Book Review of Baby Names Made Easy

This month, JPC Allen Writes is all about characters. Since I’m a character writer, this is one of my favorites themes. Naming a character correctly is crucial to me for his or her development. Names have fascinated me since I was a kid, and I have several naming books in my personal library, including The Character Naming Sourcebook, which I’ve reviewed in another post. I’m very excited to give a book review of Baby Names Made Easy: the Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names by Amanda Elizabeth Barden because its arrangement is tailor made for writers.

Instead of the names being arranged alphabetically or by country of origin, the names are arranged in categories by meaning. Some of the categories are astronomy, animals and insects, colors, courage and bravery, seasons and time, and mercy and forgiveness. In all 49 different categories for names, which are selected from all over the world.

I find this kind of grouping particularly helpful when creating names for a family of characters. Since fiction is an illusion, fiction writers need all the help we can get to support the illusion. Creating names that people would use in reality helps the illusion. And when you have a whole family of characters to name, it makes sense to name them in way a real family would.

Families name in patterns, and your fictional families should reflect that. Also having a naming pattern for each family helps your reader keep the characters straight. In my Rae Riley mysteries, Rae has two cousins, Amber and Coral, both nature names. Her best friend has two daughters, Liberty and Serenity.

For another example, if the father and mother of a fictional family are new age hippies, then you might want to select names for their children from virtues the parents admire. Or let’s say your family is pretty functional, supporting and loving each other. The names could reflect that without the reader even knowing it. Under “Happiness & Joy”, you find the names Abigail, Beatrice, Felicity, Isaac, Tate, and Felix.

Do you spend a lot of time naming characters? Where do you find names? What are some of your favorite names for characters?

4 thoughts on “Book Review of Baby Names Made Easy

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  1. I began naming my characters by using the names of fictional characters from my favorite TV shows and movies. I would mix their first and last names, however. Or I would combine favorite names into one first name. I still do this occasionally and find it works well with creating fantasy and other-worldly names.

    1. For a project in world history, my sister had to invent a civilization and give it a name. She took the name “James”, flipped it, and added an “I”. It became the Semaji civilization.

  2. I have a hard time coming up with first and last names that sound good together, and I usually wind up doing an internet search for the names I like, just in case there’s a famous (or infamous!) person with the same first and last name combination. You bring up a really good point that parents often pick names that share a theme, so this book sounds like a wonderful resource!

    1. Yes, you have to be careful about giving a character a name with too much baggage. Such as you can’t name a character Sherlock unless you play it off the Great Detective. My oldest had to read a novel in which the main character had schizophrenia (cheery book). The MC’s doctor was Dr. Poirot. Now why did the author pick a last name that has such a huge fictional character attached to it? Seems like a very odd choice.

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