I collect names. I have lists of them saved in documents and occasionally floating around my desk on scrap pieces of paper. I name characters, children I don’t have yet, and try to come up with a “G-” name that seems to fit Callen in NCIS:LA.
For my fantasy novels, I tend to turn to Medieval Names Archive to find names that fit the time period and culture I’m basing my world building on. This website is great for euro-centric names, but it also has sections for Middle Eastern, Asian, and New World cultures. I haven’t used these sections much yet, but I hope to in the future.
For my finished novel The Heather and the Falcon (I started sending queries to agents last week), I pulled the names from this archive’s lists of early Celtic and Old English names. My main characters ended up with names like Aelis, Bryant, Artt, Cyrel, and Afraige. They seem different enough to fit a fantasy novel, but more authentic than some of the names you might find after Googleing a random name generator.
One of the things I find most intriguing about names is their meanings. For example, “Maris” means “of the sea” and comes from Latin. I like to join my favorite names to make phrases out of their meanings. Most of the ones I come up with for potential children have Christian themes:
- Christopher Hugh. “One who holds Christ in his heart, mind and soul”
- Eliana Eileen. “My God has answered with light”
- Shane Nicoli. “God teaches people of victory”
- Liya Renee. “I am the Lord’s reborn”
When naming characters, you can choose names based on their meaning even if readers will have no idea that Jamen means “son of the right hand” and Aelis means “of noble kind.” In published works, I find it interesting that Cecil from A Room With A View by E.M. Forster means “blind.” NameBerry is a great website to search for specific name meanings.
The most important thing to consider in terms of name meaning, however, is avoiding names that are heavy with symbolism. For example, you probably aren’t going to be happy with reader reactions if you name an MC who is supposed to be a likable girl-next-door character Jezebel or Lilith. It could be used for comedic effect, but I imagine most readers would find that distracting/annoying.