Authors who write fiction have to make up a lot of stuff. One of the most important aspects of writing fiction is making up names for characters. So, how do writers come up with names?
A fun and entertaining way to come up with names is to use a random formula. For instance, there was an email joke that made the rounds several years ago called 'Your Star Wars Name,' and the formula consisted of using parts of you last and first names combined with the model of your first car and the first three letters of a common mammal on a numbered list. So John Walker who drove a Vega in high school might have a Star Wars name would be Walkjo bat Vega - or something like that. You get the idea. There's a cool site for generating fake names (random, elf, super hero, etc.) at http://online-generator.com/index.php. It's a lot of fun and it produces names you can actually use or improve on for your characters specialized names.
HOW A NAME SOUNDS. It's important to give your characters appropriate sounding names. If you have a very heroic male character who's macho and kick-butt, you probably be better off naming him Rorke rather than Tim unless you plan on using the contradiction of an ordinary sounding name as part of the plot line. A female character who's supposed to be alluring and mysterious spy would do better with a name like Tanya than Betty.
The sound of names subconsciously conjures up ideas of what the person is like. Names should be age appropriate for the character. For instance, you would probably not want to name your teen sleuth Hattie Lidstone because, truthfully, that sounds like a name belonging to a woman from a past generation. If you deliberately go against common expectations, you should have a good story reason for it. To make sure your character bears a name that's common for the age of the character, you can easily check name lists that show statistics for the most popular names of given eras. For instance, Moon and Star might be good names for hippies in the sixties, but you'd have some explaining to do if your modern-day teen characters had names like this. Of course you can use this to your advantage if you want to include the fact that your teen character is being raised by her hippie grandmother.
'Power' names usually have 'hard' sounding consonants in them, like 'k'. Softer names with 's' and 'l' and 'a' can be used to suggest introverted or downtrodden characters.
So, no matter how you come up with character names, choose wisely and let them do their work to help establish characterization. In the long run it will make your writing easier and stronger.
Dana Warryck, Penumbra Publishing author and guest blogger