So, in the course of re-writing my book for the third and final time (please God let it be the final time) I have been prompted to change some of my character names by my professor, who is assisting me in the rewriting process. Some of these I had planned to change all along…. and just never decided on a good replacement name. Others I had never thought of and, to be honest, don’t fully agree with. Regardless, however, here are some ways that I pick character names, to give you your own ideas if you happen to be writing a story, or just for amusement if you’re not a writer.
Sometimes, if I have a name I’ve been using for a character that doesn’t fit into the story I will take that name to Google Translate and translate it into different languages, until I find a version of the name that I like. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it is almost always entertaining. For instance, did you know that the word “explorer” translates to “Entdecker” in Luxembourgish? I didn’t, but now I’m really wondering if J.R.R. Tolkien did. Or, take the word “inhloli”, in Zulu; it can translate to “spy, explorer, or hedgehog“. Of course, this is Google Translate, so if you’re writing something more serious than the fantasy adventure novel I’m penning then you might want to check your sources.
If a name doesn’t work in Google Translate then try taking one of the character’s main personality traits and putting that into the translator instead. Like, if your character is happy a lot then translate “happy” into different languages until you find an interesting version of the word to use as a name.
If I don’t have a base name or trait to go off of then I often go to baby name websites and search through those. These are time consuming, but if you go to some of the more unconventional ones you can find some real gems. I also found a post once that was on the other side of the spectrum, where people (I haven’t done this yet) sometimes go to cemeteries and walk through them to find character names. Either way, you’re bound to find something interesting with a bit of hunting.
If all else fails (and sometimes before it does) I turn to my friends and family. My mom has come up with some brilliant names for my books, and often brainstorming with my friends helps me come up with ideas. Try asking people you know for names that would fit into the setting you’re writing for, you might find that they are quite the resource!
What are your methods for finding character names? Are they anything like mine? Are you entertained by my odd ways? Comment and let me know!