How to Name your Characters

(and everything else you create!)

When you design a new character for a comic book, one thing that may elude you is the name. I’ve spent many a night with a fully realized new character without knowing what to call them. I thought to myself, "There’s got to be a way to help myself come up with names for my characters (and other things I design) in my comic books.

I believe I’ve devised a simple process that helps me to name everything I design in my books. Now, I want it to be understood that my stories and characters are set up to exist in a fictional, science-y, futuristic setting. Because of that, I need to be a little more creative in what I call things. For instance, if I designed a new character who is an alien space explorer that travels across the galaxy, it would be inappropriate for me to name him "Bob" or "Fred." Well, unless it was meant to be humorous.

However, if your story is set on boring ‘ole Earth, you might have more flexibility in naming things conventionally. My method for naming can be applied to things other than just characters. I use it to name Planets, Cities, Alien Species, Creatures, weapons and more.

This potential new character needs a name.

My Method for Naming:

The first thing I do is identify the thing I need a name for. For the sake of this example, we’ll use a character like the one above. Next, I want to start writing a list of random words. Not real words, just random sets of letters that look like words. (See the example list below.)

I write down whatever pops into my head. Once I deplete what I can think of on my own, I continue the list by looking at my surroundings. I look for signs, papers or anything with text on it. I pick portions of words or combine segments of multiple words. If I like the way they sound, I add them to the list. Once I’m done with the list, I look it over and see if anything looks like it would work with the character.

One time, I was trying to come up with a name for a planet that my main character’s moon base, Mineta, orbits. I was sitting outside of my office building on day in 1996…(where I worked, I didn’t own it) and I looked up and saw a sign near the building that said: “Corporate Center.” I just moved some letters around and added some other letters to make it sound like a location….Corporit…Corporia….Carporia. And it’s been named that ever since.

The key is, use your imagination to name things. Brainstorm and write everything down. For me, it’s just something I feel. I know if I like a name and if I don’t it will bother me. It’s kind of an " I know it when I see it" sort of thing.

Brainstorming list for the 2nd Book in the Spectre Series.

Now you can see from this particular list that it is separated into Planets and Characters. The words from one list wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for the other. Names for a character aren’t necessarily appropriate names for a planet. Again, you will know if it is appropriate because it will feel right. If you choose a good name, see how it sounds. Say it out loud. Write it in some dialogue from the script. Have other characters saying the name. Does it sound good or is it just stupid? That is just a way to test if a name is right.

As a side note, I always keep my lists of names in a file. You will revisit them when you need to name something else. For years, I kept a list of possible planet names in a folder. I’ve used some of them or variations of them over the years.

What about a more conventional way of Naming?

Now sometimes I will actually use a conventional method to name things that I design for my books. For instance, the name of the Ship that my characters travel through space on is called the "Zebulon." How the heck did I come up with that name?

Interesting story…gather around. The ship is used to travel the galaxy for the exploratory missions that are the basis for the arc of my stories. Because my characters are essentially explorers, I wanted to use explorer names for my ships. I did a little internet search for famous explorers and came across Zebulon Pike; the famous American explorer for which Pike’s Peak is named. The name just sounded cool, so I used it for the most prominent vessel in my stories. I really liked the name and it stuck. It even sounds kind of appropriate for science fiction to me. The point is, I do use more conventional ways to name things as well.

Hopefully, if you get stuck on naming the characters, places or whatever you design for your comic books, my method can assist you in finding the perfect name. For more helpful information on creating your own comic book, check out my eBook that shows you How make a Comic Book.

If you have any questions, concerns or great thoughts, leave it in the comment box below.

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