Screenwriting : Character Naming by Josh Ahearne

Josh Ahearne

Character Naming

I use a couple of sites to get names from such as Surname Database. Obviously other times I just take names from friends and family. I was just wondering if any of you have other ways of coming up names that fit your characters.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

I often give names the Google test to make sure no one is currently in the news with that exact name I just thought up.

Shawn Speake

I get a lot of ideas from college and pro sports. Always looking for players with cool names!

Maria Torrez- Ellsperman

I do the Google testing and a lot of research for Character Naming. Along with projects I'm working on. Pens Up!

Josh Ahearne

Never thought of looking into sports for names, thanks! I've started Google testing names now so thanks for that too. So far so good with the names.

David Levy

I get ideas from old movies, TV shows, sports, or anywhere really. There is one Bill Murrary movie where he gives a fictious name just to screw with a rival. The name he gives is not his true character name in the film. I love the name he "claimed" he was and used that for a character name. I did the same with a character name from Caddyshack Both character names are insignificant in each film and those who have read my scripts never pick comment on the name reference. But most of the time it just comes from brainstorming whenever I hear a great name.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I think of random names all the time. I hardly ever do any research.

Sëan Ellis

Every character that I write usually has it's genesis in someone that I know personally or have met. I envision this person playing the character in my head as I write, so I often make the character's name a slight variation on the real person's name just so that I can keep up with who's who in my head. Often, on a re-draft, I'll begin changing the names as the characters begin to resemble those people less, but that's still who I envision as the character as I continue to write...only know I can tell who's who by the role they play in the story, so I no longer need the "name association" in order to keep writing.

William Martell

All of my character's last names have a secret connection to the story or theme, often film references. For CROOKED (film doesn't even have the same idea as my script) I used the names of my favorite Noir screenwriters... which fits the story and is fun. On another message board there's a conversation about character names where someone mentioned THE MATRIX, where Neo is the One (anagram) and Neo also means "new". Anderson is his last name, which means son of a stranger or unusual person. Morpheus, Trinity, etc... all of the names have a meaning!

Marc Breindel

At the risk of sounding "politically correct," I take ethnicity into account when naming my characters. For example, the surnames "Ramirez" and "Chavez" obviously suggest Latino, regardless of what that character is like (a dentist, a spaceship captain, a grifter, whatever). If I always go with Northern European surnames like "Andrews" or "Clark," I'm suggesting that none of my characters are Asian-American or Latino or something else. Question: Has anyone found that producers frown on surnames that suggest cultural diversity? Do they sometimes just say directly: "You know this 'Kareena Patel' character? Change her name to 'Karin Page' and let's pitch the role to Jessica Chastain"? Or do they ever say, "I don't need a script that tells me to cast certain ethnic types. Give me a script with 'neutral' names like 'Andrew' or 'Clark'"?

Marc Breindel

Thanks, Neto. Good advice. I'll be watching the Olympics in Rio next year, and I hope some producers do, too -- to get an idea of how many kinds of people (infinite) live in Brazil and around the world. Someday some Hollywood studio will make a fortune by remaking "Xica da Silva." I can see Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the lead, and I'm sure there are some Brazilian actors who'd also make it amazing.

Anthony Fertino

Sometimes, I like to reuse the names of characters/actors from the movies that inspired whatever it is I'm working on. Quick jump to IMDb, sneak in some references =)

Marc Breindel

Great idea! I hope some of those actors recognize the homage.

Niksa Maric

Sometimes I pick some of the names here on site, male or female, depending what I need.

Shawn Speake

Don't forget what William says, "the character's name must mean something." Ex: KINGSTOWN I chose, ROMAN COKE as the name for the lead. COKE came from a MLB Baseball player. I added ROMAN because the lead is an ALCOHOLIC.

Josh Ahearne

I do the same with antagonist names especially the more supernatural ones. Tend to use the etymological dictionary and make a name out of origin words that relate to the character.

Michael Eddy

Not sure if anyone has suggested this one yet - since I scrolled through the posts quickly - but a good trick is to break out old yearbooks - high school or college - and go for intriguing last names - just change the first names.

Vincent Paterno

I use all sorts of devices to come up with names. For example, in my latest screenplay, the protagonist is named Colleen Cossitt, blending vivacious 1920s actress Colleen Moore with the name of a street in the neighborhood I grew up in. Her lover is named Keswick Chesterton (I've never come across anyone using Keswick as a first name). The antagonist is named Vito Cortez (the last name a tribute to pre-Code actor Ricardo Cortez, who regularly portrayed oily gigolos in films of that era). Other names in the script are Maureen Cossitt (Colleen's older sister), Meg Switlik (Colleen's best friend) and Ernest Sanderson (who during the story becomes Colleen's boss and possibly Maureen's love interest). Aside from Ernest, I looked up all the names at Google and couldn't find any real-life people using them.

Susan Brewer Busa

I've used a name that I saw on a paper bag in the laundry room trash. I'll take inspiration wherever I find it.

Dawn Murrell

I use names of old teachers from my past . If I liked the teacher, they get a good character, if I didn't like the teacher, they are a villain. I also like to use alliteration in my characters. I named one of my characters Peter Potter because it made me giggle. LOL

CJ Walley

I pain myself for days trying to come up with meaningful characters names and then complete forget the link about six months later. It's always worth keeping in mind how a name can paint a picture of a character and make it easier for a reader to get their head around your story. Similar sounding and rhyming names can be confusing, as can non gender specific names. Using Mr and Mrs can give the impression of a more parental or authoritative figure. Specifying full names can help identify your leads. Professional prefixes can quickly establish a character's role. I once read a script where the writer had given every character, regardless of how small a role, a full name. Within just the first couple of pages it was just impossible to follow who was who.

Virginia Brucker

I look at all the characters and try to find names that aren't too similar for them as that could confuse the reader. Think about your character's back story and genealogy, and the time frame your story is set in. And I would go with conventional spellings--it's just so much easier (unless you are doing sci-fi?)

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