Naming Children, Pets, and Characters

By |2023-03-19T06:17:16-05:00September 1st, 2014|Make Me Think Monday, Uncategorized|0 Comments


A person’s name has power and all sorts of things should be considered when naming a child, a pet, or a character in a book.

But choosing the perfect name isn’t easy.

After three children, eight dogs, and multiple characters in my novels, I should know.

Back when my husband and I were choosing children’s names, we didn’t have the option to know the sex. You had to come up with a male and a female name. It took us the full nine months during each pregnancy.

In fact, when our second child came early, we had no names picked out and it looked like he’d go home from the hospital as Baby Boy.

Totally not acceptable.

We finally agreed on his daddy’s name and his great-granddaddy’s for a middle name. Ultimately, we used the initials to avoid confusion between two people with the same name.


Coming up with pet names was relatively easy.

We chose common names like Lucky and Buster. Our Old English sheepdogs we gave Biblical names: Obadiah, Micah, Rhinestone, and Tobias.

Okay, Rhinestone isn’t in the Bible, but Tobias comes from the Old Testament. Rhinestone was our rescue OES and came with her name. We didn’t want to cause her more stress by changing her name to Esther.

Naming characters for the stories I write isn’t much easier than naming children or dogs.

Sometimes authors use A & B for their character names and fill in names later using the search and replace function in their word processor. Others change their characters’ names during the editing stage.

I can’t do that. I name my characters before I write a single word. Their names give them personalities, and they become bona fide people to me.

There are all sorts of things to consider when naming a child. Here’s a list of twenty-five in case you’re interested.

There are also guidelines for naming pets. Check here.

I use many of those rules when naming my book characters. Chiefly, I consider these questions.

  • Is the name easily pronounceable or sounded out without difficulty?
  • Do the first name and surname sound good together?
  • Do the names start with the same letter or sound similar? (It may be clever in a family setting to have all the kids’ names begin with the same letter, but similar-sounding names can lead to confusion for readers.)

When I’m coming up with names, I also

  • Consider the number of syllables and vary the number in each character’s names.
  • Choose names appropriate for the story setting, era, and genre.
  • Avoid names of friends and family members.
  • Make the name fit the story and the personality of the character.

Finding the perfect name is not easy. I have been known to change a character’s name, but not often. Once in a book sequel, I killed off a character because I no longer liked her name. It’s one of the perks of being a writer. I get to kill off people. :-)

How’d you come up with the name you chose for your child, pet, or character in your book? Any hints you’d like to offer on choosing names?