The Writing Life: What’s in A Name?



What’s in A Name?

by Michelle Janene

‘A rose by any other name, may smell as sweet,’ but what about our characters? Are all names the same? Can they be interchanged and still carry the same meaning and impact? Does a Fred give the reader the same impression as an Alfred? What kind of person do you picture with the name Marci, how about Mariamne, or Mary, or Meraera, or Malith?

Names have power in our stories. But how do we create the right name for every character?

When I first started writing, I bought a baby name book. When I created a new character I’d pick a letter I wanted the name to start with and then went through the pages looking at meanings and spelling variations until I found something to suit my character.

As time passed and I roamed the web more, I discovered a plethora of sites to find names. Most baby or new mom sites have a dedicated page for names. But I took my naming to the next level by choosing a name based on its meaning. Sites like the following are a small list of possibilities for search by the meaning.

  • Behind the Name, allows you to type in the desired meaning and the site provides a list of names from around the world that match. Or a search can be done by nationality.

  • Name Berry allows searches by meaning as well.

  • Belly Ballet gives you lists of names with their meanings also.


If you don’t want to waste hours on the Internet and have Scrivener, there is a name generator built in. You can also pick a name based on gender and nationality. It’s under the Edit tab in Writing Tools.

I have also found some apps I enjoy: (these are free for Android, but they might be found for Apple as well—or something similar)

  • Name Generator

  • Fake Name Generator is fun. It will give you a name: First and Last, along with an address, occupation, fake SSN, and a long list of other stats.

Since I write most of my books with a medieval feel, I have several sites bookmarked for Old English names. Here are a couple of my favorites.

I have also looked for names popular in the old west. More recently I Googled ‘most popular names in 1998’. When you know the age of your character you can get a feel for the names many parents were giving their children the same year as your character was born.

This is now my go-to for names of all kinds.

  • Fantasy Name Generator. This one has an extensive list of possible fantasy characters to choose from, including: hobbits, elves, angels, dragon, dwarves, and a host of others. It also includes Real Name, Place Names, and so much more.

Another favorite is Donjon. You can create an entire world with this site. Each of the names below is a separate link within the site that leads to worlds of possibilities. You can name your characters, your world, and the locations in that world. There are occupations, population stats, maps and diagrams. A person could spend days on this site—and never get a word written.

  • Fantasy Name Generator

  • Random Generator

  • Fantasy Calendar Generator

  • Fantasy World Generator

  • Medieval Demographics Calculator

  • Random Adventure Generator

  • Random Dungeon Generator

  • Random Inn Generator

Do you have any tried and true ways of naming characters? Share your insights. Happy naming.

About the Author


Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer. She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.

You can find her at Strong Tower Press, Turret Writing, on Facebook, Twitter, and on Goodreads.

You can read Michelle’s column on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.


#MichelleJanene #TheWritingCorner #WritingIdeas #WritingTips

Young Living Banner.Lavender.jpg
Gillette on Demand.jpg
Boxed Wholesale Delivered
Ambit Energy
Finally Family Homes.LOGO.jpg
Rakuten Ebates.jpg

© Joanne Troppello and Mustard Seed Sentinel, 2019. Unauthorized usage or duplication of any content published on this website without specific written permission from the site owner is strictly prohibited. With appropriate and specific guidance, excerpts and links may be used provided full definitive credit is given to Joanne Troppello, the contributor, and Mustard Seed Sentinel. Publication start date March 2016. MSS is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

DISCLAIMER: MSS reserves the right to remove comments on articles and in the forum that are not in line with our family-friendly brand and faith-based Christian magazine theme. Please make every effort to comment on articles and participate in the chat rooms in a friendly way that is devoid of profanity and hateful speech. MSS reserves the right to decline site membership (both the free membership and paid subscription membership) to any members who are violating our requests to keep this online community family-friendly. No spam links or comments will be allowed. Spam, profanity, and hateful speech will be deleted.

Freelance content submissions are always welcome and can be submitted through the submit button on the top of the Home Page underneath the header. All submissions are subject to review and possible rejection if the content does not meet quality standards. Edits may be suggested or required for some submissions. At this time, compensation is not given for submissions. However, as the Mustard Seed Sentinel readership grows, financial compensation will be provided for freelancers who submit appropriate and acceptable content for publication, such as the following: author interviews they've completed, guest blogs, or news articles. All freelancers will have their byline listed. NOTE: Mustard Seed Sentinel is a family-friendly publication and only appropriate faith-based content will be accepted.

This magazine is available for free online.

If you like our content and want to support

this publication, feel free to donate below.

Our paid subscription page is for paying members only. Engaging content, educational information, and interactive activities like webinars, as well as podcasts, are available for these paying members.

Publication of Mustard Seed Marketing Group, LLC