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  1. Novel Novice
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    Novel Novice Member

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    Character Names

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Novel Novice, Jul 10, 2007.

    I know, a silly journey to ask upon, but believe it or not I find it difficult.

    How does everyone give their character's the proper name? Does it come at the beginning? After some maturation of the character? Inspiration from real life?

    Just after some thoughts on this process :)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've generally started by drafting the main characters on a cheat sheet, including the names, before I begin actually writing. But very often, I change the names fairly late in the process, even as late as a first or second revision. It may be that a name just doesn't sound right to me later, or if some of the character names sound too similar.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I usually hide meanings in my characters, either hints to their past, or to their final fates. For that kind of thing ancient mythology is helpful, as well as sites with name meanings. I have, however, been known to change names as late as the final draft, though, if I don't like something about a name.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's not as common these days as it used to be. Some classic writers were so obvious about such symbolic naming that it went out of fashion as being somewhat insulting to the reader.

    Still, I have seen it occasionally in modern readings, although often the irony odd name is commented on by other characters.
     
  5. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    I'm a little OC about some things, so I like names to have patterns: Towns in one country are all named after foreign names for fruits, like Pomme (French;Apple) and Aranado (I think it's Spanish for Blueberry); A group of people named after gems, Ruby, Jade; Then again there's always the good old "name them after people you know trick, but that doesn't really work for sci-fi/fantasy
     
  6. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    For teenager names, I look around me for kids who's names I envy, both first and last, and generally try to keep it short and sweet. Examples:

    -Marcus Lake
    -Parker Kingston
    -Lily Rhea
    -Danni Lake

    For comedy names, try to pick things that can be seen as puns, non-sequiters, or just funny names in general. Also, it helps to stick to first names only. Some of my examples:

    -Val, the retired valkyrie
    -Etcetera, the God of Everything Else (The stuff other gods didn't want- paper clips, door knobs, broken guitar strings, etc.)
    -Stan, leader of Hell and head demon.

    For fantasy names, just string together random syllables. Whatever sounds good on the tongue works. Examples:

    -Shyana
    -Morian
    -Azirat

    If you want dark and gritty character names, it helps to make them sound like car names. For example:

    -Yenner
    -Mozdar
    -Feren

    (Please don't steal any of those, I am currently using them all. >.>)
     
  7. leradny
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    leradny New Member

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    I like names, but it's hard for me to pick them up out of nowhere. So, I often choose ordinary names and give them to people who you don't expect to have them.

    I have one minor character in my project named Georgina. She is an extremely feminine, social young woman who is a former ballerina and a waitress, but everyone tends to call her George for short.

    I like to think naming is a type of wordplay in itself :).
     
  8. powertodream
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    powertodream Member

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    A lot of my characters just come with names, that's how they spring into my head. First names anyway, last names are always a pain for me. Despite that, though, I don't think I've had a single character whose name hasn't undergone some revision between the first time he or she was put on a page and the present.
     
  9. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    I like allusions in my character names, a young lover named Juliet (her boyfriend wasn't Romeo, I'm not that lame. Though I changed to Ithunn, and now has no name), a woman in my horror story is Mina Harker (from Dracula), her former employer was Braham Helsing (coincidently also a doctor, though MD not PhD) and her fiance was Victor Franklin (Fronk-en-steen was to obvious, even for me). The town Sheriff was Michael Kruger, the school bully was Jason Myers, and a rapist was Frederick Voorhees (his priest brother is Norman (as in Bates). Though I'm thinking about changing the girl's name to Ashleigh, to fight in with the title being Ash and the town being Ashcroft (all of which is because of the Ash (the particle), and Ash (the tree, specifically Yggdrasil)

    In my fantasy stories I like bad guys named after angels: Raziel (the Secret keeper), Nuriel (the burned), Cassiel (the Watcher), and thing's from religion: Kether and Tiphereth from the cabala tree of life, the Sephiroth (also the name of the bad guys). I don't know why I got an axe to grind with religion or something, but angel names are cool for bad guys.
    Though Azrael and Samael (angels of death) are the Grim Reapers of the story, and are rather nice guys, Sama's a bit of an angry person though.
     
