Stumped on what to name your male character? Don’t think of choosing a name as a chore. Instead, think of naming as a fun escape from writing your story.
When searching for a name, always keep in mind plausibility. While creativity is important, plausibility is often more valuable. After all, naming your character, Solitaire Maverick, to reflect his nonconformist attitude is just plain insulting to a reader’s intelligence.
But how do you find a plausible name? And one that’s creative too? The following five tips will help you in your search for the best name for your male character.
Male Character Names Tip 1: Know your character
To help pick the most suitable name for your male character, you should know his background. Where did he grow up? What’s his ethnicity? What’s his culture like? What are his strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears?
Any of the answers to these questions can be a good source of inspiration for names. If you’re an author who’s opposed to character crib sheets, preferring instead your character to develop organically as you write the story, then work with any available information you have. The “Find and Replace” option in many word processors allow you to change a name without hassle if you should want to change it later on.
Male Character Names Tip 2: Consider the traditional methods of naming
To create a plausible name for your male character, these four considerations are key: location, year of birth, nationality, and ethnicity. These factors are what commonly influence names in real life.
You should also think of the parents. What would they name their son? What outside or inner influences (society, culture, attitude) would affect their decision?
Male Character Names Tip 3: Using symbolism
If going traditional strikes you as dull, there are of course other sources you can draw from to find a name. It’s fiction after all. Abilities, talents, role, personality, hopes, dreams, fears, fate, and more can inspire a name.
But be cautious. Naming a priest, Shepard, or a knight, Lance, would be over-the-top and may annoy readers. The key is not to be too overt in your name’s symbolism. These names often distract readers and take them out of the story.
Names whose meanings that aren’t obvious without special knowledge are better choices. If you want to name a character based on his astute wisdom, you could simply look up names that mean wise in any search engine and find ordinary names like Drew and Gregory. If you want to be more creative, think about the sound of a name. Wise sounds soft, passive, and its “i” sounds the same as words like sigh and side. You may want to consider names like Elijah, Isaiah, Riley, Levi, or Shilah, which somewhat replicate wise’s sounds (though not exactly of course).
Male Character Names Tip 4: Choosing a last name
Choosing last names is oftentimes no different than choosing first names. Last names are also influenced by location, nationality, and ethnicity. But surnames, unlike most first names, can reflect ancestral occupations without diminishing plausibility. Of course, so long as you’re careful, you can draw from unconventional sources too (e.g., personality, talents, and more).
With surnames, you also have the opportunity to balance your first name. Have an unusual-sounding first name like Xavier or Ahren? If you think you have to tone it down, simply couple it with a plain-sounding surname.
You should also pay attention to the sound of the whole name. Xavier Zahn sounds odd and artificial, with its emphasis on the x and z. Xavier Adams seems to resonate better and sounds more like a name someone would have.
Keep in mind that you need not choose a masculine surname simply because your character is male.
Male Character Names Tip 5: Naming resources
Now that you have these guidelines, you may be wondering how to find names. With countless websites dedicated to baby names, you should have no problem finding names. You can even browse baby books, phone books, and your e-mail spam folder in your search for the right name.
The Social Security Administration’s website is a great resource if you’re looking up names according to popularity and has records all the way back to 1879. Thinkbabynames.com has tons of names to browse if you want to search according to nationality, meaning, or popularity.
Need a last name? 20000-Names.com has a great compilation of surnames based on meaning and ethnicity.
Have fun with your search!