1. Litwolf
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    Litwolf New Member

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    Coming Up With Names

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Litwolf, Oct 16, 2009.

    (Sorry if this is in the wrong forum; feel free to move it.)

    Ever since I started writing, I have always had the hardest time coming up with names for characters and locations. I like to write fantasy so I feel that unique and interesting names for locations and characters are important, especially when I read my favorite authors and am always blown by their names. How do you guys come up with names for the characters and locations in your stories? Do you have any tips for me?

    Thanks for any advice you can give me!
     
  2. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whatever you do, don't press random keys ;)

    No one wants to try and read a name like andborginzitbne :p

    Personally I just use a fantasy name generator and try and pickout the ones that seem easy to pronounce.

    When I am not writing fantasy I take a visit to baby name sites.

    Not all that creative, but it works. :)
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For characters, I usually choose names that I like, be they common or uncommon. I don't use many place names, but when I do, it's usually an anagram of a place in real life. In the end, it all boils down to personal taste.
     
  4. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    I tend to have a lot of trouble with names as well. Most of the time. As I am writing more though, I have found some characters already have names that suit perfectly. I was writing a scene where I thought, 'okay, I need a healer.' and when the time came for that healer to introduce herself, my hands never stopped typing - it felt more like she was introducing herself than like I was actually doing anything.
    When I get stuck with a character though, I have tried baby naming sites, and fantasy name generators, to no avail. Names are more of a personal thing, and only you as the author can pick them out.
    Good luck! :)
     
  5. Dermit
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    Dermit Member

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    I spend about ten seconds coming up with a name for a new character. I guess I'm not sure why...it's always been easy for me, or maybe I'm just less picky. In fantasy, it really isn't something you should bog yourself down with, just pick something that seems to fit and would be easy to pronounce. Avoid apostrophes and unnecessary complexity - if it's hard to sound out you'll just annoy the reader.

    But barring that...well, how often have you find yourself half way through a fantasy novel only to stop and think, "Wow, these names really suck!" Rarely, I'd wager...because it's not the names that matter, but the characters themselves.
     
  6. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if this is useful advice, but I usually let my character present him/herself before my inner eye, turn my editor-filter off and then see what happens. I try to focus on the characters main attitude, style and tone, and then sounds that relate to it. Sounds that form the basic tones of the name.

    I picture a big and brutal barbarian. His name would be Gormoth.
    If he had a little fairy as pet, her name would be Pip.

    Not the best of names, but they're a start (and just a quick example). You certainly wouldn't be confused as to who is Gormoth and who is Pip, of the two. Easy recognition is important to avoid confusion for the reader.

    Next, I might start looking at regional names lists, if I wanted the characters to bring up associations of special places and cultures. What endings are typical of arabic names, for instance...if I wanted some merchant's name to bring up associations of '1001 Nights', dusty bazaars and possessed oil lamps.

    From then on I'd just play around with endless variations of the names. Maybe Gormoth is too stereotypical. I just googled it and found some band called 'Gormoth Iscariot' that I might not want my barbarian associated with, so I'd juggle the spelling and pronounciation around and see what else comes up.

    I think coming up with names is a bit like composing a tune. Sounds carry emotional association and nobody can argue whether a tune is light-hearted or ominous. Calling the little fairy Gormoth would certainly seem...a bit out of key (Unless it's done for giggles).
     
  7. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I use to have the same problem, but I have found a simple solution. The less you think it, the easier it gets. Remember, a name is just a name, a way of identifying the character. Cool and interesting fantasy character names should be reserved for our RPGs lol

    The only time I spent a great deal of time on a character's name is when I need to stay true to their nationality or culture. But if you write fantasy you're not limited to nationality so just pick names your target audience can remember.
     
  8. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    If you can't think of unique sounding names, you don't have to. I've said this again and again and I truly do stand by it. What makes something fantasy is not the name of your main character. Your novel can still be a fantasy novel if your main characters are called James, Morris, and John. It's not essential to find names like Mur'tagh or Azonia of Melfighsirdghkdhg

    If it's really troubling you and is making it difficult for you to write, name them after someone who exists. Someone with a "normal" name, whatever your definition of normal is...
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    For my sci-fi novel, I used Sanskrit for the names of my Agija species. Bharita, Zoba/Zobhana, Amisa-priya (large beasts), Kavi, Utha.

