1. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you good with names?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jazzabel, Jan 9, 2012.

    Not being able to choose a suitable name for a major character (or characters) - is it a common problem, or is it a sign of deeper issues with writing?

    I’ve tried everything - baby names sites and books, trying to invent one, go with the simplest common ones, still it feels as if none of the names ever fit. This happens both when I am totally inspired as well as when I have a writer’s block. So I name the characters in the end but I am never completely happy with it.
    Right now, I am trying to name a female protagonist and it's been going on for months. I have used several names during writing, just so that I can keep track (and also test them out) and no luck.

    In all this, I am not good with names at the best of times - I can never decide what would be best to call a baby, or a dog, or which nick to choose on the net.

    I would love to know your experiences with naming the characters - are you great at it or do you also struggle?
     
  2. MassThinker
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    MassThinker Active Member

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    Sage, Constance, Harry Potter the protagonist ' he he '. Try making a name up that ends with nist maybe as in (protago-nist). I have problems too naming my charactares. It can be very troubling sometimes, since you want that 'clinging' with the personality. You should keep on looking for something meaningful. I recently found a good name for my most recent charactare, he's the protagonist. I named him, Max Alexander Reed.

    I ended up naming one charactare which is kinda crazy for Zed Zhane, since he's kinda insane.

     
  3. KinkyCousin
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    KinkyCousin Member

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    I have huge trouble being satisfied with names :D I think I have finally settled on my MC's name after many years of changes in my head but other characters are not so lucky.
     
  4. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    I use names of people I know or in the case of the slaves, looked up native African names. I wouldn't dwell on it to the point that it interferes with your writing. some software has shortcuts that allow you to "find all" or "Choose all" so you can, for example, write her name as Sarah then later with a few keystrokes change it to whatever you wish.
     
  5. KinkyCousin
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    KinkyCousin Member

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    This is what I do, I give them temporary names knowing I have the option to go back and change them if I feel like it.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's great when you finally find the name that fits. Somehow, it makes the writer relate to the character better, makes the character come alive more.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm glad I'm not the only one! Although, it is better to have a name for a protagonist then a minor character :)
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a good tip, looking at real names. Once I found a perfect name for a character on the back of a CD :)
    You are right, it can all be changed later, thank goodness :)
     
  9. Betrayal
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    Betrayal New Member

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    It's a pain to pick out names sometimes, I tried random combinations through the game of MASH and at that time I contemplate on what the personality of the protagonist antagonist will be like. It's especially useful if you do fantasy-themed writing.
     
  10. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    It's even worse when almost all of your characters are of different races and so you have to accomadate with their culture and way of living. Have you ever tried finding authentic names for Chinese characters? At least for me, it's hard. I can't get the hang of it. I used to have a Chinese friend, but we lost touch, so I have no references.

    Anyway, you can always name your character according to meaning or you can name them according to what you think they look like. Better, you can ask friends and family for names. A friend of mine who's working on a graphic novel would always ask her friend for names and she'd always think of some good ones right from the top of her head. Give it a shot, maybe.

    I see you're new, so, hi! Hope you enjoying it here so far.
     
  11. Betrayal
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    Betrayal New Member

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    It's hard to do Chinese names, but I always remember one thing that helps me when doing chinese names. A section of the name (first, middle, last) should usually have 1 syllable like -ou, -ang, -eng, -ei, -e, -in, -ian, etc...

    But doing Japanese names are way harder, Korea is quite hard for me too... When I do Korea, it really sounds like food, rather then a real name, so I tend to stay away from Korean names.
     
  12. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Really? I thought it was just the first name that was supposed to be one syllable. Wikipedia has failed me once again ;_;

    I don't find Japanese names to be all that hard. Maybe I'm doing it wrong (baby name books)? Maybe you can name your Korean characters (if you have any) English first names and just Google some Korean surnames. It helps me when I'm in a bind because, I agree, Korean names are really hard. Welcome, by the way!
     
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Kio, thank you for the welcome :) Yes, I am enjoying the forum very much and learning lots too!

    Haha, yes, I know just what you mean. I am braving the same thing - writing a novel with the characters from all over the place, different races and origins.
    Chinese names are interesting because they have a meaning, like "golden sparrow" and such.
    Tried friends and family, they are all just as bad, they tried, but I didn't have any luck finding the right name in that way yet.
     
  14. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    That's great that you're writing from different perspectives! Good on you for trying new things.

    I agree, but those are mostly for male names. Female names have gentler or more docile meanings (flower, plum, etc.). They're not as cool, but at least they're nice and different.

