Once in a while I come up with great character names right away and the names stay the same throughout the entire novel or story. But most of the time I spend days, even weeks, trying to find the perfect names. Usually my character names end up changing somewhere in the writing process. I sure do admire those writers who claim that the perfect name, and character to go with it, just falls into their head like magic! That’s not how it works for me. I have several ways I choose character names, which you can read about in this post: http://lauramarcella.blogspot.com/2011/04/n-is-for-namely-naming-names.html?m=0
I never before used a baby name book, though I know many writers do. So last summer I finally bought two excellent baby name books that I LOVE. Why two? Both were too perfect and I couldn’t choose one over the other. Each book had different features I wanted, and together they’re the ultimate tool. So after nearly a year of using these books, which have given me the perfect names for my characters, I think it’s about time I share what I like about them with my favorite writers and bloggers. That would be YOU!
|Buy it here|
Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names by Amanda Elizabeth Barden
What this does: The names are grouped into 50 categories based on meaning: Animals & Insects; Astronomy; Beautiful & Handsome; etc., etc. For example, if you’re looking for a name that means “lucky,” you’d head over to the Good Fortune, Luck, & Prosperity category and find separate lists of both girls and boys names with a fortunate meaning. Furthermore, the index lists all of the names in the book by girls and boys. So if you already have a name you like, such as Laura, you can search it in the index and find Laura on page 58 (which is in the Flowers, Trees, & Things That Grow category).
• The book’s structure: how clever to group names by meaning! You can easily find the perfect meaning that fits your character.
• The origin is listed next to each name, which is great if you’re looking for a specific ethnicity.
• Variations of each name are included.
• No pronunciations.
|Buy it here|
The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg
What this does: Each name includes pronunciation, a popularity graph, nicknames, variants, and my favorite thing about it: a short list of “sister” and “brother” names that go great with the name you like. So if you’re interested in the name Laura, this is what it looks like:
Popularity: #183 (and graph)
Style: Timeless (more about this below)
Nicknames: Laurie, Lori, Lolly
Variants: Laurel, Lauren
Sisters: Rebecca, Amy, Christine, Lisa, Teresa
Brothers: Patrick, Stephen, Mark, Timothy, David
• There are 55 lists for making it easier to find a specific name. Looking for timeless names? Biblical names? Irish names? How about surnames as first names? Maybe you want something androgynous, or perhaps names with the letter x? Yup, you’ll find lists of girls and boys names in all those categories and many more.
• The sister/brother lists are excellent because it suggests names similar to the one you’re looking for. Often I’ll have a character name I like, but I’m not completely convinced it’s the one I want. I look it up in this book, see what the sister or brother suggestions are, and there I might find the perfect alternate.
• The pronunciations. Love that!
• No name meanings.
• No origins next to the name (there are several ethnicity lists included, just not all).
Why I like these books together:
Baby Names Made Easy has the name origins and name meanings, and it's brilliant to group names by meaning. The Baby Name Wizard has pronunciations, lists of alternate suggestions for each name, and specific lists of various kinds of names. Together, they’re the perfect character name reference. If I already have names I like, I look them up in The Baby Name Wizard for the alternate suggestions to see if I like a similar one better. Then I’ll look it up in Baby Names Made Easy for meaning and origin to see what fits. Or if I have no name ideas yet, I’ll look through Easy and write down ones I like, all the while noting their meaning, or I’ll look through Wizard’s lists and then check the meanings in Easy.
I wish the authors would collaborate and make one ultimate name reference! But I like having both. Each book is fewer than 400 pages and is about the size and thickness of a trade paperback, so neither will take up too much room on your bookshelf or desk.
If you need a baby name book for character names, I highly recommend both books. Just want one? I can’t recommend one over the other because they’re both fantastic! You’ll just have to compare them in the bookstore and decide that way. But I’m warning you: that’s what I tried to do and ended up getting both books. So gooooood luck with that! :)
How do you find the perfect character name? Do your names stay the same the first time or do they change? What’s your favorite baby name reference book?
Wishing all of my USA buddies a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend! A special thank you goes out to all of the men and women who have sacrificed and who are sacrificing everything: the veterans, the active, the angels. You are superheroes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.