1. Steph1981
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    Steph1981 New Member

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    Naming your characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Steph1981, Jul 4, 2010.

    Hi there,

    I am currently working on the chracters for my children's book and wondered if there were any tips people had on naming them. I read somewhere that it is suggested that your lead character/hero should have a simple name, e.g. Harry Potter and your villain should have a more complex, darker name, e.g. Draco Malfoy. I think this theory is a great one but I don't know where to start on generating these names. I think I have one for the hero but the villain is proving difficult. I have baby name books to give me name ideas but I want a name for the villain that is really fitting - does anyone have any tried and tested methods for naming different types of characters?

    Thanks!
     
  2. TheNewGuy
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    TheNewGuy Senior Member

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    I'm not sure as to the complexity in hero's names vs. villains names. I've seen it work both ways. I watched a great indie movie (Ink) in which the villains name was, simply, Ink. I've seen Joe Abercrombie's famous books, in which the main characters have really long, complicated names (Sand Dan Glokta, for example). I try to have reasons for my character's names though. I wanted one of my character's name to be 'Three,' but I had no reason, so I wrote the first chapter of my book on how he got that name, giving him a generic, non-heroic name to start with. You could try something like that to name your characters. Just an option :)
     
  3. Francis Buck
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    Francis Buck New Member

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    Making up names for my characters (and other things in my story) is one of my favorite parts of writing. I think that a character's name can have a big effect on the way people perceive that character, even though most of the time the audience themselves probably don't even realize it. Personally, if I'm writing something like a fantasy with its own whole world and culture, I like to have the names actually seem like they fit in with the world and languages therein. For example in the one fantasy novel I wrote, I made it so that the names for your average peasant are different from what a noble's name might be. The peasant names I used would generally be shorter and more consonant heavy, such as Gareth, Korge, Athard, Gennry etc. Noble names, on the other hand, have a fancier and more latin sounding flourish to them, like Saruvio, Varonill, Ulelian, etc.

    Things like this I think add to the overall feeling of coherence to a story, but this kind of only really applies to fantasies and other speculative fiction. With more realistic fiction, I just go with names that I like and that sound fitting to the character. Examples of the some of character names I've used:

    Vincent Nicotera

    Theodore Strayer

    Obediah Finch

    Conway Spinoza

    Jimmy Porter

    Those are a few of my favorites, and I think they have a good flow to the way they roll off of the tongue, which is also important to the reader's perception and to the "digestibility" of the words. I use tons of resources for character names. Baby name websites, surname databases, fantasy name generators, I use them all and just mix and match, making little changes here and there until I've got something I like. Personally though, I wouldn't worry TOO much about character names until you've actually written a lot of the story. Most of the time my character's names will all change AT LEAST once throughout the course of writing, especially as more characters are created and as I begin to learn about the people themselves. Hope this helped!
     
  4. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    No one falls in love with a name, but in children's books names are definitely used as foreshadowing tools.
    Cruel Devil being my all-time favourite.
     
  5. MarchOfMephisto
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    MarchOfMephisto Member

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    I tend to just use baby names book and websites.

    Some of them though, like Contemno, are used from foreign words with a specific meaning or by certain words mixed together.

    They're all meaningful though.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no general rule, or method for picking names...

    you must go by what your story is about, when and where it's set, and who/what the characters are, plus the age range of your target market...

    do your homework and check out character names in the children's section of the library, a book store, or amazon...
     
  7. CaKsTeR
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    CaKsTeR Member

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    Typically, I prefer the main character to have a name that is a single syllable (or alternatively, a nickname that is one syllable). I find that it reads a lot smoother, especially in Third Person where you refer to your character so often.

    About villains having long names, I don't honestly think it matters much. I've seen it done both ways quite often, each with varying degrees of success. It all depends on your style, I guess.
     
  8. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    I usually find full names that flow, like a three-syllable first name and a one-syllable surname. I also love names with meaning, but ironically, as in names whose meanings are the exact opposite of the character's personality. To bring in a real-world example, from Death Note, a rather tempermental character was named Mello.

    But since you're writing a children's book, it's best to keep it simple. Go to some online baby names site (my favorite for villains is NameThatGoth) and do a meanings search. If you look long enough, you'll find something fitting.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    For naming villains, I always combine the 1st and last names of 2 different people who I don't like, or 2 bad people throughout history...if the name is something way too obvious (like Adolf for example) then just go with something similar. I was struggling with a villain name, then using that method made it obvious. It works best if the people you're drawing the name from are people who are similar to the story villain.

    for example....let's say that the villain is a school bully, and there was a bully when you were a kid named Meegan and someone you don't like at work whose last name is Jones, your villain could be Megan Joneson or something.
     
  10. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    It's all in the way the name sounds. Names have a certain rhythm to them. Choose one that you think fits the character. It really doesn't matter if other people hear the name the same way; if you write well, hopefully they will begin to see that name's rhythm too, but if they don't, who cares?
     
  11. CaKsTeR
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    CaKsTeR Member

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    I find that first+last names with three syllables seem to sound the best. There's something about how they just flow that you don't see in names with four or five.

    Maybe I'm delving a bit too deep into character naming. :p
     
  12. Katherina
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    Katherina Member

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    If you´re using the name for a children´s book, I suggest you use a name that is both original, short and easy to remember so the kids will have no trouble remembering it.

    Same goes if the book is directed at toddlers for their parents to read to them. A toddler or a small kid will have a hard time remembering Aphrodite Nerem than Ari Rose or Sammy Toothpicks.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    but again, it all depends on the name itself, not just the age of the readers/read-tos...

    consider dr. seuss' short choices for tots:

    sam
    horton
    grinch

    and then, his first and still beloved by all ages, the super-sized...

    bartholemew cubbins!

    while in the adult fiction world we have the short and sweet...

    sam spade
    alex cross

    the mid-length...

    rip van winkle
    mike hammer
    philip marlowe
    ichabod crane
    kay scarpetta

    and the should-be-problematical-but-isn't...

    hieronymous bosch!

    so, length alone does not determine a workable or unworkable name for any age market... a great name is just a great name and others simply work, or don't...
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But to be fair, everyone knows him as Harry.
     
  15. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Every time you chose a name you should check (for reals) if its shoutable. If it isn't that character probably got a nickname. Especially useful for fantasy names.
     
  16. thesilverdepths
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    thesilverdepths Member

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    Well the troublesome thing for me is, modern(ish) names are fine, but when it comes to fantasy or anything sci-fi, I simply can't come up with a good name

    Although my typical approach is to take a name that's already known and add or take a few letters away, flip it around a bit. But I really hate taking the methodical approach. I want a character name to just kind of "come alive" on its own, not for me to force one onto it :|
     
  17. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    Just remember your audience... If you're writing for children and want to use a longer name make sure that it is something memorable. Honestly Rex is the best name for a boy character in a children's book (lol).

    Seriously though shorter is sweeter, as a parent helping my young child read it's hard to watch them struggle with trying to sound out Persephone or some equally frustrating madness.
     
  18. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    I just randomly think of names until I find some that sound good.
     
  19. CaKsTeR
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    CaKsTeR Member

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    In your opinion. There is no 'best' name for a character; it's simply choosing what fits your story and target audience.
     

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