1. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    Difficult Character Names

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by koal4e, May 27, 2012.

    So Im writing my first fantasy novel and have already created many characters, with many more coming out the wood work as I go along...and Im only 6,000 words in!

    Anyway the issue I have is around names being used. I have made up a load of names and also researched and used historic names from the ancient times that denote the type of people these are. Some of the names are simple and easy to remember/pronounce, but others are long/difficult to pronounce. An example is CUNOBELINUS its not a name I am using, but is similar in nature...would you enjoy seeing this name or would you hate seeing it continually through a story because of its complex nature?

    My wife read part of it and exclaimed "My God, where did you get these names from?"
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not that difficult to pronounce, so that is not the problem. Once or twice, that is. Although if I 'had to' see this name appear like several times in each page I would probably get pretty tired of it. Maybe it could go for someone who doesn't appear much, someone powerful but distant, not for the protagonist. It has a somewhat Latin ring to it, like someone who demands respect. Maybe it's the 'nobel' inserted in it.
     
  3. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    Thanks Tesoro, I have some shorter names for main characters but three names alone the kind of thing above for three warriors (maybe slightly more difficult), they wont be main characters and are for use by the commanders during battle preparations/scenes.

    I used the names as they are ancient Celtic names and give the feeling I want to them being warriors. Like you say though, if they were used alot it might wear thin and that was what I was worried about.
     
  4. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    The names kind of annoy me in Game of Thrones, I've watched two seasons of it (yes, I'm not reading the books, I'm watching the show) and I still can't remember who's called what. I usually just remember them by description (Sean Bean Stark, Xena Warrior Stark, Timmy Stark, OC Stark, John Snow, Alexander the Stark, Mrs. Stark, Dargon Lady, Queen Incesticide etc...). Saying that, I do recognise the need for names in fantasy which aren't tied to Anglo-Saxon roots, but it still doesn't help me remember them any.
     
  5. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    The main characters names are all four or five letters max, things that would be easy to remember and without talk of surnames to confuse things...although some are known as xxx the bashful (not a real name but an example) but while they are introduced as such and referred as this at important times, usually they are just referred to by their simple first name. I wondered whether the names of the additional short term characters being longer will detract from what I am trying to achieve. Thanks for your input, you have got me thinking!
     
  6. Abigail
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    Abigail Member

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    I know that when I am reading a book with a difficult name, my mind kind of skips over it while I'm reading. I don't bother to ever say it out loud in my head, if that makes any sense? I wouldn't want my readers doing that, but then again I don't want boring, common names. It's obviously up to you and you must decide what's more important to you.
     
  7. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Queen Incesticide....

    Excuse me while I pull myself together. I think I peed my pants laughing.
     
  8. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Me too! LOL

    But to respond to the OP, I don't know if it makes that big of a deal. I mean, before Harry Potter, I don't think most people knew how to pronounce Hermione (I certainly didn't! -- she was her-me-one until someone corrected me). I also don't think the name you have chosen is that hard to pronounce. I mean, it's a bit on the long side, and sort of reminds me of cunnilinguis (but that may be because I have a dirty mind), but it's not the name you've actually selected. Go for it right now, and I think once you go to submit your MS an agent may suggest you change it. As writers I think we get too hung up on names, but they're not all that important.
     
  9. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    Some people like crazy names. Albeit those people make up a very small percentage of the world. I myself am one of those people... as long as names don't look like Xiaa'axxiviasxx'x. So if you have crazy (ish) names in your story, I will probably like them, as well as make sure to pronounce them correctly.
     
  10. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    Don't pick your names based on how you think readers will react to them. There will always be critics. If you're writing a fantasy novel then you're in good company with unique and odd names. If you're worried that they are verging on too difficult or are even a little ridiculous then you could give the characters shorter, easier to remember nick names. You can state their full name at some point in the book but refer to them casually by their nick name.

    Ie. Cunobelinus becomes Cuno
     
  11. Pyraeus
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    Pyraeus Member

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    "You can state their full name at some point in the book but refer to them casually by their nick name."
    In the Song of Ice and Fire series Eddard Stark gets called Ned, Petry Balish gets littlefinger, Catelyn gets Cat, Brandon gets Bran etc.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "My name is Phtyglatraktikleinein."

    "Pleased to meet you, Fred. I can call you Fred, right? Call me Mookie, everyone else does."
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "My name is Phtyglatraktikleinein."

    "Phty... Phty.... Pleased to meet you, Fred. I can call you Fred, right? Call me Mookie, everyone else does."
     
