Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Aple, Oct 27, 2015.
Did you pick your MC's name because it means something?
What are your MS's casts names?
Usually, no. I tend to stay along real-world lines, so my characters got their names because those were the names their parents gave them. Usually simple, normal names. Sometimes I play with that a bit.
For instance, in one of my novels, my main character is named Layla. She's a musician who loves classic rock music. Yes, I named her after the song "Layla." But I lampshade it in the story by revealing that her father was a huge Clapton fan and named her "Layla" on purpose. Similarly, her friend Coral was named by her hippie parents. All the other characters, however, have normal names without any funny business.
Funny story, though--not counting my first novel (because I don't ever count that novel), all my novels have had a female character with a first name that starts with the letter L. This is a coincidence, but not really that odd. However, in my most recent novel idea, I have no female character with an L name. Instead, my female lead's name is...Noelle. No L. Fuck. That was not on purpose, at all. Just realized it a day or two ago. But I love it and really, really wish I was that clever.
No, I hate names with symbolic meanings unless the character is supposed to be part of some prophecy.
I'm having real trouble with names. Keep on choosing 'Sarah' for some reason. (I hope that isn't the real name of someone on here.) Some of my stories are set in the future, so I like mixing up names of different cultures, e.g. Adebowale Wong. As in maybe in the future names will all be mixed up.
The only way my character names have meaning is if the culture they're from is somehow meaningful.
I like symbolic names. To me, it's a fun way to clue in the reader what the character is like beforehand, if they're able to figure it out.
Once upon a time, I had a story where my MC was going to become the Star Goddess. Her name was Seren, which is Welch for star. In the same story, I had Echo, a sorceress who could copy (or echo....) anyone's magical abilities. I ended up scrapping those ideas and the story, but I've named my current MC Serenity, aka Seren, because she didn't cry at birth, and Echo because she's a twin, or an echo of the first child.
In another WIP, I have Nina, her initial NV, who becomes so corrupt with envy that she turns into a demon. NV... Envy.. Get it?
I also have a snow nymph named Whyn, and I've read that Wynn in Welch means white.
I'm pretty bad about giving into the temptation to make characters' names didactic in some way. So for example, I once wrote a sort of post-apocalyptic biker bandit character and gave him the name Charlie, from Charles, ultimately from German Karl which means "a free man", the idea being that the one character with no respect for authority is the truly free one.
Likewise, a character who is sort of a Machiavellian schemer has the last name Channing, from a Saxon word for "cunning", etc.
I guess my point is, if you look up their origins you can work in symbolism even to "ordinary" names, although I doubt most readers will pick up on stuff like this. At worst I guess it's a bit of an inside joke with myself.
I found your reply really interesting. I can't help but ask though, why don't you count the first novel?
I completely agree with you.
My MC's hails from the Ural Mountains, so she has a traditional Russian name. Her name is Klara, which means clear or bright. She will add confusion to an already confusing situation, thereby making things much less clear. It's playful in the same way that Grace tends to be clumsy and Patience seldom is. The meaning of the name has no play at all in the novel and I doubt the reader will catch on to the joke.
It's gone the way of many a first novel. I wrote it when I didn't have a firm grasp of writing, fumbling my way through a half-baked plot with two-dimensional characters (not necessarily 1D, but far from 3D) and writing that would take far too long to fix than the story is worth. But it's okay, as the whole point of that novel was really to teach me what it takes to write a novel-length work. While it may be beyond repair, it had its uses.
As for symbolic naming, I can't say I'm much of a fan, though I know there are many who eat that stuff up (especially high school English teachers). I tend to prefer names that are fairly normal but memorable enough to separate them from the faceless masses.
I tend to avoid actively giving my characters names with specific meanings. Usually, while creating the characters, they just...have names. It's hard to explain. It's like they're introducing themselves to me, but I have to guess who they are.
I totally understand this. I can't write for a nameless character, and once the character has a name I can't change it.
Nope. It just has to feel right for the character, which usually has more to do with my personal associations with the name than with its meaning. It's also the way it sounds.
I really like names with A's in them. Why? I'uno.
No symbolism for me, at least not on purpose anyway.
Me too! Names ending in a, especially (except my own...)
My MCs are Alex and Rachel, just because I like both of those names.
I tend to give my characters names with meanings, but it's not like I expect the readers to notice, I mean if they do a quick google search they'll find out in what way the names are related to the story, but I do that mostly for myself .
