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  • Writer's pictureWendiFournier

Fiction Writing: Creating Meaningful Character Names

What do Peter Parker, Harry Potter, and Katniss Everdeen have in common? They are all adored characters that have become iconic household names. Readers build up a picture of who a character is the moment their name first appears on the page, and taking the time to create a meaningful character name that sticks is worth the effort. Not to mention, coming up with character names in fiction writing is the perfect opportunity to showcase a bit of creative expression.


Let’s explore the character Jack Reacher, who lives within the pages of more than 23 novels by Lee Child and on screen played by Tom Cruise. When asked about the origin of Reacher’s name, Child recounts how a stint of unemployment had him running errands to the supermarket where he often asked to reach up high and get items for the elderly. His wife commented he might have a future profession as a “reacher” at the market, and he thought it sounded like a striking surname — a true testament to how creativity can strike when we least expect it.


J.K. Rowling noted that she came up with Hermione Granger after thoroughly considering her character’s parents by asking the question: What would two professional dentists, who liked to prove how clever they were, choose to name their child? In the end, Hermione was chosen from the Shakespeare play “The Winter’s Tale,” while Granger is a common surname.


Where can you find inspiration when naming fictional characters? I’m so happy you asked!


Every year, baby name sites like BabyCenter.com releases the hottest names new parents are naming their babies. At the time of this post, the top names for girls are Olivia, Emma, Amelia, Ava, and Sophia, while the top boy names are Noah, Liam, Oliver, Elijah, and Mateo.


If you’re looking for names based on your character’s ethnicity, sites like BabyNames.com are great sources to explore. For instance, if your character is Irish, you can search Irish baby names broken down by gender to generate ideas. If you’re writing historical fiction, older graveyards are a fascinating source of inspiration. Give them a try!


Now, get out there and tear up that track, word players! Time to #CreateYourEpic.

Xo Wendi



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