    For my fantasy novel, the elves have names of things in nature. The females of the lightning elves, embelish their names. Skyla, Oceana, Alliuma, Rosa. Cloud, Balm, Oak.

    Names of places and language, I use the Mijhian (language of the lightning elves) often. Yomph, Jreaph.

    All I did to create Mijhian, was change consonants in English and added several rules for some common groupings, like ing=ije, LL=ya, etc.

    Mijhian produces some nice names: Ammiusha, Shima, Oseala (Osela). You're nick in Mijhian, Litwolf, would be Miph Wolur. Elf=Elur.

    So you could be called Wolur. If your real name were Ralph, you would be Bhalur.

    Sandy=Shalmi
    John=Yol
    Michael=Shidaem or Shidam or Shideem
    Sara=Shabha

    Checking out names in other languages is always cool. You can look at French names, Hebrew names, Hindi Names, Latin names, Greek names, etc.
     
  10. Seafire
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    Seafire New Member

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    I get the names of two objects then mash the words together and that sometimes works. But most of the time it does not sound anything like a name.

    Eg: Copuctho

    (A cookie to the person who can work out what the two words were.)
     
  11. k.little90
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    k.little90 Active Member

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    This is kind of silly... and I can't even believe I'm admitting this.... but when I have a hard time coming up with a name, I dust off the baby name book.

    I had to write a short story for an English class several years ago, and for the life of me, I couldn't come up with any names. When I thought that I had found one that was original, I would sit down to write my story and realize that it was the name of the kid in my gym class or math class... and it just didn't suit my character. I was flipping through some of my mom's books, trying to get some ideas, when I came across an old baby name book. I gotta tell ya, there are some pretty strange names out there, and I would never want to name my baby something like 'Algernon,' But boy do they make fun character names :D
     
  12. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Character names are quite complex things to work out. Honestly, I once wrote a book where it took me to the end of the story even to figure out what I wanted to call one of my main characters (honestly I do NOT recommend this as it can get very confusing and very frustrating).

    I do have to say though that coming up with names is a difficult task for me so here are a few things that I find may help out when trying to find a character name:
    1. Baby Name Books/Websites (We may feel a bit strange doing it, but they're the best things for the job)
    2. Taking two words or a phrase that best suits them and working a name out of that
    3. Culture/Beliefs/Heritage information

    And since this is something that worked for me, I wanted to point it out in a clear section. One of my main ways of creating a character's name is to sit down with a clean sheet of paper and a writing utensil and just scribble out the basic details of my character. In example, what they look like, what their personality is like, etc. I found that as you think about this stuff you tend to think out names that may best suit your character.

    Hope all of this helps, it helps me more often then not.
     
  13. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    SilverWolf I like your third point but I just think over emphasizing the name isn't that helpful. This is now a curiosity for me so forgive me if I am derailing, but how much do you guys as readers look into the character's names? For me it's just a way of identifying the character and perhaps their cultural background if applicable. I do get turned off if the name is difficult to remember. I honestly have never looked deeply into a characters name but do other people?
     
  14. Never Master
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    Never Master Member

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    Foxzero, depending on the story, a name can offer a considerable amount of information. In short, yes, there are people who "look deeply" in a character's name.

    In most fiction (but particularly in Fantasy and Sci-Fi) there are subtle images that are produced by the sound or meaning of a name. For example, the name Raistlin from Dragonlance. On a small level, a 'wraith' vibe emits from his name, giving it a slightly evil sound. Also, it is a name that feels mysterious and even powerful. As a mage of the black robes, this name suits him well. His twin brother's name, Caramon on the other hand conjures a more easy-going and common image. As a fighter and overall friend of the MC's in the series, this name fits him as well.

    Basically, giving a common name to an uncommon character can to some readers diminish his or her value. (Imagine if Sauron from Lord of the Rings was named Steve! "The Eye of Steve" just doesn't have that villainous ring to it)

    In my opinion, of course. :)
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The Eye of Steve, lol. Good stuff. That would totally fit in a Douglas Adams novel.
     
  16. Never Master
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    Never Master Member

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    Haha, you might be right!
     
  17. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I don't read Fantasy and in fantasy games I just make up a cool sounding name. And I stay away from sci-fi that borderlines fantasy. Actually I read mostly non-fiction these days so you can probably see where I'm coming from.

    I take a name in a book as I would in real life, a way of identifying someone. I don't put meaning beyond culture to it so I could never emulate that type of thinking.
     
