1. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Good Surnames

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Flying Geese, Aug 31, 2013.

    I searched the forum and I didn't find anything about good last names for a main character. Can anyone help me? I am trying to have a surname that sounds good and underdoggish. I have used online resources that I could find and i just haven't found a last name that just sticks out to me. Of course I could just make a name up...How do authors make up names in general? (Names that don't already exist) Anyone know anything for inspiration?
     
  2. EmmaWrite
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    EmmaWrite Member

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    I always steal last names from Facebook, usually by going through my friends' friend lists. I've heard of authors walking through graveyards to find names, but that sounds like it would take a lot of effort. Old school yearbooks too are useful.

    As far as making names up, I think anything goes as long as you can say it out loud and not sound ridiculous. You could do a variation a common last name (for example I know a Johnston.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2013
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  3. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Try random name generators, just go through them until you find something that fits. If you make it up make sure that it sounds like a name, if you're stuck with making up a name try typing gibberish and then messing with it until it resembles/sounds like a name.
     
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  4. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    both of these are great ideas! Thanks! Although i will pass on the graveyard ;)
     
  5. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i should try that graveyard one, there are a few near me... (the joys of inner city living!)
     
  6. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I too have trouble deciding on names that fit. What I like to do is think about all the qualities that make up the character-- personality, quirks, public life, home life, family status, ethnicity, and family origin (are they from france, germany, italy, england) etc. Then I think of people I know, have met or have seen with similar qualities. I don't steal their name but it get's me thinking openly. From there I Run through mental lists of first names until one sticks. That's when I move to the surname.

    I guess I'm kind of backwards, when A family chooses a name, they match it with the surname, not the other way around. Even so I do it this way. Then I think of the family and see how it fits, and if I need some tweaks or another better name comes up based on the family dynamics then I make the changes.

    I also find it useful, if to consider the culture of the people and think about what they would say and use. Maybe they live in a society, where Rodrick is just a common name , but everyone varies it with nicknames like (Rod, Ric, Ric-with-a-k, Od, Odi, etc.)
     
  7. Sirgeo
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    Sirgeo New Member

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    I'd used the phone book before a great resource for street names too..
     
  8. I. R. Writer.
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    I. R. Writer. New Member

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    I tend to visit: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ and scroll through the list of published authors.
     
  9. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    My MC was actually a morphing process through the brainstorming phase. She started out Allysa (no surname), which then morphed into Allison Cole, then Allison Connor (that came up after watching the Terminator), then Alésia Connor because I'm really obsessed with the Gauls and I was reading about the siege of Alésia that day. Then somewhere along the line she picked up the middle name Jeanne after one of my grandmother's friends, and that is the character that became my MC (and my pen name) AJ Connor.

    Some of my others were actually named after TV characters.
    Casey Mae Lin was named for Casey Novak on L&O: SVU, Mae Lin came from my doctor, actually.
    Nichole Connor (MC's sister) was named after a character named Nichole Wallace on L&O Criminal Intent
    MC's mother and her sister, Sarah and Cathy McGillis I was watching Top Gun when I came up with that surname. Sarah was actually originally named for Sarah Connor, but I changed the plot with the MC's father up a bit, so there was a name change involved.
    Others were named just because I like the name. MC's other sister Jessica, for example, or because they fit the situation, I/E MC's twin brother Aaron Connor. (I figured it would fit to have a twin also start with an A name.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2013
  10. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i did the graveyard suggestion, i later found out id been to the oldest church in Canterbury (which surprisingly isn't the Cathedral)
     
  11. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    My mother's half of the family comes from Indonesia, I can tell you it's a great resource when you're looking for something unique or at least something you don't hear everyday. Other than that I tend to use other languages; french, german and dutch (my mothertongue) mostly, but sometimes also spanish and indonesian (sometimes, because I don't speak or understand either of them that well).
    It's amazing how slightly adapting the translation of a word can make the perfect surname for a character.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Is this a modern story—set in the USA? A historical story set in China? A story set in a fantasy world? That's the place to start. I mean, Voostewalbert Shimmilpennick was a fairly underdoggish character in Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates...
     
