1. Mark Moore
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    Mark Moore New Member

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    Coming up with a surname

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mark Moore, Dec 8, 2011.

    I've been trying to come up with surnames for my lead characters in two different series that I'm developing. In one, I've pretty much decided that she comes from a Polish family, so that narrows it down. In the other, she's a citizen of a fictional nation, so there are many more possibilities.

    In each case, I'm stuck on what to do. Should I go for some kind of "meaningful" name, or is that too cliche? What about a "cool" name? Or would that pull the reader out of the story?
     
  2. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    Hi Mark!

    I'm obsessed about naming my characters and often spend a lot of time trawling baby name websites. In the end though it's really up to what you like and what fits your character. You don't have to choose a name with a specific meaning. Did your parents choose a name based on that reason? Just go with what you feel is right. A name shouldn't make your character, it's everything else about them that should.

    I hope that's helpful. Good luck! :)
     
  3. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I think meaningful names are really stupid. The only time I don't hate a meaningful name is when I never realize it's meaningful.

    I usually just grab the nearest book and give my character the same surname as the author. For a fantasy name, I give each culture in that world a certain 'feel' to the sound of their names, then just randomly make up names according to that rule. About the only concession I do is to avoid names that I personally don't want to hear over and over - for example I don't like names starting in 'H' for some reason.
     
  4. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I like to look at the county and city names on a map for surnames.

    Fletcher
    Sterling
    Sugden
    Ringling
    Marlow
    Pence
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pick a name that sounds right. If you've got the first name, you can essentially reverse engineer the last name. Most people's first names have to sound right alongside their last name. You're doing it the other way around. And, as is mentioned below, make sure it's a name you won't find annoying or boring.

    This post is great. I personally don't give my characters last names that same way, but I very much agree with the note on avoiding names you don't want to hear over and over.

    Do not give you character the last name of "Ringling" unless they're starting a circus, haha.
     
  6. TeeBee2011
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    TeeBee2011 Member

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    If it's an English sounding surname, I think of the people I've met over the last month and choose one of those, or a variation. For a Polish surname, why not look at a list of football (soccer) players in Poland and choose one of these, or a variation. http://www.flashscores.co.uk/football/poland/
     
  7. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    The name Ringling does have some baggage but it's not so bad. :0 Okay maybe I was just typing in the first couple names I saw on the map but now I'm thinking I need to use the last name just because it'd be funny (on a minor character of course).
     
  8. Mark Moore
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    Mark Moore New Member

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    I should specify that the character is an American of Polish descent, so she'll have an English given name and a Polish surname, so it'll sound "wrong" anyway.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think I can help you pick a surname. I used to watch golf tournaments on TV and just look at the leaderboards to find names - fun and easy, if names don't matter that much. But one thing I can say is this: When you give a character a name, it sticks. Don't give your character a temporary name that you think you're going to change when you come up with a better one. If you name a character Fred, and you write a sentence about him, he's Fred forever after. You'll be thinking of him as Fred for the rest of your life and you won't be able to change his name.

    So get it right the first time!
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Double post ...
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Think about what the other characters are called, as well. For example, if a secondary character is Joe Mallone, don't have the lead named Jake Mahon. It's best to have a completely different handle for each character to avoid confusion. Avoid using the same initials.

    Also, bear in mind the surname's number of syllables and length: Steerforth, Greenwood, Doubtfire... they all start to sound the same after a while and it's very mind-numbing. You need to have some which are shorter and longer, like MacGinty, Rimsky-Korsakov, Pemberton, Coe, Grabowski.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, it's coming up double again.
     

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