How do you choose a name for a character? Some of my characters’ names came from deceased relatives, old family friends, and a particularly useful website: behindthename.com. Since names fall in and out of popularity throughout the years, one way to name your character realistically is to see what names were popular for the year in which they were born. That’s what this website can tell you –the most common names given to the children of that age.
For choosing surnames, I carefully watched film and TV show credits, paid attention to the last names of athletes, people in the news and even place names. Detective Jack Staley, for example, arose from – Jack: a consistently strong male name (think Jack Kennedy, Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher, Jack Bauer) and Staley which I borrowed from former Philadelphia Eagles’ running back Duce Staley. (Also giving it a Philly connection). Maya Kaminsky is a combination of – Maya: Russian engineer from Kim Stanley Robinson’s book, “Red Mars” and Kaminsky: the last name of one of my childhood friends.
How do you feel about graveyards? They are another excellent source of names. Go have a wander in the local cemetery – the older, the better. Finally, to make sure you aren’t using the name of someone already ‘famous,’ google the name you’ve chosen to see what comes up. Although, the name might not belong to a celebrity, it could be the name of a business leader or politician that is well known in their field. You may want to think twice about using it, especially if it is the name of your villain!
Another caution: don’t have too many names that look or sound similarly. For instance, naming Maya’s sister Mary, or having a Jack and a Jake in the same story. They will easily be confused and that is frustrating for the reader.
May your characters be unique, their names be memorable and your book a best seller!