02 April 2015

Books, Movies, & Other Places to Steal Names From

**My theme for this year's A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you'd want to know about naming characters. Not all of my post titles will be this long, I swear.**

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? 


  1. I never used to have a problem with names - they just popped into my head and the character was fully formed - but I recently realised I've used the name Sally in several different stories. Time to check out those TV credits, I think :-)

    Annalisa, writing A-Z vignettes, at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

  2. Good tips! This was a very interesting way to think about it :)

  3. The name for Athee in my second book came from Athena from Battlestar Galactica. (The original series.)

  4. It's so simple, and yet I've never thought of it. lol Great tip!

  5. Good idea about taking a look at the credits!

  6. I have a character named after an actress I follow on Twitter. Erin Ryder, she was on Destination Truth and I actually got to met her at a paranormal convention (will again this year because she's going back and so am I!)

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  7. I like long posts! Longer the read, the better the treat :) Great tip about looking in film credits. I also look at magazine credits and the editorial teams.

    from Madly-in-Verse

  8. I like to look for name ideas in movie credits. I do it all the time. :)

  9. I'm currently reading a book where the characters in one of the stories are named: Charlie Brewster, Edward Bates and Peter Vincent - there were no vampires in the story, but it was paranormal in nature - a nice nod to the genre :)
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
    Wittegen Press

  10. I've gotten names from famous works of literature. I've never really been into modern pop culture, so I wouldn't think to get a name from a current book, movie, or TV show.

  11. I just keep my names simple. Sometimes I use a name book to find out if there is a unique meaning of a name that applies to my character.

  12. Good tip - I've just been to the cinema with my kids and thinking one of the character's name - Kit - might come in useful!

  13. Fun idea about the credits! I never thought of that. It made me laugh to think of someone naming a character Katniss now LOL.

  14. Great article! I really appreciate the tip! thanks for sharing.

  15. I'm always on the lookout for interesting names. Sometimes I take peoples last names and make it a first name in my books.

  16. I may or may not have studied names on tombstones when visiting graveyards. :)

  17. Visiting from the Challenge list. What a great idea for your blogging theme! I like it, and it's very helpful. I also like to use random name generators or baby name lists because there's some pretty interesting names you could turn into characters. :-)

  18. I do watch the credits!
    Here I thought I was the only one.
    I also steal names from college football players as I watch games.
    I use an Excel spreadsheet for the names I collect.
    Sad but true.