Taffy Taffy Abernathy! Or, How One Creates Character Names

What’s in a name? Turns out, lots!

Recently I was on a Sisters in Crime author panel, and one of the questions from the audience that came up was, “How do you name your characters?” I think this question is awesome, because I LOVE naming characters. Some authors really like playing with names and some feel like finding an appropriate handle for their fictional peeps is a pain in the patootie. So I thought I’d throw out some ideas for those of you who find making up monikers makes you crazy.

One of the easiest ways to create character names is by using NAME GENERATORS. There are a million out there, and they’re fun to use! You can use ones that create names based on the genre you’re writing, like Sci Fi and Fantasy, or you can use one that will give very regular dude and dudette names and some background info on that fictional person. This Reedsy name generator not only is fun to use, it looks cool, too.


BRAINSTORM WITH YOUR FRIENDS! This is one technique I use all the time! Taffy, Taffy Abernathy was created thanks to Lori L. Lake. Trust me, once you get going, you never know what is going to happen! I can promise you at least a lot of laughter, if nothing else.

Another way to come up with a name is to AUCTION OFF A CHARACTER IN YOUR NOVEL. I periodically auction off a character’s name to go in one of my upcoming books via various organization’s silent auctions (Golden Crown Literary Society, Bouchercon, Malice Domestic etc). This is one way to get a name and you can do a little personalizing of the character if you’d like. Or if you simply want to use the name, that’s okay too. My latest (and longest) work in progress, Quest for Redemption, has two characters using names from winners of silent auctions.

Then you have the challenge of naming characters of various ethnicities. That’s always a lot of fun as well. Simply Google ethnicity plus surname, like “Scottish surnames.” Don’t assume a certain name is a certain ethnicity. Make sure you check it out.

KEEP AN EYE (AND EAR) OUT FOR THE UNUSUAL. You never know what you might hear and see.

You always have FRIENDS AND FAMILY at your disposal as well (assuming they give you permission) or things might get awkward quick.

My last thought on character names concerns the alphabet. In order to make it easier for your readers to keep track of who’s who, don’t make your names too similar. You’ll trip up a reader if you have an Alice and an Alicia. One way to help make sure you keep your readers on the right track is to use a different letter of the alphabet for each character’s name. It’ll definitely help delineate your characters.

I’m sure there are a whole lot more thoughts and ideas on creating character names, and I hope in the comments you share with everyone your techniques.

Write ON!


  1. A lot of people asked me how I named Barker in Along Came the Rain. The answer is — she named herself. There she was, with that single name, and I just had to go along with it. I have no idea where it came from. On the other hand, I thought I made up her partner Wynn’s name and then discovered it was the name of someone I’d recently met! (I put it down to menopause brain:))

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great minds…I released a blog post this morning about naming characters. My solution for the start of an all-new series? I proposed a little contest for my newsletter readers. They’ve been giving me some great suggestions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never thought about using a name generator — what a good idea!

    In an early draft of my first novel, three of my four main characters had names that started with “J.” I love names that begin with that letter, but clearly my brain had taken it too far.

    Have you (or anybody!) ever had one name for a character in an early draft, and then changed it, only to experience backlash? Like, your betas or somebody had that one name pinned to that one character and they couldn’t believe you gave it up?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam! Yay name generators! They are a lot of fun if nothing else. I confess I haven’t had the experience of unhappy readers because of a name change. I do understand tho, if you become hooked to the character and then the name changes. AND I also understand that sometimes that has to happen!


Comments are closed.