Character Name Harvest

I’ve found a nerdier repository for name ideas than sites like

Character Naming Resource For Nerds

Peer-reviewed research articles. Real people have the coolest, most unpredictable last names that I may never discover while searching name websites.

How I Find Names  

I might be writing at my little table (which is perpetually covered in articles from past assignments/research; academic tablecloth??) and stop midsentence.

Me: “I need a name.”

I’ll shuffle through some articles, maybe flip to the references in the back which lists 20+ articles with names. For first names I look for something uncommon for my generation. For surnames? Must be easily pronounceable. Beyond that, anything goes.

SURNAME EXAMPLES: From this week’s articles

  • Kobel
  • Eime
  • Hartmann
  • Kettner
  • Cunningham
  • Basterfield
  • Davey
  • Kesztyus
  • Olive
  • Dohle
  • Siegrist
  • Payne
  • Erkelenz
  • Telford
  • Drenowatz
  • Steinacker
  • Reilly
  • Pearce
  • Adamson

Next? I grab the a surname that rings truest with my choice first name and run with it.

There’s something about quickly finding a name that feels like meeting an actual person for the first time (and I don’t stare at real people for days like a weirdo wondering if they really look like a Karen). Or – here we go – it’s like multiple choice questions on a test where you’re supposed to go with your first answer because your first instinct is usually correct. Same thing. Besides, my obsessive overthinking usually yields things that sound obsessively overthought.

(Also, I’m not a fan of my characters busting through 4th walls trying to help me with basics like names. That’s not their job. It’s mine. They have ONE job: to grab my hand and whisper, “Run!”)

7 thoughts on “Character Name Harvest

  1. cyndimacmillan says:

    Love the blog! I took a fiction writing course years ago and learned about varying names to help the reader keep tabs on who is who. So, Saahir, Sarah and Sam are a bad idea because they start with the same letter. Also, Mary, Mandy and Lizzy are not a good ides, either, because they end with the same letter. Ann, Pat and Mike are not a good idea because they have the same syllable count. But, if you name your three characters: Saahir, Ann and Elizabeth it will make it easier for your reader to follow plot and dialogue. Thanks for your blog! PS. My daughter’s name is Verity. I found it in a book and found it irresistible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Duri Rolvsson says:

      Thanks, Cyndi!

      Those naming rules make perfect sense. I’ve heard ’em somewhere before, but… See, it’s little bits like those that make me envy people who’ve taken creative writing courses (with access to instructors to harass with questions, because I totally would). I can only imagine the things they know that I don’t. While my method of independent reading and research is decent, there’s always something to be gained from learning about the same topics from another angle.

      So when I find someone who’s enrolled in a creative writing bachelors/masters/general course I get all excited: (GASP) “This person knows THINGS! I want to know the things! TellmetheTHINGS!!!”

      And I agree – Verity is lovely. Some names just grab you.


  2. Emma says:

    When I’m naming characters, I look at lists of popular names in the year my characters were “born”. It’s really useful because some names have gone out of fashion completely and it does give you a lot of choice. To find surnames, I usually look up popular surnames in the place where my character comes from, London or Glasgow, for example.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Teresa Piccari says:

    Lovely work Duri! You had stopped by my site a while back. I have chosen today -with a howling Nor’easter blowin’ out the window behind me – to catch up and return visits. My eye was caught by this post I think because my name means To Harvest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Duri Rolvsson says:

      Well hello and thank you, Teresa!

      (A “howling Nor’easter blowin’,” indeed? NICE – those three words made me imagine the dramatic arrival of some maritime specter, or of a living legend so weathered with adventure they may as well be spectral.)

      I like “Teresa” for a character name but I’m related to one (a Teresa) so I’m shy on using it; when I do use it, the conditions ‘ll have to be just right.

      Liked by 1 person

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