  10. silver_bite
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    silver_bite New Member

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    I like really simple names for stories written in the present time but for stories in more magical worlds, I just string together letters like:

    Fala
    Yorka
    Hasta


    They sound pretty nonsensical but thats why I like them so much.
     
  11. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to come up with any name that is unusual to be honest. Like Tahree, Teriana, Yameri, Serisa. Those are a few that a friend and myself came up with recently. I help her to create her characters as she has never been able to do so.

    But I like names that are unusual and have a small notebook that no ones eyes except for my own have ever graced the inside pages and I will never let them either.

    It is my character name bible and is around 10 pages now. Try mixing names together, play on words, just look for something that goes well.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Another challenge is trying to "regionalize" names. For instance, Tolkein's names for characters in different races definitely reflected the linguistic flavor of each race, and names in the Star Trek universe also show trends within each culture.
     
  13. Genious in Orange
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    Genious in Orange New Member

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    Generally when I name my characters, I'll search around for a while for one good name I like the sound of, then find names that fit well with that one as to create a naming style for the world in which I'm writing.

    For example, in my latest story, the first important character given a name is Blaese. I spelled it this way on purpose, because it is short for Blaesus. The rest of the characters named fell slowly into place. Now I have a cast, so far, with the following names:

    Blaesus
    Aza Verti
    Aleksandrew
    Orien
    Karia
    Callista
    Lucien
    Petros
    Farren
    Euporia
    Amberto
    Delvyn
    Libitina

    =]] I personally like the flavor the names are taking on, even though there doesn't seem to be much variety.
     
  14. Novel Novice
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    Novel Novice Member

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    Wow, this thread has taken off beyond what I expected... thanks for all the great ideas!
     
  15. LionofPerth
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    LionofPerth Senior Member

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    When I first see a character, I tend to have a name that just arrives with them.

    The character of Leon from Balance, which I have posted here, is named that because that is what he is, a lion, and yes, that is the translation. He's got a bit of pride, some would call him egotistical, but i you know him you know he's a good person.

    Sheree, well, I don't know if that means anything, but I knew someone by that name, and I like the sound of it.

    If I can't think of a name, i tend to work out what type of character he/she/it is.

    Ezekiel and Azrael go to darker, broodier characters. Admittably, i tend to use Ezekiel as a name for more creative characters, in honour of Ezekiel Baker, who made the Baker rifle.
    Pete, John, Harry go to rather plain people that do amazing things.

    Before I start on other examples, Azrael has a good bit of history, coming from the Hebrew Azra, the scribe how constantly erases his own work.

    For female characters, i try to find a name that suits them, for some one I would think of as enchanting I go with Nimuae, Joanna tends to be used for a stronger type of woman, Joanna Dark being a good example.

    When I name things, I don't do so well to be honest, but I always find a good them helps.
     
  16. Kit
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    Kit Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless a name just comes to me when I start writing, or I plan the story in great detail before I start, I won't name a character until i've written a few chapters.

    After this I tend to make a list of traits of the character and go on baby name meaning sites to find suitable names. Sometimes, just for a change lol, i'll look for names that mean the opposite to my character's personality.

    If after this I don't find a name that I like then I just look at an A - Z list of around 10,000 names and pick whatever takes my fancy.
     
  17. electro magician
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    electro magician Member

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    Names are really tough for me, I end up going with a normal non-distracting name.

    The work I'm on now has 3 characters and all of theirs actually mean something.

    One is called the Companion, because that is what he is, he's still a mystery to me.

    The other two names I'm going have to keep to myself for the moment but I'll tell how I got them.

    I took a normal 8 letter word and used the middle 4 as the name. The subtlety is that the full word is the role that he plays in the story.

    The other name is the last part of an english version of a latin word. In this case the full word bears meaning on the character as well.

    You'd be surprised what kind of name you can come up with just by taking a long enough word and cutting parts off of it.

    Did you know that if you rearrange the letters of episcopal, you can spell pepsi-cola?
     
