Characters 101: What's in a Name? Part 2 - article

When it comes to the names your characters will assume, the elements that go in are definitely going to factor into what comes out. Nationality, gender, walks of life, and the era they live in will have to be taken into account when you begin your search for that perfect name for your emotionally unavailable hero.

Tip one: Building up your database of names.

As mentioned in part one on this topic, you have resources available online that are invaluable during your creative process. One tip is to use an online baby naming site, such as There you can build a list of first and last, male and female names. In addition, you can seek out the meanings behind those names, giving you the opportunity to choose one that actually has some hidden meaning for your character.

Some sites are using name generators, such as, which needs you to refresh the page for new names. Instead of your having to refresh your mind to try new combinations, the computer automates it for you.

Tip two: Go semi-pro and do a little market research.

Writing is a very personal process, and part of the fun of it is revealing your work after you’ve had a chance to polish it. But, if you have a moment where you struggle or are stumped, you may want to give a little reveal to someone you trust and get their input.

In today’s modern age with Facebook and Twitter, you can easily post something like this asking for an opinion poll of your followers and high school friends. You’ll also get a little hype built up about your upcoming story that they’ve now been personally invested in creating. And they may be your first readers when your story is published.

Tip three: One last thing. Can you get in trouble if you use the name or likeness of someone you know?

The short answer is, probably not. But, it’s never a good to use the name or likeness of someone you know. Even if the character is based on something else it still should be made original, which is really what the law supports.

The First Amendment usually protects you if you use someone's name or likeness to create something new that is noticeably your own. Generally speaking, you will not be held liable for using a known name or likeness in a creative, entertaining, or artistic work, as long as it has been transformed substantially by using creative elements that make it something new rather than a mere depiction.

Tools, check. Research, check. Legalities, check. Now let’s get to writing!

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