5 No-Brainer (Yet Almost Always Overlooked) Ways To Pick Character Names For Your Book

My wife was 8 months pregnant and we still hadn’t decided on a name for the baby. I mean this is a big decision right!? Think about how many hundreds of thousands of times this name will be used through the course of his/her life. Sure we tossed around tons of ideas just like everyone does.


Me: How about Daniel?

Wife: What would we call him for short?

Me: I dunno, Danny?

Wife: Nope

Wife: How about Kevin?

Me: The Home Alone Kid?

Wife: Ok scratch that.

Wife: How about Jason?

Me: Nope, I knew a kid in 1st grade who ate crayons named Jason.

Wife: Ugh


You know the drill.


Names are hard.


And have you noticed it’s not much easier to pick character names for your story either. They may not be real people, but if you write well enough you’re readers will swear they are 🙂


At the very least you’ll be quite intimate with the characters of your story so you wanna make sure you feel good about their names.


So here’s a quick tip to help you out.


1. Baby Name Books

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For instance check out this book called The Baby Name Wizard.
Unlike other books Wattenberg doesn’t list name “meanings” but instead each of her name entries indicates the following:

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  • The popularity of the name in question,
  • Its pronunciation(s),
  • Common nicknames and variants,
  • A note about the name,
  • A note about popular associations with the name,
  • And, crucially, what “style” the name is and what sibling names would pair well with it.

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As far as I’m concerned these last two features could come in really handy for storytelling.

For example, the entry for Hugo looks like this:

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Hugo (HYOO-goh)

Popularity: #439 [there is also a small graph showing its popularity from 1880 to today and indicating its peak rank attained and year]

Styles: Ladies and Gentlemen, French, Latino/Latina

Nicknames: Huey

Sisters: Lola, Ivy, Astrid, Phoebe, Luna, Thea

Brothers: Oscar, Bruno, Felix, Xavier, Milo, Hector

For most of the 20th century, Hugo was relegated to the dust heap with Amos and Buford. Eventually, though, parents brushed off the dust and discovered a funky, charismatic classic. In its native France, this long-neglected name has skyrocketed. It’s especially adorable on a toddler
In the world: 2011 film Hugo; actor Hugo Weaving; Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez

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2. Watch Credits At The End Of Movies

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Author Jeffrey Archer, for instance, says he watches the credits at the end of films. “Or I might see a surname I like in a newspaper. I keep them all on a list,” he says. “Then, when the time comes to begin writing, I’ll look back at that list and pick out the ones that best suit the characters.”

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3. Use A Name Generator

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Scrivener has an awesome name generator feature with all kinds of bells and whistles. Just check out this short video about how to use alliteration when generating names to come up with super catchy names.

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4. “Ask Yourself ‘Why Did Their Parent(s) Name Them This?’

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For example, I read a comment the other day where someone said,

I have a family of characters where the father was a botanist so he named the two boys Lyndon and Glenn. But his name was Gavin, which has nothing to do with plants, because *his* parents didn’t know he was going to be a botanist!

If you pick names that don’t have any reasoning, other than ‘it sounds cool/cute’ then it really isn’t the best of names. Just as having a name that ‘just happens’ to go with their chosen profession isn’t the best of choices, unless it is a family business, like Cobbler or Baker, something that goes back to the time where peoples last names came from their job.

Same with having a happy child who never cries and is an eternal optimist named Sunny. Parents do not know what their babies temperament, job or skils will be so naming a character after these things is silly, unless you have a reason.

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5. Wait For It…Use A Temporary Name

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Sometimes it’s easier to build your character using a temporary name and then go back and change it to something that fits better later in your writing. The first name chosen is not always the name that I end up using for my characters.

Worried about having to go back and change all the instances of your character’s temporary name? Have no fear. Check out how easily this is done using Scrivener’s Replace feature.

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5 Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Like An Amateur

No matter what stage in our writing careers we are in, we all fall victim to these 5 rookie mistakes. Are you making any of these errors?


Want to wow your audience? Take the time to reread your writing for spelling, grammatical, extra spacing, etc. Failing to do so screams unprofessional for those of us who firmly believe that these “issues” are easy to fix.

