How do you name characters/babies/pets/cars?

I enjoy naming things: baby humans (I had long different lists for both our children) and pets (our cat is Rooney after the footballer), vehicles (Micky and Madge) and soft toys (my youngest has a sting ray called Octopus Owl!) and characters.

Most character names just appear. But when planning an important character, I jot down a few character traits and then list a bunch of names from the ordinary to the ridiculous, exploring my brain, name lists from their country of origin, and baby name sites. Nameberry gives you lists of themed names such as 50s movie stars (Gary) or boys’ names inspired by nature (Stone) or last names as first names (Maddox). Nymbler lets you choose a list of your own favourites and then suggests names with similar vibes.

Most of the names in INTO THE BLUE stuck with me as I wrote.

Tai – board-maker, surfer, Samoan grown up on the North Shore, physical, family oriented, generous. His name means “to the ocean” and is intrinsic to him.

Ollie – a surfer first, intent and independent, white Hawaiian. The little boy cuteness of his name tempers his talent, his deep reserve and awkwardness.

Jaime – Ollie’s kid brother. The name fits with Ollie as though a young mother would choose both.

Sunny – a sunshine name that shows her brightness and disguises her intelligence.

Hannah – a strong, soft, bible name which would have come from her family. Originally she was Noah, another strong, soft, bible name. Originally she was a boy.

But some were struggles.

Carise. Ollie’s native Hawaiian, former pro-surfer agent. Carise’s name and character were a struggle. She started as Lilian (older, Chinese-Hawaiian, savvy) and then was Sage (white, mid-western, embarrassing hippie) and then Audrey (French, muscular, woman in a man’s world). But in the end the narrative needs her to be Hawaiian. Carise is a spirited name and reminds me of Carissa Moore, the Hawaiian surfer.

Brandon. pro-surfer, a laid back Vietnamese-Australian hipster. He was tough too. At first he was Bailey. But with Tai, Jaime, Maile, Isaiah all the “ai” names started to get silly. So he’s Brandon. A name I think of as typically Australian and sporting, though it’s really neither.

How do you name babies/characters/your pets/your cars? Do the names influence the character?



One thought on “How do you name characters/babies/pets/cars?

  1. katefierro says:

    I like your process 🙂 I mostly play mine by ear – they just have to *sound* like the people I’m writing, if that makes sense – and it’s quite chaotic. I read through lists and lists of names, sometimes profiled for places of origin, or year/decade of birth, and wait for the right one to jump out at me. Surnames, though… surnames I really tend to struggle with.


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