When you’re faced with having to name a character, you may wonder where you should start looking in order to figure it out. While there are certainly several options, it could be as simple as reaching for your bookshelf or turning on your TV. Names are everywhere—in the books we read, the shows and movies we watch, even the celebrities and news stories we read about. You probably come across a variety of names every day and don’t even realize it.
So how can this help you choose a name for your character? Just pay attention and use the names you like. The possibilities are endless. You could pick a name from a favorite character in a book, or you could pick the author’s name. You can choose a movie character’s name or the actor who plays him/her. If you hear or read a name and you love it, then you can probably find a way to use it.
First names are pretty fair game. That being said, you probably don’t want to name your main character Katniss or Buffy or Lestat. Anything that’s unique and very recognizable as coming from somewhere else is going to be a giant red flag (and there’s probably a good chance you’ll get sued). But you could name a character Harry without anyone immediately thinking of Harry Potter. Just be wary of what genre you’re writing (your Harry should have nothing to do with magic), as well as the names of other characters. If Harry’s best friend is named Ron, then you’ve got a problem.
You can even mention a book or movie in your story if it’s popular enough for people to get the reference. Maybe you have a character named Holden whose father’s favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye. Or maybe Eliza’s mom is really into My Fair Lady. Or you could not tell the reader where the name comes from and let them figure it out on their own. It’s a great opportunity to throw in some symbolism.
FUN TIP: After you watch a movie or TV show, watch the credits and read some of the names. Maybe something will strike you.
Have you ever named a character after another character? How about someone famous?