  18. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    Everyone takes names as a way of identifying someone. But books are different to real life.
    IRL, we understand that names don't mean much - people are still people, you can meet nice people called Jack, and evil people with the same name.
    But in a book, certain names sound more ominous than others. It's the arrangement of letters on the page. It is like an artwork - lots of dark blacks and greys on a canvas invoke different feelings than lots of bright vibrant colours.

    That is part of the issue with finding good names for a fantasy novel. You have to think about stuff like culture, as well as about how the name sounds - the feeling it invokes. The Eye of Steve was hilarious.

    Different names have different connotations associated with them. While Sauron sounds foreign enough to have less preconceptions, Steve is more commonplace, and trivializes the entire idea.
     
  19. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I know you can make a name ominous and all that I get it, but I don't find it realistic, but hey to each his own. I'm a non-fiction reader and all of my fiction I try to keep as realistic as possible, that's my style.

    I wish I was on my computer, I had bookmarked a really good site for looking up foreign names. Probably the hardest naming scenario I ever had to deal with was when I had to look up 16 Russian female names. The problem was most of the female names look and sound similar. My target audience being Americans I needed names they could easily remembered. Eventually I said screw it and started picking names from any East Block country. Worked out better for the plot anyway in case the reader did look into the names :)
     
  20. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    It's a question of reality vs symbolism again. . Evil servant names (Hoarghast Lickspit) and legendary hero names (Galadrian Silverlight) and farmboy-will-be-king names (Simon) work well in stories that represent extreme views. They are exaggerations of perception, and they work just great, if that's the kind of story you are writing.

    Lord of the Rings was heavily based on Christian mythology, so of course the names reflected the concept. Virtually all of the classic good vs. evil scenarios are based on theology and simplistic religious idealism.

    I loved the theological fantasy when I was younger. I can recall reading hundreds of books that shared the same few basic plots, and it took me years to grow bored with them. So, either way is fine. . . Just decide what kind of story you are writing and stick with it.

    More realistic stories are likely to appeal to more mature or well-read audiences. I still love fantasy as much as I ever did, but these days, I tend to avoid the bible stories.

    George Martin is my favourite author now, but if I had read his stuff back when I was ten, I probably would have found it dull. The Wheel of Time was my obsession back then--a much more basic (in concept) and fantastical story, though also more challenging to read for all the useless and bizarre vocabulary.
     
  21. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    The lack of appeal does skew my understanding a bit, but I can understand the symbolism. Closest I ever got to fantasy was reading a Star Wars X-wing books years ago. Right now I like Battletech, but I'm too into non-fiction to go anywhere near that right now.

    Actually I did read a self published fantasy story a few years back, but it was an odd clash of sci-fi and fantasy and the second one in the long series became too ridiculous for me. The story was mixed with a ton of well done illustrations so that's probably what made it so fascinating, that and the excellent character development. But it took place in modern day so there were no fantastical names.
     
  22. Revlis
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    Revlis New Member

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    One of my favorite ways to pick fantasy names is to take words that describe them and flip it backwards. My user name is Revlis, it comes from my first character I ever wrote about. He wore a silver cloak, he had silver hair and his smile meant havoc had been wrought. Silver backwards is Revlis; it sounds evil!
     
  23. BUDDY GORGEOUS
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    BUDDY GORGEOUS Active Member

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    Sounds daft but i started looking at names on the credits when a movie has ended! erm.. sounds a little daft, but hey, it works :D ..as long as you dont have Brad pacino Pitt or something similarly crappy :p
     
  24. sparckvalentine
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    sparckvalentine New Member

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    I created a lot of fantasy stories and i came up with lots of names for caracters and towns, some just came up to me like magic, others took a while, what I usually do when i get blank is to know the place or the caracter and write down some words that relate to that place or caracter, then i submit my memory to caracters or places that are similar, eitherfrom videogames or movies, then when I have them all written down i just start making anagrams, it helps sometimes, others not that much, but this is basically how my mind does it when i cant really get a name for a place or a caracter.
    i have given names like Void or Nox(dark or somethig like that), and they are not really really names but they suit the caracters, don't be affraid to put names that are this symbolic, it works most of the time.
    I hope i could help :);)
     
  25. lofthouse29
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    lofthouse29 New Member

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    I tend to use places in and around east anglia
    such as Andrew Happisburgh
    or sometimes I will stretch out and use other place names
    such as Tommy Trent
    I use a map to look up place names that sound good as last names.
     

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