Naming characters

I kind of left you guys hanging. Work was busy this week, so when I got home in the evenings I was too tired to work on much.

This weekend is a self-imposed slow burn. I’m dabbling with reading Serang to make sure I can understand it before I share it with the world. I’ve also started reading a novel. I’m way behind on my reading and will try to remedy some of this over the next month.

I intend to do the edits on Serang, then work through The Viral Blues the same way without hitting it too hard.

Honestly, I’ve been working on fiction at an accelerated pace and feel the need for a slow stretch.

In order to keep this interesting, I want to talk about naming characters again. Older posts indicate I still have my daughter’s graduation program to pick from, and I frequently glance at the Major League Baseball rosters for the same reason.

One source I’ve wanted to use has kind of dried up. Phonebooks are a great roster of names. They’ve gotten hard to come by lately, so I decided to keep our local one this year.

All of the online directories do some amazing things. They do almost everything, except for what I need. You can’t just flip through names and check them out.

As an author, naming characters is important. We all know some common last names, like Smith or Jones, but not every character can have the common names.

This is the new Boise telephone directory, and it’s kind of amazing. This book used to be three inches thick, and came with a second volume that was about two inches. Things have changed.

Nobody has a land line anymore. Yellow Pages are no longer the advertising necessity they used to be. Abe demonstrates this pretty well. Keep in mind the white and yellow pages are included in this one book.

Sometimes you need a great name for a fictional business. Browsing the phone book can help here too. Maybe we come up with our own fictitious name, but it’s nice to get some inspiration from somewhere.

I’ve made two different trips to New Orleans and intended to get a telephone book each times. Both times I failed. I want this one because of the diversity. I’d like to get a swath of Cajun, Creole, American Indian, and French names to browse. It’s a big enough city to offer the diversity of many other cultures, but the regional names are a bonus.

Recently, I found a source that might be able to send me one. Fingers crossed. I’m counting on other people here so I might have to keep chipping away at it.

Until then, I still have my traditional sources, plus this Boise directory.


Filed under Writing

52 responses to “Naming characters

  1. tmauthor

    I never throw anything away. Especially when it’s recyclable. And phone books are not that convenient to recycle in my neighborhood. So I have a cache of big, fat old LA phone books. You are welcome to the biggest and fattest of them, which is the Los Angeles West Side Yellow Book, 2007-2008. It has white pages too. It’s about 6 pennies thick. But you gotta pay the freight on this thing. I shudder to think what it’s gonna cost to ship it to Idaho. Want me to find out? Email me (you have my email address from when Lisa interviewed Fluffy) and give me your mailing address — if you want it badly enough, heh, heh.


    P.S. I get character names from my long and checkered past. I mix up first and last names, so nobody can come after me. One of the few advantages of being old.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I use baby name books, but mostly because I’d look sillier walking around with a phone book. I’m with you on the online ones not doing what authors need. Guess putting a ‘randomly choose’ button would lead to some problems.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not even sure we get a phone book anymore, because um, we no longer have a landline, either. Do not know when I last used a phone book, now that you mention it. Probably back when I bought the Sunday paper and only wore sunscreen when swimming… I hope your NOLA book pans out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It might. It’s a resource that could last forever if I get one. I still have the Boise book, and my traditional places. It’s just nice to find the right name for your voodoo priestess, or a fun bar for Lizzie and the hat to play in.


  4. Names are always a challenge. I like the phonebook approach.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s a great idea for finding names.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am absolutely no good at choosing names, but haven’t seen a phone book in years. Not many public phone booths either, so maybe they stopped printing them…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a lot more characters in my new sci fi book, Craig, so I have also discovered a naming issue. I also have a few non-British or American characters because it is global so I have resorted to using Google search. I google the most popular names in Japan for example and then common Japanese surnames. I then have my name.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great fun reading about your character naming pursuits, Craig. I do sports rosters too; I google popular names for the year of birth of my characters. Obits too. You’re right about the importance of names. Charles Dickens was crafty and bold with his character’s names, always fun.

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  9. tmauthor

    I’m a film buff, especially old black & white ones. So occasionally I sneak in the name of a fictitious character in an old film. For instance, when I was 13 I was in love with a girl called Laura Smith (well, somebody has to be named Smith), so, in my memoir, I named her Laura Hunt after Gene Tierney’s character in the movie “Laura.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can get a lot of mileage out of familiar names. Occasionally, you need one more like Serang in my pirate fantasy. Sometimes you just want one that sounds French, or whatever. It’s nice to have a resource to browse.


  10. I’ve been working on supernatural mysteries lately, and I’ve been trying to come up with names that bring to mind witches or shifters or vampires. That’s been a little tricky for me. Haven’t found any one thing yet, but so far, everyone has a name. Enjoy working at a little slower pace. Sometimes, when you push too hard, you have to back off for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t remember the last time I opened a phone book but I remember a day when I frequently went to it as a naming source. Now I tend to stick with baby naming books and sites or online generators.

    Good luck with all the editing you have lined up between Serang and the Viral Blues. I’m in the same mode–down to 4 short stories–then I can start writing again. I wish there were more hours in the day–or less hours devoted to day jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m actually milking it. They have to be ready by Fall, but I have time to do other things too. I want a book to browse that includes a great mix. Creole, Cajun, etc. I need to name bars Lizzie and the Pythons might play one day, and some of those are in the books too.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing House and commented:
    Naming Characters

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  13. I use baby name websites for popular names in such-in-such country in such-n-such past year. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes I get familiar names that are thus easy to remember but are out-of-fashion, so they sound fresh.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great idea! I don’t think I kept my old phone book. We used to get a new one every year.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sometimes names come to me. Sometimes I’ll look up popular names by birth year. Other times, as you know, I’ll have a contest and let someone else name the character. Like the idea about regional names using phone books.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Working at a public school, I always hear the most interesting names. And some wild spellings that are pronounced like ordinary names. For privacy reasons, I can’t use most of the first-and-last together, but I can take pieces and mash them together.

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  17. I find that magazines and my church bulletin come in very handy for names. Google is also a great resource, but your search needs to be narrowed down too far.

    As an FYI to make you smile, I went from Smith to Jones. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Aww i miss the phone books! It would of made a fine weapon back in the day. I used to love reading it as a kid (weird yup but i liked to see what names people had lol) Great way to help naming characters – I play The Sims, you have a random name generator on that and that can pick out some random ones, most of the time i sit and think for a week and then it pops into my head. ATM, i am writing a vampire novel, he’s an 18th century vamp so i used a lot of historical articles and such to help with some of my characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are some great resources available, but sometimes you just want to browse. Mix and match the first and last names, etc. I also need commercial places for some stories, and that can be browsed too, but not online.


  19. I’m amazed that there are even phone books printed anymore. I agree that it’s a great resource for finding names. Graveyards are great resources too. Sorry for my late response. I’m still playing catch-up from being gone for a few days.

    Liked by 1 person

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