1. MegaGoober
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    MegaGoober New Member

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    Naming / Fleshing Out Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MegaGoober, Nov 25, 2011.

    Hey, I'm new here, but not to forum living - just wanted somebody's input on character names and details. Here are a few characters I've named myself and a short description:

    Rados Onklet - A nimbly built young man who was catapulted out of poverty to serve as an aide and adviser for a righteous King. Though well trained in the way of the sword and confident in his abilities, he often succumbs to unwarranted fear and cowers away from easily overcome confrontations.

    Oreo Hadron - The pampered prince of a vengeful nation, he leaves the comfortable care of royalty to venture the world in seek of truth's pertaining to his ancestors' transgressions. Though strong in his passion for justice, he is usually able to keep a cool head and reach his goals without excessive strain.

    Gall Ventaros - The descendant of a God-like race of beings and the King of a country which embodies peace and balance. Imbued with divine talents, he remains calm and intuitive in the most nerve-wracking situations and deals chivalry even unto the impossibly un-redeemable.

    Darian Orion - A prince to a vichy kingdom, he seeks revenge for the assassination of his father, the true king of his homeland. Wanting ever to only be a self-made man, he tries to avenge his father alone, but discovers no man is an island. He also struggles to overcome his avarice and lust for power, remedying this flaw by dismissing all prior knowledge of the dark arts he has come to know and love.

    Infeas Firek - A penniless adventure-seeking teen who braves the desert in search of his older brother to join in some of his exciting escapades. Infeas soon learns that the clan his brother is a part of consists of thieves and bandits, and he begins to understand that his desires will push him down a road he may have to become comfortable with. Regardless, he attempts and succeeds in joining the clan as well as overthrowing his brother, becoming the bandits' new leader. However, Infeas is told about his dismal future, and decides to start reforming the villainous sect of which he now rules.

    Ultimo Oblivious - The personal bodyguard to a sage and ruler of a mighty nation. He has devoted his life to protecting the elder and made it his sole duty. When a formidable enemy reappears and takes away the one thing he has sworn to defend, he becomes lost and loses his purpose. Only the friends he has made accomplish the task of bringing him back to reality, and he realizes that the true duty of an ally is to move on after their comrades have gone.

    These are, oh, but a few of the characters I have developed, and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface in these descriptions, but if anything off the bat strikes anyone one way or the other, please share your opinions / critiques / suggestions. Thanks!
     
  2. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    Hi MegaGoober!

    Names and descriptions are all well and good, but I have no real context to put them in. What are they really like in tough, dangerous, sad or life changing situations? This is when a character is truly defined and you see their personality.
    If you are happy with them then great, but in the end it's your story, your characters and ultimately your choices.

    Sorry if that sounded a little harsh.

    Good luck :)
     
  3. Ralinde
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    Ralinde Member

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    Hmm, my thoughts are I'm fine with the first three. Easy to pronounce/read and seem to suit the characters. Not quite so sure of Darian Orion. Doesn't flow well and I'm a fan of not having both the first and last name end with the same letter unless of course it's silent or something. Infeas I can take or leave. It's not a bad name per say but something doesn't doesn't feel right about it. The final name seems rather loaded to me which is why I didn't like it I guess. It's too much of a coincidence that this character looses his way for a time and is also called "Ultimo Oblivious". Kind of seems like a corny super badie name to me. Still, they're not bad names in any case and I actually quite liked the first one. Thought it was rather unique. Hope that helps.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    These characters strike me as pretty uniformly honorable, skilled, able to overcome near-impossible obstacles. Sure, Rados is a little nervous and Ultimo and Darian once had some flaws, but they all seem a millimeter away from perfect. And, unfortunately, perfect is boring. Powerful, noble, skilled, able to accomplish their goals in a single bound... terribly boring.