  14. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    You're getting confused by names like Ned, Jon and Robb? You're going to be very frustrated in a couple of seasons time I can tell you. :p
     
  15. NeedMoreRage
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    NeedMoreRage Member

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    Generally if a name becomes too difficult for me to pronounce (which doesn't take a very complicated name to do) I either start skipping it like a word I don't know, or I give them some sort of nickname. Although most the nicknames I give characters are usually jokey or dirty, I don't find it detracts from the story much. If anything I get more attached to the characters because I won't be referring to the nickname anymore. So I say don't worry too much about having names that seem strange. Half the time you start off going "that's an odd name" and then by the end you end up actually liking it.
    Personally I use very simple and common names in almost all of my stories, but that's a style choice, not me being worried about confusing the reader.
     
  16. Pyraeus
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    Pyraeus Member

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    "The names kind of annoy me in Game of Thrones, I've watched two seasons of it (yes, I'm not reading the books, I'm watching the show) and I still can't remember who's called what. I usually just remember them by description (Sean Bean Stark, Xena Warrior Stark, Timmy Stark, OC Stark, John Snow, Alexander the Stark, Mrs. Stark, Dargon Lady, Queen Incesticide etc...). Saying that, I do recognise the need for names in fantasy which aren't tied to Anglo-Saxon roots, but it still doesn't help me remember them any."

    Eddard, Robb, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Catelyn and Rickon Stark. Danaerys Targaryen. I'll admit the later names are harder to pronounce (Most of the people dany encounters-dragon lady gets Dany for short, if that helps you remember her more easily.)
     
  17. Mr.
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    Mr. Member

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    I swear I remember hearing about an actual published book with the main character named "!xando" or something. Yes, the exclamation mark was included. Apparently it's some kind of specific clicking noise, which makes the name itself beyond the impossible for my feeble untrained tongue.
     
  18. Laze
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    Laze Active Member

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    Depends what trying to do with a name, does a characters name have anything to do with telling or progressing the plot? A name is simply something a parent gives their child, they can't predict the person you'll be when you're older, it's just a label they choose because they think it sounds good.

    Nicknames however is something you can play around with, as a nickname is kind of like a title given to someone for their accomplishments whether they be something stupid or something genuinely honourable. Don't give your characters really conspicuous names though as it's gunna be really distracting amongst the other commonly read words.
     
  19. twelveninetysix
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    twelveninetysix Member

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    You might want to look into the actual meanings of the names too - of course, if it sounds like it fits, but if you're indecisive it's sometimes good to pick a name that fits your character's personality.
     
  20. randi.lee
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    randi.lee New Member

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    The name feels cumbersome to read again and again. You could always introduce the character as Cunobelius and then referred to him with a contraction such as "Cuno" from then on.
     
  21. Lady Amalthea
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    Lady Amalthea Member

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    One strategy I use very often is to relate the setting to a specific country or culture. Of course, if you have been developping your own fantasy world for years, you will have the names of the countries, the regions, languages and dialects for each specific location -- that plays a very important role on picking a name, or at least it should, if you want your setting to be rich and believable. But I'm not like that. I'm just too lazy, I suppose -- not to mention not a languages scholar, like Tolkien. So in my setting (it's a world called Ava -- pronounced ah-vah) I simply replicated Europe, Africa and Asia geographically with a few alterations. Hence, if a character comes from the North, he will be named something like Svensk or Ossa. If he comes from the far east, he'll be named along the lines of Xian or Li-Dao. If he comes from the land of Dragons, in the far south, he'll be Zimba or Nambe. Perhaps I'm cheating my way through fantasy, but that's my strategy, lol.

    Another effective way of naming characters (although it works more for last names) is to name them after the city or region they come from. Thus you have Ian of Asphodel, Sarha of Ingary, etc. You can also take that to the next level and just write random name places from different languages. Thus you have Civitamorta (Dead City), Montechiaro (Clear Mount), Grottascura (Dark cave) in Italian, or maybe Champs-floris (Fields in Bloom), Val-de-sang (Valley of Blood), Vieuxmoulin (Old Windmill) in French, etc. I always use Cuordiferro ("Iron Heart" in Italian) when I write a character that is meant to be a badass.

    Finally, you can go crazy like me and my friends did when we played Forgotten Realms. We assigned a different language for each race. Since I am Brazilian, Common was Portuguese, so that was for humans. Elves spoke English, Orcs spoke German, Gnomes spoke Spanish, and Goblins -- for the life of me I don't remember why -- spoke French. We even had a goblin named Jean-Pierre. No kidding!
     
  22. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I would just try to remember to keep it somewhat simple. If your reader has to stop and try to sound out the name--and fails a couple of times--the spell is broken and they might not be willing to continue reading. If you're worried about it, write the names of a few characters down, and ask someone to try and speak them aloud. If they stumble or have to read it over a few times before saying it, I'd go back to the drawing board.
     
  23. E.Thomas
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    Homer's The Iliad is a literary classic and a fantastic read and look at the names in that. As long as the names mean something to you/your character then it doesn't matter if the stories good enough and you are drawn to the character you can learn to love the name and wouldn't be able to imagine the character being called anything else.
     

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