How do you invent the names of the chars in your story in a modern/real world? I find myself in trouble when I need modern names. Any suggestion?

EDIT: ok, sorry for the broadness of my question. The thing is, I'm feel a bit strange to my country's names in my story. I'm feeling they're not in their place. I'm trying to build a story that take the moves from Italy (I'm italian), and maybe (I still' don't have a good structure, just the main idea) the story could move throught the world. I'm still in doubt. But, using Italian names make me feel they're somewhat "wrong". Angelo and Michele feels somewhat out of place. I don't know, maybe it's just a feeling, but there's something in the name of the chars (in this case I choose the names for reasons), but, god, I can't explain better, I have the feeling that the names are... "not good for the story".


closed as off-topic by Mołot, Pavel Janicek, JDługosz, kingledion, Thucydides Dec 18 '16 at 20:24

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – Mołot, Pavel Janicek, JDługosz, kingledion
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Hey there and welcome to WB.SE. Your question is not a bad one, sadly though it does not really fit the format of this page as of now. It is too broad/opinion-based as there's no objective way to judge answers on, and the format expects there to be one best answer at some point. Please have a go at trying to narrow the question, e.g. by adding information on what you expect from these names or where they should be used, etc. - Also why don't you take a minute to check out our tour page. There's a nice summary on how to write a good question :) $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Dec 18 '16 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ You could also decide whether the 'modern people' in your story are into long, double or triple names, or short or nicknames. It could be a time when very old-fashioned names are in vogue... $\endgroup$ – WRX Dec 18 '16 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ I’ve seen thus discussed in Writer’s forums, including pointers to programs to help generate them (which I’ve used). $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Dec 18 '16 at 14:55

We are in the 21st century: everything is in the cloud. For generating character names, use a dedicated web service:

  • Name Generator Fun offers the possiblity to generate names of human characters of various ethnicities, fantasy names, names of dragons,dwarfs, mermaids etc. As an added bonus, names of human charcaters are accompanied by a profession and a description of the character's personality.

  • Behind the Name runs a name generator which can produce random names suitable for a large variety of ethnicities/nationalities.

  • The Random name generator provides names in batches of 10 up to 100, and allows choosing between common, average and rare names.

A search for generate names of characters returns many results.


Modern names are easy: grab a phone book. Libraries usually have copies of the local White Pages (I'm so old. Phone books and libraries.) But you can just flip through the index and find all kinds of names.

When I need names from another country, I'll go to that country's Wikipedia page and look up something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Members_of_the_State_Duma_(Russian_Federation)

Grab some big political body, and pick a random first and last name, and you'll end up with a "typical" popular name from the last half decade or so.

  • $\begingroup$ Typical names only work for countries that have a fairly constant demographic right across the country and that don't have large changes in the names used. In diverse countries (USA, Britain etc) a 'typical' name will usually only get you a name from the white, upper class, as they dominate politics. Furthermore, these countries usually have names that go through fashions. Gary is quite a popular name for British 50 year olds but almost unknown for people younger than 30. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 18 '16 at 10:57

All the examples in this answer are for a British story. It will be different in other countries but the techniques should still work.

Have you tried looking at websites telling you the most popular baby names? Obviously you need to look at the information for different years to get the correct age as a young child called Gertrude might seem out of place. The categories I tend to use are young children (Less than 10) names from 2007/08 will be fine. Teenagers go for about the Millennium. Between 20 and 40, 1980 should be fine. 50 - 70 year olds I take be names from the 1950s. Older than that go for 1930s names.

You also need to adjust for country, and if you want to be properly accurate, you should adjust it for smaller areas. In the county where I live there are mostly rural farmers using very traditional British names. On the other hand, just an hours drive away, in the next county, there are large second and third generation Polish and Pakistani immigrants so the names are totally different.

Some names can be used for most ages, Jack is fairly popular throughout British age-groups, but very few are popular throughout different populations. Mohamed is one of the UK's most popular names but, if you had a white male named Mohamed that would be very unusual.

Some names are only used by different classes. Most Richards and Phillips are middle or upper class, most Berts are working class so make sure to think about status.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.