    I want to see someone who's grumpy, who's lazy, who's always finding an excuse to get to the dinner table first so they can get the best morsels, who sneaks away from the work to get a nap in the warm sun. I want to see that person find something that they care about, something to motivate them to try. And I don't want that motivation to be a sudden thunderbolt of nobility, I want it to be a _struggle_. Three pages before they do whatever fine thing they're going to do, I still want to see them stealing the best fried pie. Or, even better, I want them to steal it three pages after. I never, ever want them to become perfect.

    OK, you don't have to give me _that_ person, precisely, but I want that level of ordinary dusty shopworn humanity. If you give me all this perfection, with no conflict other than noble natures struggling to figure out where to aim the noble deeds, I'm not going to be interested.

    ChickenFreak
     
  5. blandmanblind
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    blandmanblind Member

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    I have read that you should create a lot of extraneous information about your fictional characters. You should know more about them than you would ever need for a story. I believe it's called a Character Treatment. A handout I received in a writing class a while ago listed the following questions that should be answered for every important character in your story.

    This is what I can recall from memory.

    Name:
    Nicknames/Why:
    Age:
    Sex:
    Height:
    Weight:
    Build:
    Occupation:
    Strengths:
    Weaknesses:
    Secret:
    Goal:


    Favorites

    Snack/Food:
    Games:
    Hobby:
    Clothes:
    Person:
    Time:


    I have starting doing this for the majority of my own characters. It can come off as an informational fetish, but it really is a great resource, almost like a sourcebook for your own work. Just remember nothing is hard and fast. Just run through it the first time. You can always go back and change anything if you need to for the story, but it is a really great foundation to work off, and you can really ease the way you find connections between your characters.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't believe character sheets work. If they aren't asking you to waste time thinking up worthless info, they also tend to box you in. Even if you know you can change it, these things just don't really help much.

    I think of it this way. Do we want characters to seem like characters or real people? While they ARE characters and in some aspects, it's good to remember that, they are supposed to come off as real people. Are real people able to be described so simply on a character sheet? Not any I know. I think character sheets and their usefulness is really much more illusionary, or at least that's my take.
     
  7. blandmanblind
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    blandmanblind Member

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    It is my belief the only time you waste writing is staring at a blank page with half a sentence written.

    I can see where I might not have been clear in my previous post. I am not advocating spinning off stacks of character sheets before ever writing anything. That is not my method. You should of course be free to sit down during your own writing time and just produce anything you want with no constraints (a la "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg).

    When you are knitting such pieces together for a story I still believe these treatments are of value. Such that any characters I have already created benefit from having them fleshed out in this way. Thereby the process of fusing fragments and creating believeable cohesion is made easier.

    Also, the list I've given is not to be the sum total of any character, but just a bare skeleton. Pieces of incidental information that I may find useful anywhere in the story. I would think a biographer would have the answer to all those questions before writing anything about their subject.

    Thank you for making me clarify. As the OP just had names and mini-bio's, it didn't cross my mind to reply with anything but the sheet. Hopefully, it can be more useful now.
     
  8. Show
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    ^^^^Well, the part I really took issue was what you were told in your writing class, that every important character needs to have those questions answered. I simply do not believe that I have to know what games my character likes to play in order to understand them. (Unless of course said game is a part of the story) If it helps somebody, so be it. But I certainly don't think it's something one "has" to do, as was implied by that statement. (Less YOUR statement and more the ideas taught to you in your class.)

    As for me personally, I rarely find myself staring at a blank sheet. If you aren't stirred to write, I don't think you should be writing at that moment. For me, a story has to really stir me before I can write it. I don't get through 80K words on an idea without legs.
     
  9. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, my favorite thing is to think of a few extreme situations and then write a little story with some of the characters. It could be anything, like "you are in an empty plane about to crash", "how do you take the person you love out on a date?" or "you are sick at home, all alone and bored. what do you do for fun?" You can of course have different questions for each character if you want. I like to answer the questions by writing a story around half a page or so. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. And keep in mind the questions can be completely random. You can send a fantasy character into space, if you want. Or turn a librarian into a superhero for a day. Anything to flesh out the character.
     
