Naming Your Characters — Linda Baten Johnson

This week I’m excited to welcome Linda Baten Johnson, author extraordinaire, as she shares with us easy ways to name our characters without having the names all begin with the same letter, as often happens to me!

Welcome, Linda!

Thanks, Leeann. Happy to be here.

When my husband and I learned we were to be parents, we spent hours looking at books of names. We were quite aware of everyone’s name we met, because the name had to be perfect for our baby. To make the naming more difficult, we did not find out the gender of the child, so we had to have a name for both male and female. When my daughter had her first child, they selected Savannah and Rachael as names. They agreed the newborn looked like a Rachael.

Naming characters is as personal and often as difficult as naming your own offspring. For Cocoa and Christmas Crackers, the main character started as Beth, then changed to Sage, and before the book was finished, she became Joy. I was grateful for that seek and replace feature on the computer. Her male counterpart started and finished the book with the name of Dane, but their story didn’t seem to flow until she had the right name.

To help me name characters, I have two books of names, so I can check on country of origin of the name and the meaning. One book has masculine names listed from macho, such as Boone, Cord, and Curt, to wimpy, such as Bernard, Cecil, and Gomer. I don’t agree with many of their selections. For example, Otto is listed as macho and Dwight is listed as wimpy.  If a book is set in a specific year and your character is in her twenties, you can check on the internet for most popular girl names twenty years earlier. This adds validity to the writing.

For historical fiction, the Bible is a wonderful source of names. As you need names for your good characters, you also need to name the unsavory ones. I look for surnames which have an unpleasant sound to my ear. Charles Dickens was a master at naming his characters. Who could forget Ebenezer Scrooge or Uriah Heep.

Since we writers name a lot of characters, I’ve found it helpful to create an excel spreadsheet for character names. I list first name, last name, their book, and a brief description of physical looks and character attributes or quirks.

Find the right name for your characters and they will help you write their story.


Linda Baten Johnson grew up in White Deer, Texas, where she won blue ribbons for storytelling. She still loves telling tales. A tornado destroyed the town when Linda lived there, and watching faith-based actions in rebuilding lives and homes after the tragedy influences her writing.

She writes for young readers who have faced difficult situations and for the romantic reader who prefers the squeaky-clean version of love. Visit her website




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