Note: please don’t rely on spell check and other types of automated checkers. These can catch some of the errors, but also cause others. Not convinced? When was the last time you used the spell checker on your phone? Remember what hilarity ensued when you read what it “thought” you meant to say?


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  • The best solution to this mistake (no pun intended) is to hire someone to read thru your manuscript and catch what you have not. Editors are your friend, be nice to them
  • If you’re on a tight budget check out Fiver to find someone to proof read your work for $5. Just be sure to read the reviews.
  • Use a program that reads your writing back to you. Scrivener for instance has a a great built in speech feature. (See video below)


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  • If you absolutely must proofread and edit yourself remember this tip – read backwards. It will prevent your mind from automatically filling in the gaps and correcting errors. (Like this crazy brain game)

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This one seems obvious, but you will be amazed at the sheer number of writers who complain about not finding the time to write? Um, that book or blog post is not going to write itself. Find the time to dedicate to writing and take the time to write what you need to.

Ninja trick: Next time you are waiting at an appointment, instead of taking out your smartphone to check Twitter, use the time to brainstorm potential ideas or characters. Evernote is perfect for these little brainstorming sessions

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I use an app called FastEver. It’s the fastest opening app I’ve found for Evernote and the one I use the most.


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As writers, we tend to think that our words are worth more than gold and that the first draft should be the last. News flash, it’s not called a draft because it’s smooth. The more we write, the easier our words flow and the less edits need to happen.


It Gets Better With Every Pass 


The 2nd or 3rd pass creates a work of art because it had a foundation of previous drafts to build upon. This is why it is so important to have a neutral third party read through our writing. They will be able to spot errors we were not able to find or that we glossed over.

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Going back to a previous point, sometimes the reason we can’t find the time to write is because we are afraid of success or failure. Don’t let these fears stop you. Believe in the power of your words, in whatever your genre might be.


Being An Author Is Hard Work

Success and failure can both bring critics. Believe in yourself enough to overcome the potential obstacles. You might find that you write a book that climbs the bestseller charts or your first couple of attempts might be duds. You never know until you try. You will always fail if you never take the chance to try.


Get Excited About “Failing”

We are taught in school that failing is a bad thing. Let’s change the world’s misconception of that. Let others see that you are not afraid to fail like so many of the great inventors from the past. Life would be totally different if they were not willing to step outside the lines and try several times to create something new.


Focus On Your Readers

Engross your readers so much that they are not thinking of what they will do next, but what will the next page bring? Will it bring a sense of adventure, dread, or overwhelm? You decide.


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Authors who don’t have some type of presence on the web don’t sell many books. A website is a great tool to use to connect with your audience and sell your books at the same time. However, don’t forget about social media as well. Both a website and having a presence on social media portrays you as an author who wants to connect with your audience.


Build A Fanclub

Believe it or not, authors are kinda like movie stars. Sure, you don’t have to worry about the paparazzi, but people do start to recognize your picture. The more popular your books become, the more you will be in demand for author signings and other book events. If you show your audience that you are a real person by interacting with them on social media and/or thru email, the demand for your books will be greater.


Let The Ideas Roll In

Bonus you will start to receive ideas for your next book when your readers start to ask questions about why such and such happened, or why did you end it like that.


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Tip: Not ready to write another book, yet? Take these questions and compose a series of blog articles discussing these questions. Interact with your readers about them. Rinse and repeat. 



As a writer, we all fall for these rookie mistakes at some time during our writing career. Consider this blog post as your course correction.


Now go forth and write with purpose!


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Scrivener Quick Tip: How To Preview Your .ePub Book Without A Tablet or eReader

Head over to MagicScroll to get started. Here you’ll find a simple box from which you can upload EPUB files:

You can also install Magic Scroll as a Chrome App? It’s free and gives you an attractive bookmark.