  18. judesplace
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    judesplace New Member

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    I have a book of names that gives the definitions of all the names and their origins. I then look through and pick favorite names with meanings that fit my characters!
     
  19. LionofPerth
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    LionofPerth Senior Member

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    I've thought about getting one of those, but decided against it.

    I prefer to have to think about that character, then find a name that matches them.
     
  20. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    I usually mix up words to make names, with peculiar sounds :p But for more serious, and less fantasy stories, I look up on some baby names site and pick my name. Or, I pick a meaning i'd want for my character, get it translated, and see if the word seems right. I also randomly name a character, leaving it to later to find out what it means. For example, Cassandra has a very interesting and foxy background. i didn't know about it, but when I looked it up, I realized it fits my character perfectly!
     
  21. MedicMan
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    MedicMan Member

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    Normally I just come up with the names on the spot, although for fantasy stories there are some really good name generators out there.

    ~MedicMan~
     
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  22. Scavenger
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    Scavenger Senior Member

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    Names are my favorite part of creating my characters aside from birthdays. I can spend hours on names, and I change them constantly.

    I always start off with a name for a character, before I even know who they are. Then I flesh them out a bit, and decide upon a better name if the one I have doesn't stick, or doesn't work. I've got an ancient baby name book (missing the K section for the boys, so you'll never see one of those names from me) that usually has the name I'm looking up, or offers some interesting ones in addition to what I have.

    For last names, I almost always take first names and change a couple letters to make them sound cooler. It's always important that the first and last name sound right together; I can't live with it if a character's name doesn't "flow."

    First names have always been hard for me; I like really exotic names, but I also have a fear of giving my characters either out-of-date or completely unrealistic names. I understand how that applies in fantasy books, but as much as I'd like to bring that to more real-world stories, I just can't. The closest I currently am is a character named Valencia, which I really think is pushing it.

    I give myself more leeway with last names, but I always try to at least keep the names in order with the racial origin of the characters.
     
  23. jmitchell1986
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    jmitchell1986 New Member

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    The names I use, and how I come about them, is dependant on the genre I am writing. For example, in my play 'Fury', which was a thriller, the piece was very character driven, and I felt that giving such strong characters long-winded names would act as a distraction. Therefore I stuck with names such as Grace, Richard, and Ted.

    However, in the first draft of my novel, 'Warriors', it as set in Japan, so I used Japanese names which had meanings reflective of the characters. However, the story has massively changed; itr is now set in England! So to come up with names for the redraft, I sat down and read through online name databases, until I found names I felt fit my characters.
     
  24. rizzle_t
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    rizzle_t New Member

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    sometimes i take a name and let the story come from there. that's fun too
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I know I mentioned this earlier in the thread, but I'll repeat it anyway.

    Names are not a crucial consideration, most of the time, although being burdened with a particular name might have certain consequences in the character's development. For example, in Johnny Cash's song, "A Boy Named Sue," the title character grew up hating his father for naming him llike that, but also learned to be a tough, take no crap young man. A Kay Scarpetta novel features a serial killer named Edgar Allen Pough, and the name, given to him by his beast of a mother, certainly influenced him as well. You might also guess that a name like Adolph would affect a character's childhood. A teacher I once studied under grew up with the initials A.S.S., until she married.

    But mostly, names should be a convenient handle for the weriter to keep track of who is who for much of the story. If you have a name you really like for a character from the beginning, that's fantastic. But in these days of word processing and global replace, there is a lot to be said for leaving the final choice of the character's name to the later stages of the story's development.

    In one story I wrote, I realized when I was editing that the names of two principal characters were just too similar. I could have changed only one of them, but decided instead to rename them both. The new names just sounded cleaner to me.

    And it could just happen that at some point in the plot, you want to make a point about a distortion of the character's name used to annoy him or her, or a set of initials that hold a humorous or ironic significance.

    I did give a character a somewhat symbolic name, although I usually avoid that. His fate was to die rather unpleasantly, so I named him Todd (Tod is "death" in German).
     

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