  10. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I think there is a strong tendency among fantasy writers to focus too much on their characters' names, ancestry and their place in the grand scheme of their fantasy world, rather than on their actual personality - i.e. the part that makes them real. Fantasy writers in particular are susceptible to over-engineering their background information, weaving rich tapestries of history and culture, religion and mythology for their invented world, but forgetting to populate it with REAL people rather than stereotypes. I would be very worried about any character whose name and genealogy took precedence over their psychological traits and personality. You may need to know their family history and lineage, but you should not define your characters by these things.

    And I have to say I'm not too keen on any of those names, because they all seem very 'plucked out of the air because they sound cool', rather than researched to reflect whatever cultural or linguistic influences there may be in your world. Oreo Hadron is the worst, in my opinion. It sounds like what happens when you cross a cookie with a multi billion pound particle accelerator. Result: oh crumbs...
     
  11. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    ^ I agree that names shouldn't be "pulled out of thin air," because it leaves the character's name meaningless. I'd suggest you go with something similar to the names of past relatives, other than last names of course, as a sort of "birthrite." And if you do go with something similar to the birthrite method, then you can always link it to something in the character's past.

    As for the character's personality, I'd love to see something OTHER than a single, round character set in a world with flat characters left and right. Look at society today- Every single person has his or her own way of doing things. Surely the skilled huntsman has a different method of tracking than the bitter old hermit, right? And that skilled warrior or assassin, are they always as bloodthirsty and relentless as people will depict them? There are a lot of aspects that people will miss when they're absorbed in their world of magicians and warriors. To name a few stereotypes:

    1) The old hermit who turns out to be a Wise and strict magician
    2) The simple young soul destined to complete a sort of quest or prophecy
    3) The rogue that will help, up until the point that he doesn't benefit
    4) The assassin that can take a man's life with ease
    5) The evil, all-powerful foe whose reign is challenged by #2

    Look at most fantasy novels, and you're sure to find at least #2 and #5, with at least one of the rest included as well. Note: MOST fantasy novels- there are exceptions, but only a few at that. And of all those listed, only #2 can be considered a round character. The other ones are there for the sake of fitting the fantasy stereotype, and it irks me to no end.
     
  12. MegaGoober
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    MegaGoober New Member

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    Wow, truly, these are all fantastic suggestions / observations. I will take to heart each and every input. Thank you all for being so helpful and polite.
    Kallithrix' suggestions especially caught my attention, and I'd like to address some of his fears. For example, the character Rados Onklet comes from a long line of Knights - both his father and grandfather were knights, fighting for their king in many battles, as well as one of his famous ancestors, but Rados himself serves as a Squire, even though he never went through the proper rites to become one. He is typically a cautious person and tries to avoid violence or conflict whenever possible.
    Stereotypes do exist in many of my stories, but they are not all-encompassing. Another example: An imperial and heavily militant nation possesses citizens who are generally loyal to their country and have great physical attributes. However, in one instance, a highly ranked officer in the chain-of-command leaked top secret information to a rival nation, betraying and potentially jeopardizing his homeland. Though most people from this country conform to the prejudice with which they are viewed, there do exist some who view their over-reaching, war-mongering government with scorn.
    The name Oreo Hadron was difficult to produce, and even harder to imagine being taken seriously. I wanted a stranger, even more unique name for someone who would go through many changes and eventually have a controversial impact on his world. The name was honestly not influenced by the ever-so-tasty Oreo cookies. People from his kingdom are named differently from normal, also: instead of adopting their parents' surname, the surname becomes their first name. Oreo Hadron's father was Lord Throat Oreo, and his father's name was Leonix Throat. Hadron's friend and bodyguard, Grann Sileus, was the son of Kokkaru Grann, and fathered someone he named Sileus Krypon.

    I'm going to go do some Character Treatment sheets now (extra thanks to blandmanblind). I hope I've been able to shed a little more light on things.
     
  13. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Some of these are really creative and sound interesting!
     

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