The Art Of Character Naming

The Art Of Character Naming

More often than not, despite what genre you write, you want to make your story believable. Even fictional fantasy writers want their work to have a sense of reality to it. Often you'll see the book is either based in a real-world setting using magical story devices, or is based in a fantasy world using earthly tools and items to give the readers a sense of realism. 

It's important to have this balance in your story to help the overall flow, never straying too far from what people are comfortable with. It also helps the writer stay consistent since the use of too many fantasy devices can make one lose track. This outcome is usually quite detrimental to the story's plot.

On the other hand, sometimes a story can maintain its elements of reality, but holds onto a jarring fall short. As you can probably guess from the title of this article, I'm referring to naming characters poorly. 

We all have names that we find cool or mysterious - some that would be perfect for who we perceive our characters to be... but if it isn't realistic to your overall setting, it might look more out of place than you think. This is especially the case for readers who can personally identify with the setting you're writing about. 

Spending time on naming your characters is pretty important for the success of your novel. After all, names are constantly evolving. You always can, but you probably shouldn't use a new-age name for a historical fiction book in a time where the name probably didn't exist yet. There are many names that didn't exist before the 2000s, including examples like Bentley, Mila and Maddox. These different names were brought on by pop culture and brands, made popular by 2000s fans and the masses, making it out of place for other written eras.

When you write a character, you want to know the full story of them and their names. Some background knowledge might help you to develop this accurately. So how do we go about making sure our names are realistic in a usually fictional setting? 

Well, unless you're looking for names of babies soon to be born, you probably shouldn't solely rely on Instead, a fellow Twitter user (@epgough) suggests that writers should look at census data for the year your character would've been born. This data will show you the most popular names of the time and location that you're writing about. Even if you're writing in a fantasy setting - if you use the ideals of a country in real life, you can always mirror their census data too. 

By fixing up naming glitches, you can avoid potential cultural mistakes due to accidental ignorance and overall make your book realistic in both its time, setting and characters. 

After all, what's a book without the depth of its characters?

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.