How do you come up with names--for characters, and for places if you're writing about fictional places?
How do I come up with names for characters? Well, I usually pick out names that I like. I don't pick out names with specific meanings or come up with complicated names for them. However, I do want my characters to have unique names.
It is easier for me to come up with girl names versus boy names. Once, I published an article on Suite 101 about girl names for 2011. (Note: it is no longer on the site). It gave me a lot of ideas for names for future characters. However, I should have been researching boy names.
Coming up with last name is tricky too. I know of your typical last names like Johnson, Smith, Brown, Jones, Robinson, and others. Maybe I should research other last names in the phone directory or social media.
My stories usually take place in my hometown or in some other town or city. I stick to setting stories in my hometown because it is familiar. I wish that I could be more creative in this aspect. Maybe I am making things complicated in this aspect. I feel like I have to have everything mapped out-a fictional town name, street names, school, workplaces, etc. For instance, in one story, I had a fictional job training facility in a real city.
I suppose I could take baby steps in creating fictional places. It would be nice to have a fictional eatery, bookstore, or neighborhood.
It amazes me to see other authors and others pull this off. Here are a few examples.
- Gilmore Girls: Stars Hollow was the fictional town where Lorelei and Rory Gilmore lived. There was Luke's Diner, Al's Pancake World, Kim's Antiques, etc.
- Sarah Dessen: Sarah Dessen created the town of Lakeview, based on Chapel Hill, and the beach town of Colby. It amazes me how she can come up with names for streets, schools, eateries, and other landmarks,and it feels so real.
- Hilman College: Some readers may be shaking their heads as they read this. I grew up watching The Cosby Show (1984-1992) and A Different World (1987-1993). I use to think that Hilman College was a real school growing up. Hilman is a fictional, highly esteemed HBCU-historically black college or university. This was where Denise Huxtable attended school to pursue her education until decides to drop out to find herself. I often wonder how different things would have turned out if she would had stayed.
- Comming to America: In this classic 80's film, Akeem (Eddie Murphy) travels from his fictional nation of Zamunda with his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to the U.S. to find a woman to marry. I thought that this was a real country until I Googled it. I know, I know, that sounds silly. I am glad I didn't mention this in my Geography classes.
If these creators can make up fictional towns and even countries, well so can I. Right now, I feel like a really lazy writer.