But in my current project, I've just given names or surnames that revealed the characters' ethnicities/nationalities.
Psh you have an awesome name. Rhymes with my still-brewing villain, but it's entirely accidental I promise. (Inspired by someone I raid with in WoW, only because I like how the name feels.)
@PrincessSofia brought up a good point: The names do have to match the character's culture, too. A native of Osaka is unlikely to be named Louis, for instance, and a character from Victorian England wouldn't be named Jayden or Latoya.
I have very old names for all my characters. My main character is the only one with a more modern name.
Addisyn White is my mc for my series.
Then her cast of guardians are:
Almost all my character names have a meaning, I also try to go for short and easy to remember names, when I get stuck I go to the list of the most named characters in a country and pick those I like the most.
My MC is half Czech and half French - only because I liked a certain French first name and I was determined that this guy needed to have been born in the Czech Republic. I try to pick names that reflect cultural heritage first and foremost.
It's interesting to look up the meanings afterwards though. My MC's alias is Corbin - from the french for raven, which is an unintentional fit as he has dark hair.
My other characters name is Ffion from the Welsh for foxglove which has a nice meaning (if you ignore the fact it's highly poisonous!) as foxgloves are used in medicine to aid the heart - or perhaps I'm reading too much into these meanings!
While I was writing my first, my wife and I were also discussing kids names we liked. I hated her suggestions, so I named a bunch of people in my book her names so that if it got picked up and published, she wouldn't still want to go with those. And thus, Quinn and his brother Beckett and sister Cordelia were born.
My thought with names is just to put down something that sounds good, knowing it's an easy fix at the end should I come up with something better. So far I've never changed one.
*sins you the instant Wilhelm screams*
I always liked Hunter for a name. You don't see it enough in every day life, and it sounds nice and powerful.
That's pretty much what I do. I just puke out a name and rarely ever have to change it. If it does get changed, it stays very similar to the original version.
I am huge on names and naming, putting as much work into creating consistent naming cultures for all my fictional regions as any other detail. In my novel series, I went so far as to have my main character work in the government as a recorder of names, traveling the country to document trends. In one of my graphic novels, the MC's first middle and last names all reflect different aspects of his upbringing, his social class and occupation. To top it all off, in the three settings I work in, each has a character named Jonathan Sweet, as a little signature of mine.
I think that they are an aspect of character creation that can give a wealth of information in a single word. Finding the right balance between symbolic and mundane can be tricky, but as with most things, moderation is best. My name recorder is from a poor family in a particular region that uses a lot of natural names, but I don't make much of it in his case: Daniel Larkin. One of my other MCs is named after a star (as many of my Northmen are), his name meaning The Tip of the Plow from the Plowman constellation. His name's Arlo, but the meaning is my own. Co-opting Earth names for my setting is a great way I've found to stay true to the characters' world symbolism without things feeling too heavy handed. There's no one named David who's out to take on "the big guy" and there doesn't need to be.
Naming just happens to be one of my favorite ways to world-build, and when I realized how important naming was to me, I decided to go with it. Now I feel confident in my predilection and can use it to its full advantage, instead of being interested in them but inconsistent. I think that's key: To find details that inspire you and to flex that inspiration so it grows and changes as your work does. Naming has the bonus of being as subtle or overt as you want it to be, while being a ubiquitous facet of characterization. That way, even as my interest remains prevalent in my writing, it doesn't make my work feel like it's all about the same thing.
I've only ever really had to change a major character's name once, when my cousin gave her new baby the same name. I couldn't continue making bad things happen to the character without imagining bad things happening to the baby. So, I managed to find a new name which works, though I sometimes catch myself using the old name.
For my wip I picked the name Noir for my mc. Not sure why, it just came into my head. He's a rather meek person with a screwed up leg that causes him to walk with a cane after a gun shot incident. Noir is French for black. He's not a dark person but a kind of a shadowy person constantly lying and denying feelings.
Ivor is his kinda nemesis - he's Russian and rather a frank person. Violent and demanding. I picked Ivor cause it's one consonant away from Ivory so they create a kind of offset - black and white. Though why I wanted this subliminal contrast I'm not sure, yet.
The other characters names were picked at random - Cutter was nicked named that because he cuts others and himself. Fitch because it's the slurred blending of a term someone put on him. Chick, Alligator, Tang, Burt, Chill and Macky - were just picked for sound.
Separate names with a comma.