The Art of Naming Characters…and Babies

Around here these days, we have our noses in the baby names book as our daughter and son-in-law debate the merits of various suggestions for my newest hero or heroine–aka their soon-to-be-born baby. 😀


I’ve suggested a few of my favorite fictional heroes’ names, but it doesn’t sound like any of them will fly. 😉

Have you ever thought about the names people choose for their children or that authors choose for their characters?

My daughter’s top criteria in no particular order include:

1) Has a good meaning.

2) The resulting initials won’t be anything they’ll be teased about.

3) No one else in the family already has the name. (It’s a big extended family so this is actually problematic)

4) Hubby doesn’t hate the name. (some surprising ones fell into that category!)

5) She likes it.

disgusted expression

As an author, my top criteria for choosing character names are:

1) Has an apropos meaning. My heroine in my new series is Serena. Her parents were hopeful she might live up to the name (i.e. be serene). You know where I’m going with this, right? 😎

2) Limit the number of names that start with the same letter or end the same way, to avoid confusion. (Ex. Bonnie, Betty, and Libby) It’s funny how similar sounding names creep in and add up and then I have to debate whether to change them or keep them.

For example, I’m currently juggling Tanner, Tyrone, Truman, Tasha and Ted. The first 3 are non-negotiable, but I really like the last two so I hate to change them just to get rid of two more “T” names!

What do you think? Too confusing?


3) The name needs to suit the personality. So a grumpy guy might be Mr. Bitterman. And a hero definitely needs to have a heroic sounding name, with all due apologies to the Leroys and Leonards out there. 😳

Single syllable guy names apparently resonate with me since my first 9 heroes were–Gabe (unpublished), Rick, Ethan (Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, need I say more?), Zach, Josh, Sam Steele (I really knew a guy by that name), Jake, Cole, Tom, and in my upcoming series…

The guy who eventually gets the girl might be Tanner or… it might be Nate. Time will tell. 😉

(and I hope a lot of readers will chime in, too!)

4) For villain names, it needs to sound slimy or sublimely innocent or creepy, depending on how astray I want to lead my readers. 😛

5) The names have to be easy to read. Nothing drives me crazier than not being able to pronounce names I’m reading in a book. I also try to avoid names that might confuse readers as to whether the person is male or female. (ex. Chris, Alex, Dale, Jamie)

Your Turn: What would be your top-pick names for a hero, heroine or bad guy? What kind of names confuse you in a story?

woman Image courtesy of anankkml at

confused boy Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at