1. challas
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    challas Member

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    Creating Character Names

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by challas, May 9, 2011.

    I can never come up with good character names. I often base my characters on real people and so another choosing a name seems unsatisfactory next to the real one.

    Suggestions on creating names? How do you come up with names?
     
  2. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I understand that coming up with names can be hard at times. However, when writing a novel, in my opinion, most names we choose for our characters are universal, and I come up with names based on real people. If it was to be a video game, then this might be deferent, and it would not be as universal as it would be a novel. Since coming up with random names for a story is widely acceptable, I would not try too hard coming up with one and trying to choose the "perfect" name for a character. I often give them last names to, to make the names seem natural and real, like Alvin Smith or Melissa Baker. I do not often try to "pick" names to make them "special."
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I usually make them up to fit. I think of foreign names, mostly, and that gives my characters an exotic feel.

    I sometimes write while I have golf tournaments on TV. I just mix and match the golfer's names - first name of this guy, last name of that guy, and see if it works. That works for baseball, too.

    But I prefer inventing names. I have a story on the go right now involving an old steamship captain, and I thought his name should be Philip. Then I thought of his nationality, and the part of the world he was steaming around, and I decided he should have French ancestry, so I settled on Philip LeClaire. It fits him.
     
  4. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    If you don't care for meaning, then just ask friends for any name. If you do care for meaning, much like I do, you could pick up a baby name dictionary from the library and search through them because, more often than not, the meanings are listed out with the respective names.
     
  5. Jus_chrissy
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    Jus_chrissy New Member

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    More often than not when developing a character I try to get a feel for who they are and where they're from and then give them a name. Occasionally, I've checked out baby name books just to get out of the norm. Then I try variations on to each character, eventually they speak up when they're name is called. :)
     
  6. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    I take note of names I like, then use them wherever they fit. There are also names of people I never really liked, so those names may be used for less likable characters. Especially if I dislike more than one person with that name.

    As for real life, I met (not at the same time) two guys with the exact same first and last names. They both made an impression of being good, normal, average people. Now one is in prison for murder. The other is a successful artist.
    That should teach you that the average person with an average name can have an exceptional, and individual story - even in real life.

    If you run out of ideas, grab any yearbook on a random page and combine first and last names...
     
  7. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Honestly? What I usually do is Google a list of names from the time period/region of my character, pick one that I like and seems to suit the character (ETA, it also doesn't hurt to then research the name meanings once you've narrowed it down, sometimes that also helps me decide if it's fitting for my characters)
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    My characters often come to mind with names already. Most of my ideas come to me in daydreams so I visualise the scenes playing out in my head and somewhere in them a name is usually mentioned.

    I don't think characters need to have particularly special, eccentric or original names but just one that fits them. If you want to using something weird that you made up then make sure it's pronounceable! Using meanings for names ticks me off, so I don't do it although I know many people who do this for every single character.

    The main character in my current WIP is called Kitten Dixon. He role-plays as a cat and blackmails the rich and famous for a living. Of course, this isn't his real name - he's actually called Stephen Dickenson. Why Stephen? It was yelled by his friend, Bunny (Rachael O'Neill), while I was daydreaming about the third chapter of my novel. I'm not even that keen on the name but nothing else seems to fit him. Kitten/Stephen is a fully Scottish character (my novel's set where I've been living for the past year: Glasgow) because I wanted the MC to be a native so I wanted to use a common name to show this. Bunny/Rachael's ancestors emigrated from Ireland following the potato blight in the nineteenth century, hence her surname being O'Neill. However, my characters live in a district of the city where a large percentage of the people who've immigrated to Scotland reside -- particularly those of Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani & Chinese descent (with a rising number of Polish) according to the 2001 census -- which is reflected in the cast. Therefore there are some characters with full names reflecting their ethnic origins (British or otherwise) while others might have an English name and a foreign surname (eg: I've a character called David Hosseini) or vice versa.
     
  9. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Character names depend on Time and Place.

    If you are in Futile Japan you would not name your character John.

    I use Google too. If I am writing a story about a soldier then I Google famous soldiers. If it is in England then I Google Common English names.

    If it is here in the States then I use the names of my friends.

    If you go back in time then use christian names like James instead of Jim, William instead of Bill, Johnathan instead of John and so on.
     
  10. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Keeping in mind that foreign refers to where the name comes from in relation to where you are. Mikey could be a foreign name if you're from Japan, for example.

    In a science fiction/fantasy story I wrote ages ago, the hero was named Drake, which is old English for Dragon but is mainstream enough that Drake is fairly common name.

    Since the story centers around a King Arthur-like acquisition of an alien sword, I wanted a name that got people thinking of the old world and Drake worked.
     
  11. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I write fantasy,

    Sometimes I make them up, but most of the time I use websights dedicated to the genre I am looking for.

    Elves: Elven names, my favorite is:
    http://www.angelfire.com/rpg2/vortexshadow/names.html
    It give prefix and suffix meanings, so the name will sound good and have meaning.
    example of a name:
    Ari=silver; Tae-love Aritae=Silver love

    You can look up any race of fantasy for a name websight.

    For older human names, I go to SCA name websights.
    I know these are real names for the time, and most have the right feel to them.
    Here is an example:
    http://heraldry.sca.org/names/german/nurnberg1497.html
    This one gives the instances of a given name in documents researched, ie how popular the name was in that area.