    Too bad about your friends and family. Try baby book names (not the ones that centre around European names); it can help. You can also try taking names from history books. You can even make up your own names, depending on what you're writing. If it's in a normal setting, I don't suggest you make up names; if it's fantasy, go crazy.
     
  15. GinnyB
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    GinnyB New Member

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    It depends on the character you want to portray. Think about the names below and consider the kind of person, the place they live, the life they lead.

    Jack Smith
    Toby Witherspoon
    Micky Sixpence
    Annabella Fotherington Smyth
    Kirsty Truelove
    Bert.

    Try playing with names...outside of your story...names from myths and legends (associating your characters with them), nicknames etc.

    Turn an adjective into a name (magnificent - Magnifico).

    Write a short paragraph about your character then jot down any names - change the spelling if you want to - and words that come to mind. A dark hearted preditory girl - Mellony Shark.

    Have fun!
     
  16. Marranda
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    Marranda Senior Member

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    When a story pops into my head, the character names are already there, sort of. For instance, a main character of mine, Taren, had a best friend, but I didn't know her best friends' name right away. It wasn't until I got to writing the part where they get mad at each other and Taren shouts at her to get her attention that I 'learned' it. Rachel. I don't know why Rachel was what I thought when Taren was yelling at her friend, but it was what i got, and I stuck with it.

    Another example: My other main character (in a different story line altogether) is assaulted and scarred for life. Before that, she liked her name Sabrina, but afterwards she couldn't stomach to hear it. So she had her little brother nickname her, and he came up with "Sabby". It works for me since it rhymes with 'stabby' and she's always out for blood.

    I really try very hard not to think of character names as I'm writing them. They'll come eventually and whatever it is that pops into my head will be the right one.
    You over think it, you're creating a block, an unnecessary obstacle that wouldn't be there if you just relax and go with your flow.
     
  17. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I'm generally quite good at names (I write fantasy.). But who knows, perhaps Yewdrinn Caen and Marketh Tyron are terrible names.
     
  18. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very true :) The book I'm writing is set slightly in the future, so I've been trying out the Western first name-Chinese surname, or the other way around, and it worked pretty well for a couple of characters.
    The book has vampires in it but the storyline aims to be a sort of a "critique of the modern society" as well so I don't want to make names too "special". But I'd still like them to "pop" if you know what I mean.
    I know, I have a problem :D
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you Marranda, those are such wonderful anecdotes of how you came up with names! And I can see how that would work so well, and you are totally right, I have overthinked (is this correct word? it sounds strange :D) it. Totally...
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    What is this game of MASH (is this a really stupid question? :D) Working off personality traits is also cool, I just never seem to make those connections in my mind in a way that they result in a cool name.
     
  21. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think they are lovely names! Very appropriate for fantasy too :)
     
  22. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jack Smith - a builder from (I was going to say Surrey, but the name is more American than English, and I don't know America well)
    Kirsty Truelove - an adult movie struggling actress past her prime
    Annabella Fotherington Smyth - an entitles Baroness with a public service job (high up, obviously, heading some commission or other, she goes from job to job)
    Micky Sixpence - that kid who always gets the marbles, but the story is set in 1930's
    Toby Witherspoon - this one I'm having trouble with. Could be a heir, probably a heir with a job, not a bad guy but out of touch with the real world a bit.
    Bert - an ex SAS soldier, now retired to Italy.

    Haha, thank you my friend, I enjoyed this too much :D And thank you for the tips!
     
  23. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I think instead of trying to find a name that fits your character, just pick a name and it will come to fit your character. Like whenever I've gotten a new kitten, at first their name really doesn't fit - no matter what I call them. But once I've had them for a couple months, it just seems natural that I'd call them that.
     
  24. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there is another thing to think about when choosing names and that is that names tend to follow trends as everything else. Where I live you can easily guess pretty well from the name if the person is born in the 40's, 70's or 90's. Then you have to choose if to ignore it and give an "old" name to your younger character and use that to describe what kind of person he/she is, and even more: tell something about the parents without even mentioning them. When you think of it, certain names give a certain impression of what kind of person he/she is, true or not.
     
  25. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with what you said 100%! As far as "timing" the names, I figured that things come back in fashion, and besides, I am creating that world so I can decide how it might go in fifty or a hundred years. So for a couple of characters, nice oldfashioned names such as Willem seemed to fit nicely, I found them when I was browsing original US immigration records from the early 1900s. But the meaning I find more difficult.
    And one name that I liked is advised against because it ends with -s. So plurals are awkward. Anais's. Or Anais'. I don't know, but awkward to pronounce.
     

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