Do you have any tips on creating last names for my characters?


Hi Anon,

Surnames depend on the setting and the ancestry of the characters. If your story takes place on Earth, choose your character’s cultural heritage and look up surnames that come from that culture. For instance, if your character is a white person in the US, you might decide they have an English, German, or French last name. If your story is in a historical setting, you may need to look up surnames for the relevant time period. If you have a futuristic setting, it should be about the same, though I would avoid last names that are common, so your names feel a little different from modern day.

If your story takes place in a different world entirely, you have a wider variety of options. Some cultures don’t have surnames at all. This can be nice because readers never have to keep track of two names for one person, but it’s probably less likely in populous societies.

To create surnames in an otherworld setting, one option is to choose a piece of information that people in that culture want to know when first meeting someone and make that the surname. This could include someone’s clan, their home village/city/space station, the name of a parent, their occupation, their status, their title, the corporation they work for, or even a descriptive moniker given to them. This kind of surname is generally easier to remember because it has a clear meaning, and if you want, you can add a preposition for some fantasy flair, so instead of “Rinn Treehill” it might be “Rinn of Treehill” or “Rinn from Treehill.”

Finally, you can make up words. If you’ve created a conlang for your setting, it might be appropriate to invent your own surnames based on words in your conlang or the sounds included in your conlang. If you don’t want to use descriptive words, you don’t have a conlang, and/or you’re worried the things you invent might sound silly, you can use rare surnames from the real world or real world surnames with a few changes. I would just be aware that some people might still recognize what culture they are from. So, for instance, I still wouldn’t choose a Japanese surname for a white character.

Once you have some options, just pick one you like. If your character is going to be going by their surname in the story a lot, it’s important that their surname is notably different from other names so the audience doesn’t get the names mixed up. However, I recommend against using a character’s first name and last name separately unless it’s a central character, because it’s hard for people to keep track of two names for the same character.

I hope that gives you some direction.

Happy writing!

Keep the answer engine fueled by becoming a patron today. Want to ask something? Submit your question here.