Category: book character names

Naming Book Characters: 3 Easy Steps

Naming characters

By Ellen Smith

I’m a name nerd.

True story: In college, I spent hours compiling data for a study on the attractiveness of male and female names. Amanda? Very attractive. Mildred? Not so much. Ken was more attractive than Keith, while Liam was about as attractive as Levi. By the end of the study, I had an Iliad-length research paper and a major caramel-macchiato addiction.

Ah, youth.

Believe it or not, even after all of that research, I still get excited to dream up the perfect names for the characters in my books. Finding just the right character name actually helps a story start to take shape in my mind. Since I have a tendency to get stuck on finding the perfect name (Maura or Mara? Lila or Lily?), I try to break the process down into just three steps.

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mathieu callier

By Mathieu Cailler

During my recent book tour travels, I would often read a short story titled “Zorba’s” from my collection, Loss Angeles. In it, a young couple contemplates names for their soon-to-be-born baby boy. They go back and forth: the husband likes a name, the wife does not, and vice-versa. What I noticed at the readings was that everyone has a name story. And it got me thinking about the names in my book, and how I came to select them.

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Literary Baby Names in the News

names from books

By Abby Sandel

Let’s talk literary baby names.

Jennifer Love Hewitt’s new son has a name borrowed from one of the hottest sources of baby name inspiration today: the 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Noah Wyle’s new daughter has a Mockingbird middle. Her first is associated with a beloved children’s author, too, whose most famous works date to the early twentieth century, as well as with the heroine of J.D. Salinger’s famous story Franny and Zooey.

The current Number 1 name for girls comes from Jane Austen’s Emma, first published in 1815.

Even in our age of modern inventions like Jaxson and Skylar, plenty of parents stick to the classics – in baby names and literature, too.

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quirkychara

By Linda Rosenkrantz

If you’re looking for a really unusual name, you might not have to look any further than your nearest library.

What follows is a melange of quirky character names—a mix of word names, surname names, nickname names, invented names–found in modern literature.  To keep it from going on into infinity, I’ve limited the list to mainstream twentieth century novels and plays, avoiding for the most part the often bizarre nomenclature of sci-fi and other genre lit.

Alivina Houghton, The Lost Girl, D. H. Lawrence

Amaranta Ursula, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Marquez

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Names from the Book You’re Reading!

reading

What are the names in the book you’re currently reading, and what do you think of them?

You can think of this as the Nameberry Book Club, where we talk not about plot and pacing and characters but about the characters’ names (sounds like our kind of book club, right?).

I just finished reading the new New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train, by my friend Christina Baker Kline who’s blogged for Nameberry on naming her three sons (and making some mistakes along the way).  Her characters’ names include:

VivianOne of those names I’ve been hearing a lot of in fiction recently as in life, maybe because it means life?  Ann Hood recently wrote for us about using it in her novel The Obituary Writer.

NiamhVivian‘s original Irish name, changed when she was put on the orphan train because it was too “foreign and difficult.”  Couldn’t help feeling that losing her lovely name was one of the biggest tragedy’s of the character’s difficult life!

Molly — The Native American teenager that the old Vivian befriends….and my husband’s pick for our daughter!

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