How to Come Up with Character Names

How do you come up with character names in your script? Picking a character name can feel like choosing the name of your firstborn. Think back to your first dog, baby, plant, fish… you know the drill. It involves gut instinct and intuition but also inspiration. Is it really all that serious? When the name doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. But when you see ‘the one,’ a big flashing YES appears. Okay, not exactly. You might need to test ride a name while writing, but something eventually sticks. And when it does, a cool character name can make your story feel real.

Movies, Novels, Songs, and Shows

Media can be a great source of inspiration when it comes to finding a new character name. Look at your favorite movies, novels, songs, and shows and see if anything sticks out. Maybe there is a character name that’s always spoken to you. Or perhaps you could IMDB the credits and take a look at the actors’ or writers’ real names, then grab one of those to use.

Social Security List

Google the United States social security list for the birth year of your character. This is a fun way to see what was popular during a certain time period. Take to your search engine to find the equivalent in another country.

Real Life

Art imitates life, so why not just grab a name from there as well. While it’s probably not best to call the evil, vile, gross kid-brother in your story “Devin” when that’s your actual evil, vile, gross kid-brother’s name, there’s another way to pull from real life. Cool character names are everywhere – that random kid from middle school, the name shouted out by a barista at the coffee shop, a smarmy salesman at a dealership, a politician you can’t help but hate – the list goes on.


Take something from Tinder other than a swiping self-esteem boost accompanied by a fractured ego from a steady stream of text-related rejection. No Trey from Culver City, I will not show you my hoo-ha, but I will borrow your name for this complete d-bag I’ve written into one of my stories. Dating is hard, guys.

Baby Names

Come up with character names by doing an old fashion web search for baby names. It’s not weird if it’s research (presumably, I can’t really qualify that).

Find the Meaning

If you want a character name to mean something in particular, research using that criteria. Type into Google “name that means strong/warrior/listener/happy” and sift through the results. Refine your results by defining the culture, region, country, and so forth. There will be multiple names for various meanings. 

In The End…

A character name says something about a person in a subtle way. It could be steeped in Greek mythology, a hippie name from the 1970s, or a futuristic one that hasn’t been created yet. You might need an exceedingly common name for one character and a unique name for another. Each human being is different, so your characters will be too. Embrace it during your search to come up with character names!

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