If you’re feeling uninspired by your character names, this is for you. Here are four ways to choose strong character names: 1.) Base it on the birth year...

How to Choose Your Character Names

If you’re feeling uninspired by your character names, this is for you. Here are four ways to choose strong character names: 1.) Base it on the birth year...

When writing fiction, you may not think you need to put too much thought into character names, but using interesting names that lend to your story can be a great way to keep readers engaged. If you can’t think of a good name while you write, use generic names so you don’t lose your pace, but then go back and do a search and replace and change your characters’ names to your final selections during one of your revision rounds.

If you’re feeling uninspired by your character names, we can help.

Here are 4 ways to choose strong character names:

1. Start with a robust character profile.

First, if you haven’t done so, build out a detailed character profile for every character in your book. This will include the typical eye color, hair color, height, and body shape, but your profiles should also go into detail about personality types, pet peeves, likes and dislikes, and anything you can think of to write down. A strong profile can lead to naming inspiration.

2. Dig into your family genealogy.

You have a long line of family names—both first and last names—you can pull inspiration from to create strong character names. Get creative and use what inspires you. Plus, the family names will make your book feel even more special to you. If you loosely create a character based on your grandmother, give that character your grandmother’s name. Maybe your great-grandmother had a beautiful first name, name one of your characters after her.

3. Search names based on birth year.

If one of your characters was born in 1974, run a quick search on the internet to find the most popular names given to babies born in 1974. Whether you’re searching for a male or female name, you’ll surely find a long list to help steer you in the right direction.

4. Use the meaning of names to decide.

If your character is Swedish, look up meanings of Swedish names and choose one that fits your character. You can do this for any native country for any of your characters. It’s a great way to add a more authentic touch to your writing without a lot of effort.


Character names are not only a way to keep your reader engaged with your book, but they also serve your story in ways you may not have thought about. Your readers will see your protagonist’s name throughout the book, make it a memorable name, so your readers feel like they actually know your protagonist. Names can also pull together plot points and tie up loose ends. Names stay with people, and you want your characters’ names to stay on your readers’ minds for a long time.

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, and want to change the names of people in your story, you can also use these tips to help you generate naming ideas.

Looking for more writing help? Search writing tips on our blog.


Erika Bennett is the Content Manager for Xulon Press. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade and her passion is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands. You can also find her writing on XulonPress.Substack.com.

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