In Flight - Quilt Block

Name Resources

by Dawn L. Stewart



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Dawn L. Stewart

Your story idea is brilliant, the plot convoluted enough to keep any reader guessing, the setting real enough to visit. So why the hesitation? Ah, the characters lack names and memorable characteristics. Picking names out of the air isn't working, so where will you find those elusive names and the personality quirks to bring the characters alive?

Baby name books contain the meanings and origins of names as well as pronunciation and a name's various forms, such as Anne, Ann, Anna. If you're like me, though, you enjoy unusual names that lend flavor to a story, particularly if the story is ethnic or "other-worldly" like a science fiction tale. One of my favorite books is The New Age Baby Name Book by Sue Browder, which lists over 3,000 names. One example is a girl's name: Nunki (NOO:N-kee), which refers to The Archer, a star in the constellation Sagittarius. Remember, just because the book suggests names as first names doesn't mean they can't be used as last names or even nicknames.

Perhaps your character has already chosen her name (as some fictional characters tend to do, whether you like the name or not!) and you can't quite target her personality. You Are Your First Name by Ellin Dodge Young is a versatile book that uses numerology to analyze over 1,000 names; and if the name you need is not in the book, the author provides the formula for determining any name's personality characteristics. It's easy to develop an entire character from the lists of character traits available for each name.

Once when I had trouble fine-tuning a character in a novel, I sought the advice of an astrologer who worked a chart for the character. It's amazing how many details surfaced that brought the character to life, but you don't have to rely on an astrologer for personality analysis. Linda Goodman wrote two wonderful books, Sun Signs and Love Signs, which translate the movement of the stars into a universe of usable material for creating memorable characters.

The telephone book is a vast source of names. Not only does it list first, last and sometimes middle names; it includes street and town names. I have used street names as character names, especially when the story demands an unusual twist to how a character is viewed. The name Greensleeve Johnson is a street name combined with a last name. Perhaps Greensleeve Johnson is a florist. Mix and match words to create the perfect name combination.

The internet is one of my favorite research tools where helpful information awaits the persistent searcher. Here are a few sites to try:

Character names are just as important as "real life" names. So choose your character's name with the same care you would name your child, and watch your character grow into a "real" person.

1998 Dawn L. Stewart

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.

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New Age Baby Names

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Linda Goodman's Love Signs

Copyright 2000 Dawn Lesley Stewart