IWSG: Character Names or Titles

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The awesome co-hosts for the June 6 posting of the IWSG are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

June 6 question – What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

I can spend the better part of a novel writing about MainCharacter, Sister#1, and Love Interest, but then, I name a lot more characters than I do books. You’d think that would make it easier, but I’m actually leaning the other way. I’m very nail-bitey about what to call that character. What’s a good Viking name? No, one that sounds a little more gritty than Erik.


No… I have like six first cousins named Ragnar. They’ll never stop fighting about which one of them is the hero. (Also, it sounds so television-y. Wasn’t Jennifer Love Hewitt dating a Ragnar a while back?)

I’m using a placeholder until something good occurs to me. The placeholder has to be something I can globally search and replace (like (space)Tkmc and not something where there will be twenty-seven other words that include the word. Like “Ed.” Ed makes a lousy placeholder name. And my placeholder has to stay the same the entire time I’m writing the story. So, it can’t be tkmc on page one and tksally on page 126. By the time I start revising, I won’t remember all the various names I’ve given my main character.

A name for the book works pretty much the same way. Naturally, I have to type something to save the thing on my hard drive, but in general, a name does occur to me before I’m ready to send the book out. (Right now,) I think that’s easier.


  1. Reply

    When I am doing my character sketches I like to look up famous historical figures and imagine them being in the family tree to my character. Sometimes reading on the historical names helps me picture one for my own character too. At least last names and middle names. Happy IWSG day 🙂

    • Reply

      I’ll have to give that a try. I have such a blast going through old photos at the antique stores.

  2. Angela Wooldridge


    I guess you could say I use names as placeholders – they either stick or they don’t!

    • Reply

      If I bother to put in a name, it usually winds up **becoming** that character’s name, no matter how silly it really is. I have a couple that I’d change in my last manuscript, but by golly, I’ve been calling them that for so long I just can’t make them take a nice sensible name.

  3. Reply

    Luckily for us all, Viking names are coming back in style, so you can go nuts with them in your books. Imagine the joy of making your readers learn how to pronounce Knut, or Lillemor.

    • Reply

      By the time my book is finished, my cursed, Viking warrior is going to sound like an adorable hipster three year old! **sobs**

  4. Reply

    I love using TK as a placeholder for names, ideas, fill-this-in-later. At the end of book, I dread filling them in, but I find the TK is either easy to substitute or not needed at all.

    • Reply

      It’s amazing how much stress they are when you put them in, and how little they suddenly become, when you’re taking them out. I have that same feeling.

    • Reply

      Names NEVER work for me! I actually find myself re-naming real-life people who “look like” a David or a Shelley. And I do it effectively enough to be shocked when their name turns out to be Steve.

  5. Loni Townsend


    I use brackets for my placeholders, no matter if they are names or ideas or cues to add description. At least it makes it easier when I go to search for “[” and find every thing I need to fix!

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