a vital tool for characterization. It clues in the reader as to the character's background, formality, and ethnicity/region. But it shouldn't be so obvious that the poor character couldn't draw breath outside the pages of a book.


TJ Bennett said…
Wow, these are great sites, Colleen. I'm book marking them, as I'm currently in a name search for my newest WIP. Checked out the top 500 male names for 1897--toward the bottom of the list, tough guy names like "Shirley," "Pink," and "Lacey" showed up. Huh? Even in 1897, I think guys with these names would have gotten beaten up behind the school yard, don't you?


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