Naming Characters

Hello my name is

On writing pages from Facebook to WordPress and everwhere in between people ask, “How do I find a name for my character?” Here are some suggestions.

  1. Find a character name generating site online. is a fun site. There are many more. The advantage to this site, besides that it’s free, is that it helps you think about your character. The disadvantage is that it sticks to only the details you enter and doesn’t consider character traits and mixed heritage. That’s on you.
  2. Write down every interesting name you hear. Interesting names are everywhere, so take advantage of that. American and European football players have amazing names. Look up a roster. Here’s a few choice names from the Manchester City Team:     
    1. Daniel Grimshaw (Grimshaw, what a great surname!)
    2. Claudio Bravo (Bravo! Clearly a hero type)
    3. Tosin Adarabioyo (Tosin? Original indeed!)
    4. Demeaco Duhaney
    5. Eliaquim Mangala
    6. Nicolás Otamendi
    7. Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru
    8. Fabian Delph (I yes, a Greek God’s lay name)
    9. Brahim Diaz
    10. Ilkay Gündogan
    11. Leroy Sané (serial killer name?)
    12. Yaya Touré (clown at Cirque du Soleil?)
    13. Olexandr Zinchenko
    14. Sergio Agüero
    15. Lukas Nmecha
    16. Raheem Sterling

Warning: I chose a character with a diacritic mark and it was more effort to write it correctly with the umlaut than it was worth.

Looking for a Russian name? Try the national hockey team. Looking for Russian female? Try gymnasts and tennis players from Russia. Or, if you are well read and can remember the names from Russian literature, you have sources right there.  

  1. Look around. I see a CHAIR. Okay, Charlotte Ireland. Charlie Israel, a Scottish Jew. Bike. Billicans Kerry. Bibby Kells. Whatever. Names are in everything.
  2. Make a list. Keep a file or notebook with a list of interesting names. I have some students with amazing names. I won’t use their full names, but a name like Nmbala is a common Englishsizing of an African surname. It is interesting and original. So, why not use it?
  3. You don’t have to get the best name the first time through. Put down Bob Blob or Susan Slime and get on with the writing of your story.

Good skill!


J. Callahan Writes: Dec 25, 2017 On timelines.

fictional timelines

On Timelines

Like television shows and films, literature demands accuracy in the timeline. Whether writing chronologically, with flashbacks, or going into the future, it is important to keep the time of events straight. There are no short cuts to doing this.

First, there are programs one can buy to help. Aeon is a software that works directly with Scrivener. However, if you use this software, it is important that you start to use it at the beginning of your project. To go back and create a timeline from scratch gives little return on investment (ROI). It is difficult and tedious.

Of course, another way to approach timelines that anyone can do is create a separate file with a chronology of your story. I have done that for parts of a book to get years straight when it is important.

Here’s the best tip I can give: don’t put specific dates or times in your story or novel if it is not needed. Why make your life more complicated than necessary? If you can keep the order of events clear, actual dates don’t matter.

That is not always possible in a crime novel. Often, exact dates are important to an investigation. Thus, keep track from the beginning or go back later.  In short stories, unless the time and date have significance: Dec. 7, 1941, January 1, 2000 or a birthdate, then leave it out.

Good skill, and keep writing!

J. Callahan Writes: Dec 21, 2017

On Passive Voice


Editors and writers caution us to avoid passive voice. That is often good advice. However, it depends on the context of the sentence and the goals of the author. For example: “The scissors were dropped on top of the body with the tongue half cut off and the binder clip firmly in place.”

The focus is clearly on the scissor, for the killer is a mystery. There is nothing wrong with the passive voice in this case.

In general, use active voice for subjects when the subject’s action is preeminent. If the object is important, don’t be afraid to use the passive voice.