On the Importance of Character Names

Baby books, cryptic clues, anagrams. There’s a ton of different ways to come up with character names, but what’s the best way to do it.

Short answer: There probably isn’t a best way.

Long answer: There should be a few criteria met.


While the list I’m about to present is surely not original, or exhaustive, I find that it works for me.

Constraint the first: The name should fit the story. One should limit oneself to names that are socioeconomic to the character. In other words, it should read true. This is not to say that you can’t have a character whose name is off kilter, but I think a good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one per story.

Constraint the second: Something about the name should be a quiet nudge to a devoted reader. Even if your readership is small, someone in your life is going to love your work. You should always have a special something for that person.

Some that I’ve used. 

1) Names that have historical meaning used on a character that said meaning is relevant to.

2) Using your friend’s name to say thanks for the support.

3) A variation of 2, using an anagram of the friend’s name.

4) By far the most ambitious, but I’ve attempted to make number charts based on character names so that there name number matches their personality traits. (This one is slightly obsessive and will make you crazy. But it’s totally worth it.)

Constraint the third: You have to be able to live with the names. These characters are your children. Don’t regret giving one a name you can’t stand. For goodness sake say the name aloud a few times before you commit.


Those are my three constraints and, in the case of the second, suggestions. I’m interested to hear how you all do it. Like I said, this list is just what works for me.