    If looking for modern names other then AMerican simply look for a websight of names of people for the country you are looking for.

    Example: Hawaian baby names
     
  12. indmoss
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    indmoss New Member

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    I try to think of the personality of the character first, then fit the name to the character. Not sure if that would be best for your style of writing though.
     
  13. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    I always write everything I need to know about my character before he/she gets a name. I read somewhere if you name your characters before they get a full description, especially if you know people with that name then you're more than likely going to make them out to be like the people you know in their mannerisms.

    My newest MC will be named Elizabeth as it fits her nicely.
    For the MC in my other novel, she is still nameless as every name I have given her doesn't really suit her. She is Arabian so I need something pronoucable but fits her personality, atm her name is quite minor.

    It also maybe an idea to look at naming websites for origins and meanings of names.
     
  14. SteamWolf
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    SteamWolf Senior Member

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    I tend to choose a lot of town or village names (after googling alternative meanings of course) for character last names. Many towns were named after real people, and it helps with the "feel" of the character's name in the settings chosen for them.
     
  15. Laura Mae.
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    Laura Mae. Member

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    I go for simple names, or names that give a particular impression. Rosabella (often called Rose/Rosa) is my vivacious, pretty FMC, and her's is probably the least common of all... I've got James as my MMC, Sam(uel) and Violet, a quiet, shy blonde girl. I find keeping them short(ish) is better, it sucks trying to write something like Evangeline or Zachariah several times over, especially if you don't want to give them a shortened nickname.

    Make sure if you're writing high fantasy you give them a name like SeverinR said, and if you're writing a modern or contemporary story don't give them a name that would look out of place, or ridiculous. Genres like sci-fi and fantasy kind of demand unusual names, an action hero called Therion or something isn't really suitable for a spy story, unless it's set in a world alternate to ours.
     
  16. cretinhop
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    cretinhop Member

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    Hm, well... I guess they just sort of come up. I just use a name that seems to fit. Sometimes, I like to refuse it's a good name for the character for a while... But, in my current story, I have a Martin. It is just too perfect. Well, I guess that's not much advice. Let me try again...

    Names are like... Shoes. The size must fit the... Length? Well. Another thing I used to do was write down names I liked and use them wherever applicable, though I never did use every one. Last names are always more difficult. Should the writer make one up, or do last name research? It's really all a matter of taste.

    All in all though, I'd say most recently, the names just sort of come before, with, or shortly after the characters are born.
    Oh, and one more thing, I used to go through year books for last names.
     
  17. Sage Dufraine
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    Sage Dufraine Member

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    I do this too. I always try to have a name I give to characters hold some sort of meaning, even if the reader would have no idea, it means something to me (and sometimes to the character).

    I've found that baby name websites are really good for finding human names. I usually use the meaning search and search for names with a specific meaning, e.g. If the character is the first born, I might look up names with the meaning "First", or whatever. There are lots of names on these sites that are exotic sounding enough to work for other races too, like Celtic and some of the Islander languages. I always try to make sure whatever names I use fit the character both in meaning, if possible, and definitely when it comes to races or upbringing; so I'd never call an elf John Smith, unless he was raised my human blacksmiths or something :D
     
  18. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I name them after friends, family members or people I know as a first choice. If that doesn't fit, I think of names I'd have chosen for myself if I could name myself or for my children/pets/etc if I ever have any. Failing that, there are plenty of baby name websites out there to choose from.
     
  19. SilentWingsXIII
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    SilentWingsXIII New Member

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    What I do is determine who my character is first. For example, for my current WIP, my MC is named Devrick Lorciin. I'll just explain how I came up with his name real quick.

    Fist, I went to a baby name website and did a search for names with the meaning of Luck, the name Devlin came up with the meaning Descendant of the Unlucky One. I thought it fit my MC, but I didn't like the name 100%. So I took a suffix from a medieval name -rick which means kingly or something similar. So, I combined the names for a name that I use to mean the King of Bad Luck.

    I do this with 90% of my characters, but for some, I just either use names I know of and like, or fabricate them completely. For example, Captain Amadeus Finch is just an amalgamation of names I like that flow together.
     
  20. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    Speaking of names, I was wondering if the name Scarlet is too Cliche for a Vampire novel?
     
  21. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    I think I already answered a question just like this. I'll just repeat what I said.

    Yes, it's too cliche. It's expected since scarlet=red=blood. It's typical. Name her Juicy or something, that's not something I'd expect from a vampire novel. I might actually even read it if the main character was Juicy, she actually drank blood, and owned a lightsaber in space.
     
  22. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    Oops, did I post this already? lol Hmm...
     
  23. mystrian101
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    mystrian101 New Member

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    I don't know if this is a good practice, but I've made plenty of character names for the fantasy genre by mixing syllables and adding foreign language elements.
     
  24. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends what you're writing.

    I don't write fantasy so I go with names that 'exist', as it were. I don't remember now how I came up with my MC's name; it just came to me. No big research or anything. It just felt like a good fit.

    The thing I keep in mind is the place I'm writing about. If my story is set in France, I'd go with a French name etc.
     
  25. Suadade
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    Suadade Senior Member

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    I don't often find it too hard to pick names for characters. What I really have trouble with is finding a name for a world. If I'm writing in a fantasy setting and I want to name the world on which the story is set or the country within whose borders the story takes place, then it gets really troublesome, because that's a name that you really want to be special.
     

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