Thoughts Inspiration Education: The 10 Best Names in Fiction



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Are you writing a fictional story? Have you adopted a new pet? Is your child about to be born? What about your car? I know someone who owned an old VW bully campervan (yes, the owner truly was a remnant of the hippie era) whose name was Betsy. Many people name their cars. Or boats.

I love given names. I started making a list on an excel sheet with name, origin and meaning when I was pregnant with my first child. It got me hooked. I now have over 11,000 names in that list. Just for fun, because I love it. I found my three children’s names this way and our cat’s name is from it as well.

But aside from attempting to find a name for your child or your pet, when you’re a fictional writer, you need lots of names. And depending on which genre you are writing in, the name needs to “fit.”

But let’s start with baby names. You should always ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with that name. Do you want it to be denote happiness and health? In this case, 1. Valerio (from Latin valerius, the healthy, strong one) or 2. Raphael (Hebrew: God is healer, God has healed) are a good choice.

If you are writing about a tough military badboy, Marmaduke would be less the obvious choice. Instead of the meaning, here, the name’s sound is more important. One-syllable names sound tougher, more earthy and no-nonsense, just as you want your warrior’s character to be like. Quick to think on his feet, a man of action he might be called 3. Brad (Old English: broad clearing, incidentally, the webpage’s link has the picture of a military man in it) or 4. Kyle (Gaelic: narrow, a sound, a strait) which I used my my novel "Opposites Attract."


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A female philosophy lecturer might better be served with something more intellectual like 5. Sophia (Greek: wisdom). And when your female protagonist is a little exotic in nature and thinking, a mix between ancient and exotic might do the trick, like 6. Keturah, (Hebrew: to make to rise up in smoke, burning incense), which I used in my novel “Balcony Above The Sea."


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For fantasy names, it might be good to delve into your own imagination and find a fantastical names whose sound carries the vibe of the character’s personality. It is still worth researching into more exotic languages and find a word that sums up the character’s main personality trait. For example, you could look up the meaning of “sea” in Samoan (Samoan: 7. Sami) and perhaps change it a little into Samiqua (a combination of Sami and the Latin word for water aqua)or Samiri (because it sounds nice) to heighten the feeling of it being born by a mythical mermaid.

Alternatively, you could do this with Ancient Gaelic or Celtic names for fairies. J.R. Tolkien was a master of this approach. He invented an entire new language for his fantasy novels. Verbs, nouns or adjectives are a good foundation for names as well. “Bubbling” could be changed to 8. Bubbles or Bubblo, for example. It would make a cute little troll that loves to speak and act with exuberance which can lead to problems arising when the bearer does not think things through properly before acting.

I sometimes write the story first with all-purpose names and later change them for the respective characters to avoid having to look up a more exotic name several times during writing when I first start out and have not yet memorized them. It makes for an easier flow in the creative writing process at times.

When writing a regency historical book, you will want to stick with Biblical names that were prevalently used at the time. 9. Elizabeth (Hebrew: my God is an oath, my God is abundance) is a wonderful example, used in my all-time favourite book “Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen, whose character was also the inspiration of my female protagonist in my book “The Dark Duke.”


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10. Raven is a good name for a modern woman, spiritually inclined with a possible leaning towards shamanism. I have used this name in my novel “Band of Brothers.”


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So when you sit down to write a fictional story, give the names of your protagonists some thought. It makes a great difference!

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