1. lhjfoster
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    lhjfoster New Member

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    Character names...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by lhjfoster, Jan 9, 2014.

    Do character names matter?

    Like…can you just put something random together like:-

    Matt Garrett, James Lincoln, Bradley Gunn etc, or do they have to have some sort of significance?

    With a couple of my stories they're classed as either fantasy or futuristic, so I have put a couple of names together such as Corvo Santana, Armando Khan etc. This way, if it is set in a futuristic period names from different cultures and countries are likely to have spread all over the world, and if it is fantasy, well its my choice what the characters names are isn't it. :)

    Any replies would be appreciated.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you need to worry, and that you can essentially "put something random together." Although you should still run that through google to make sure you haven't inadvertently created a name that is shared with someone notorious or otherwise well known, perhaps in a different country or in an area with which you're not familiar (i.e. a famous sports star in a sport you don't follow at all, or a famous scientist or politician who might be well known by a lot of people, even if you have not heard of him or her.)

    I find that it's easier for me to read stories where characters have relatively familiar names, because I can keep the characters straight. If all of the characters have crazy names, or names that I have zero familiarity with, it's more difficult for me to keep track of them.

    It can be a nice "plus" to have some sort of meaning for a character, and if you have a character who is from some particular ethnic group, it is important to consider what the parents would have named the child. Otherwise, I think you have pretty wide latitude and it's not something you need to obsess about.
     
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  3. Mascot
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    Mascot New Member

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    I agree with Chicagoliz in that names so long as they are culturally appropriate and do not have any unwanted connotations are fine to use in any piece of writing. What is really annoying is when a writer names there character in some way as to reflect their personality or something they will do in the story such as naming a revolutionary "Hope" or something similar to that. People do not know what their children will be like when they are born so you cannot name them for their personality or future accomplishments.

    As your stories are either fantasy or futuristic most names are going to be completely suitable unless you were to use an obscure Afrikaans name for a British person with no African heritage or something like that.
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I remember someone doing an article - or was it a piece in Beyond Jennifer and Jason? - on Woody Allen naming the characters for Hannah and her sisters. How discordant they sounded, like three women who had bumped into each other instead of sisters - Hannah ( old fashioned ) Holly ( perky new fashioned ) and Lee ( androgynous )
    The person writing the article wasn't sure if this wasn't indeed a metaphor for the characters disjointed relationship or a mess-up on Allen's part.

    The thing with a character's name is - some readers will see the meaning, others won't. Some will see deeper meaning than was intended. I won't say it's a waste of time, though. But if you're not interested in adding this layer - a name with a specific meaning, then I say just pick out names for their aesthetics or sound. Any thing goes really.
     
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  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Depends on whether you want the name to have any sort of significance. For example, I once wrote a short story when I was about 14, talking about a character called Hope and how the world needed more hope. It was meant to be sort of ambiguous, leaving the reader wondering whether the world needed Hope (the character) or hope (the feeling).

    This can also be useful for a character's personality or future, and works especially well in fantasy and sci-fi. For example, if your character is shy and reserved, look for alternate words for "shy". Perhaps the words you find will not be good names in and of themselves, but with a little rearranging, you can create a name which still sounds like a word for "shy". Or you could create something for that particular world only. Again as an example, say this shy character is eventually going to defeat a terrible evil. Maybe he doesn't know the meaning of his name, and even his parents don't know. However, in the course of his journey, he finds out that in the ancient language his name means "to be great" or "saviour".

    Be creative. After all, that's what a novel is: creativity. Of course be careful not to think into many characters' names, and by all means you can certainly just pick random names, but when a writer puts effort into the names as well as everything else, that world seems just a little more real, and just a little more fantastic. :)

    P.S. You can also make names more meaningful with the way they sound. If you want something that flows and allows the reader to easily read it on the page, then adjust the character names accordingly. Conversely, if you want a reader to halt whenever he sees the antagonist's name on the page, make it long and difficult to pronounce/read.
     
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  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that they need to have significance. In fact, significance in a name annoys me, especially when it relates to something that the character's parents couldn't have known when they named the character.

    Now, the name should still make sense, in the context of what the parents would think of while looking at that baby. For example, if the parents identify strongly with Culture X, there should be a good reason for the name to be typical of Culture Y. But that's not the same as a name having some fancy symbolism.
     
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  7. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    It depends...

    Examples: My MC, Alesia Jean Connor-Parker, is named for the Gaulish capital city of Alesia (pronounced AH-LAY-SIA). Connor was picked at random because it seemed to roll off the tongue easily, and her married name, Parker, was chosen for Peter Parker. (Yeah, I'd been reading a ton of Spider-Man comics that night.) The middle name was picked in memory of my grandmother's friend Jean who passed away from cancer not long before I created this character.

    Her sister, Zoe Jane Connor, was named for the Staind song Zoe Jane.

    Her twin brother, Aaron Layne Connor, is a combination of things. Aaron for Aaron Lewis of Staind, and Layne in memory of Layne Staley, the lead singer of Alice In Chains.

    Her best friend, Shelly, was named for my late fiance'. An interesting note that ties in with this is, my MC's name was originally supposed to be Allison Jean, which is what we were going to name our daughter if she'd been born. I changed it simply because it was too damn painful to use that name and I found I was having too much trouble writing the manuscript with that name in the mix.

    So, to answer your question: do my characters mames have significance? Yes and no. They have significance to me, but far as the reader is concerned, unless they know the stories behind them, they are just names.
     
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  8. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    As said above, so long as they make sense within their environment, no one will notice much.
    Of course, if all your characters are called Joe, Bob, Billy, Tim, Mary, Sue, or something so generic they may see a funny pattern, lol.

    Personally, I try to have inventive names in my fantasy works or something special like a name spelled differently or an odd pronunciation.
    I find the most interesting names are unique.

    In one work, they were named after the groups they belonged to.
    One was named after natural things and the other after wild beasts and each name also reflected the individuals personality.
    It was a little fun thing. Maybe more for me, but I believe it worked well in context as well.

    Another is very heavy in music and so names are very musical.
    Might seem a tad of a bore for some, some may not notice, some may think it's cute.
    Although, I make sure to pick words that sound like names so unless they're super picky they can still enjoy what I wrote.
     
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  9. lhjfoster
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    lhjfoster New Member

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    thanks for the comments guys! much appreciated! :)
     

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