  13. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Try the seventh sanctum name generator here. It's based on US census data. I usually set it for 10 names, and mix and match the names I get. It takes two or three tries before I find something I like, but I'm usually very pleased with the results.
     
  14. kitsune4
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    kitsune4 Member

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    Some of my name choices have come from street names, that's the case for both surnames and town names. Whenever I saw a street name that jumped out at me, I wrote it down for later.

    Otherwise I would look up surname databases or even just unusual names if I wanted something to stand out. I have a tendency to pick fairly normal names however so I don't typically use the latter option.
     
  15. CyberFD
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    CyberFD Member

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    All of my names have come from outside media, which may or may not be bad but at least I know that I like the name.

    Joss Weddell - Joss Whedon (Buffy, Dollhouse, The Avengers) and Taylor Weddell (character in Mean Girls)
    Amy Miller - Amy Acker (Dollhouse, Cabin In The Woods) and The Millers (We're The Millers)
    Nora Pirelli - Nora Carpenter (character in Final Destination 2) and Pirelli (character in Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
    Aaron Shepherd - Aaron Samuels (character in Mean Girls) and Shepard Fairey (street artist behind Obama "hope" posters)

    I always find good names in everyday life and media, and just kind of Frankenstein all of the parts together. :p
     
  16. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    The telephone directory, is a good place to start - only don't start phoning people up offering them double glazingo_O
     
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  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I have a group of people I call 'owners' in my future society. I took their last names from the list of the 400 richest people.

    Underdogs, hmm, what group might represent them? I tried Googling slave names and poor people, but didn't get helpful results. I agree with the suggestion, maybe you should just skim a phone book.
     
  18. Kramitdfrog
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    Kramitdfrog Member

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    Scottish last names are EPIC... not your Mc type just random Scottish names... I find they are I don't know OLD school. I'm Scottish myself but I'm noe given you my name...

    :p
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading back covers of my CD collection. It's a really good resource.
     
  20. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Many of my characters are based, either in appearance or attitude or both, on people I know, or combinations of people I know. To name them, I'll often take the real person's name and play around with variations and variations on variations, until i find something that works for the character, isn't too close to the real person's name, but is *just* near enough to act as a sort of mnemonic device for the character's attributes. So, John Smith becomes Jared Sullivan. The names are similar only initials, but it's enough to remind me of the character's appearance, demeanor, voice, etc.
    I have a few characters where I've gone the JK Rowling route, and named them after their personality, their job, etc. I have one character, a chemist, whose last name is Scruple, which is a unit of measure used by apothecaries. You can have fun with names like these, so long as they aren't too on-the-nose, and fit the tone of the story.
    Things like ethnicity and region are important, too, when picking a name. A lot of white characters have pretty "generic" sounding names; that is, hearing them doesn't immediately make one think of any specific ethnic heritage. "Jones" may be Welsh, but if you see a character named Fred Jones, you don't immediately think "Welsh" right? But call your character Fred O'Reilly, and the reader will immediately make the Irish connection, with all the cultural connotations that apply. I live in Missouri, which has a pretty huge German population, and plenty of Anglo-Saxon names, but I can honestly only think of a handful of Italians or Portuguese. Some areas (at least in America) are going to have higher concentrations of a particular group, depending on who settled there.
    Also, be aware of how the names sound together. "Phillip Peters" doesn't work, for me, because you either end up saying "Phillipeters" or "Philli-puh-Peters."
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013
  21. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    I have found that some people do some things i just wouldn't think of when it comes to naming. I love how all these possibilities are limitless! thanks everyone for the feedback!
     
  22. Marbora
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    Marbora New Member

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    Try thinking of a good name that resounds to the character's being. Just throw out some sounds, and see what works. That is not what I do, because I have a knack for knowing good surnames off anythings, but it can be helpful for those who need a better muse.
     

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