You don’t need to register to upload a file; you can simply upload it.

free .ePub Reader

free .ePub Reader

Cool Features

free .ePub Reader

Don’t want to bother with the arrow keys? There’s a magic scrolling function built-in, which makes reading effortless. Click the “Play” button in the bottom-right corner to active this. Text at the top will slowly be replaced with text from the next page, and this transition will work its way down. It’s oddly intuitive, and you can adjust the speed to your preference.

free .ePub Reader


Magic Scroll is not only a great way to read EPUB books; it’s a great way to share them. Upload a book and you’ll be given a permanent URL for the book, which you can easily share with your friends, family, or anyone else. This is perfect for sending a sample of your book to those who are helping you edit etc.

What do you think?

Is Magic Scroll a cool online ePub reader, or do you prefer your reading to be offline? Find this helpful? Share with someone you know. 

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Scrivener Quick Tip: How To Lock Your Editor Screen

Why would you want to use this?

Well sometimes you know you will be working in a single editor window for awhile.

Locking the screen will allow you to stay in that screen despite what you click in the binder.

This is especially useful if you are working in split screen mode for example.

The Step-By-Step

One way to access the lock in place function is through the view menu:

Choose View > Editor > Lock in Place

Scrivener lock in place


Another way is to click the icon in the editor title bar and then choose Lock in Place.

Keyboard shortcut: option + Command + L

Scrivener lock in place

Once locked the header bar turns pink.

Scrivener lock in place


This is especially useful when working with research in split screen view and you want one screen to stay in place.

Notice the top editor is locked (pink) and now we can click on other files in the binder without the concern of switching this editor.



Scrivener lock in place


This may not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve experienced the frustration of having the editor that you’re working in switch up on you then you know what I’m talking about 😉

Was This Helpful?

If you found this tip helpful why not share it with fellow Scrivener users. They’ll thank you for it 😉 

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Scrivener Quick Tip: Use A Personal Photo For Your Fullscreen Background

If you write in the distraction free fullscreen mode often then you’ll love this.

Did you know that you can bring in your own custom background image?

It’s really simple.

Here’s How:

Step 1:

Go To View > Composition Backdrop > Choose…

Custom Scrivener Background

Step 2:

Navigate to a photo on your computer and select “Open”

Custom Scrivener Background

Step 3:

Select on a document in your binder that you want to bring into fullscreen mode then select the “Compose” button on the toolbar.

Custom Scrivener Background


Enjoy your beautiful custom background.

Custom Scrivener Background

Some More Ideas & Examples:

Scrivener Fullscreen Background

Scrivener Fullscreen Background


Don’t forget – you can move your paper to either side of the screen…

Scrivener Fullscreen Background


And you can even make your paper transparent.

Scrivener Fullscreen Background



If you already have photos loaded into your Scrivener project you can use those as well.

Just select them from the menu instead of selecting “Choose”

Custom Scrivener Background


Was This Helpful?

If you found this tip helpful why not share it with fellow Scrivener users. They’ll thank you for it 😉 

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10 Little Known Scrivener Tricks That Can Save You Time

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of cool little things you can do with Scrivener to save you some time. Here is a quick 10 to get you started.


Move the cursor to the bottom of the screen in full screen to show the control panel, or the top of the screen for menus.

Scrivener Fullscreen menu


Set up a blank project with your preferred keywords, labels etc & use “Save As Template” to use it as a base for new projects.

Scrivener Templates


A curled corner to a document icon indicates that it has a snapshot associated with it.

Scrivener Snap Shots


You can convert web pages and PDF files to text files using Documents > Convert.

Scrivener Convert To Text


Ctrl-clicking on a multiple selection of documents allows you to assign a label or status to all of them at once.

Scrivener Label & Status


Hovering the mouse over an item in the binder will bring up its synopsis in a tooltip.

Scrivener Synopsis


You can drag items from the binder int the editor header bar as another way of opening them.

Opening Scrivener Documents


You can use the zoom pop-up in the footer bar to increase text size instead of making the font bigger.

Scrivener text size


Resize images in text by double-clicking on them to bring up the scale panel.

Importing Scrivener Images


Window > zoom to fit screen (ctrl – cmd-= ) stretches the window to fit the screen.

Scrivener zoom to fit screen


Was This Helpful?

If you found this tip helpful why not share it with fellow Scrivener users. They’ll thank you for it 😉 

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