1. PhilipJLeae
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    PhilipJLeae New Member

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    Naming

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by PhilipJLeae, Jan 1, 2013.

    Hey, just thought I'd pop in for a moment and see what kind of process you guys go through for the hardest part of writing (hardest for me at least) naming the characters, places, and so on and so forth. I'm currently attempting (and succeding I might add) at writing my first full novel. I've got the rough characters made, their personalities and attitudes and such sorted out, but I have only given two (well one and a half really) names!

    So, what I'm wondering, is there any special little thing that helps you with naming, or do you just know more names than me?
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know that my answer will be helpful, because so far I haven't had any trouble at all coming up with names. Generally, I just use one of the first names that comes to mind for most of my characters. For some characters, I've just looked up the most popular names of the decade or year close to the year that the character would have been born, and picked one of those. But, the characters I write about have usually had fairly traditional parents, who would not have chosen any really unusual names.

    For surnames, I've occasionally googled things like "Jewish last names," or something if I've looked for a particular type of last name. Then I google the first and last name I've come up with just to check that the name isn't the name of someone who is at all well-known.
     
  3. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Naming I find, can either be one of the easiest things, or one of the hardest things to do.
    A lot of times, the names my characters get aren't the names they have by the time the final draft of the story is complete. This is mostly because I take in a lot of factors about the characters that I noticed a lot of people have forgotten. To determine the name my character is going to own in the end, I actually consider a lot of variables in the stories that most people will over look. Like say for example in the current story I'm writing.
    In the beginning, the one character, it's not a main character, was originally named Yavezar. Of course the name was completely made up on the spot when the character was originally created to accomplish the role he plays. The only problem is that the name Yavezar, doesn't work with the story at all. Here's why: The story is set in medieval times, and it's based around the living style of the medieval era. Which means that you wouldn't have a guy from the 12th-14th century that lives in the old english life style with a fantasy name.
    So I had to think about those factors, which helped me pinpoint an exact idea of what I should be looking for. After all, naming used to be an art handed down from parent to child to remind the child of their heritage, their culture, and their origin. A name was a way to say "I'm from this place, and I'm proud to represent that by having the name I do." Of course, I noticed a lot of people, not just writers, have forgotten that factor and just open up a name book, or a webpage, find names they like, and pick the best one they think works. Well sad to say, it doesn't always work.
    Taking into account that a name was a way to represent our heritage and stuff, that's one part of determining the names we use for our characters. In fact, I think a lot of my editting work is switching names for better suited ones.
    Another thing that people forget to consider, is that names aren't usually chosen to suit the child. Basically, if you have a child that is weak and defenseless, you wouldn't usually name it Sebastian (which means vunerable) because of that factor. Most parents will choose a child's name based upon what they wish that child to accomplish, or what they expect from that child.
    Also, in certain time periods, a child was named based upon their parents. Like the name Johnson, the origin of that name is actually "Son of John". In certain cultures also, like the japanese, they named their child based upon their birth. Certain names literally translate into "First born son", and so forth and so on. So you have to think about that also.

    So in recap, here are some things to consider when choosing a name:
    -Setting: The setting of the story plays a big role in the name of the character. It's important to discover what names would be believable to that setting. If you have a fantasy setting, then a fantasy name would totally work. As I said before though, a fantasy name will not work in a medieval setting based upon actual known fact.
    -Heritage: Heritage is probably the biggest key about determining a name for a character. It'll say everything about them when you first meet them or introduce them. It'll also be one of the key points where readers will make a judgement about your character.
    -Meaning: The meaning of a name is important, because for some readers (like me), we do know the meaning of a lot of names, and I find it kind of boring when a character is named after something that reflects themselves (unless of course it was intentional, like Johnson).

    I just recommend most of all that you don't just pick up a book or open a webpage, find the first name that appeals to you and use it for the character. That, to me, is a really really big no no.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since this is not far from what I do, I have to partially disagree. This does depend on the type of story you're writing. If your writing deals with some particular time period or cultural group, then names will have a greater significance. This can also be the case if you're writing some sort of fantasy story, or if the names do take on a greater meaning. For some people it is very important to put a lot of symbolic meaning into names. That can be a nice addition to a story, so if this is your stance, then I say 'go for it.' It can be great fun to decipher the meaning of the names while reading and analyzing the story.

    But, if you're writing a story that is set in the present-day United States, and you're writing about a lot of things that can realistically (or theoretically) happen to most people, I see nothing wrong with just picking a name. Similar to the case with real people, even if you don't like a particular name, or the name has negative connotations, once you meet and get to know someone with that name, eventually you usually do think that the name suits them, or at least you can't imagine them being named anything else.

    So, it really depends on what's important to you, and what type of story you're writing. Many people find the Social Security lists of popularity of names and baby-naming sites and books to be very helpful. If you want to get more specific, you can google "Irish names" or "Italian names" or "Korean names" and find information that way, as well. I don't see the harm in just picking the name from one of those lists. Especially when that's what a lot of people do when naming babies in real life.
     
  5. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    I put in placeholder names that usually end up sticking. I've sometimes run through sounds till I find a good first sylable for the name, then run through names starting with that sound till one feels right.

    As noted by ChicagoLiz, Google is your friend. You can easily find common names by ethnicity, geography or year.

    -Frank
     
  6. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I generally just pick a name that seems like it would fit the person

    Evelyn Shields: Independent successful business woman, who does all she can to make forward strides anywhere
    Christopher Hughes: An ex-war criminal/mercenary turned successful business man
    Mason Briggs: A serious ex militant explosives expert turned mercenary for hire

    For me I just go with what I feel sounds right for the character
     
  7. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    I use character name generators for RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, there are lots of names generated for the inspiration. I don't think you should use some name you are in common with, because it subconsciously lead you into that person and the character might act like a douchebag
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I pick names almost before I start writing. I mean, if I don't know a character's name before I introduce him into the story, then I have to stop until he HAS a name.

    Names are important. In my stories, Elmer Glickstein will be a different person from Biff Summers. Mary Jones will be different from Olga Blutarski. I need the name before I write the character, because if I use a placeholder name, I can never change it. I can't write a whole story about John and then, after it's all done, use Word's search-and-replace to change his name to Elisha. If I do that, then suddenly the whole character, and hence the whole story, doesn't make sense to me.

    Sometimes names come easy and sometimes they don't. But I don't go looking in phone books for them or any other random listing. I have to generate the name out of my own head as part of the process of creating the character. Once I have the name, I can begin writing about that character.
     
  9. The Vortex
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    The Vortex New Member

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    It depends on the context of the story. Definitely look it up if it's a period piece or you need a certain ethnicity, or if you're going for a certain meaning. Generally I use names of people I've known and other random names I've seen that just happen to jump out at me. I actually find myself using street names fairly often, which can work for either characters or places. Street names are especially good for fictional towns in real-world locations.
     
  10. Teodor Pravický
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    Teodor Pravický Senior Member

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    Good for you, but I always wrote crap if I could use names which I'm familiar with. I think is the fist thing everyone has to think about if they tell him, he's doing mistakes or his story lacks some different perspective
     
  11. Talmay
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    Talmay Member

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    Chance, mostly.

    Ex: If I had never watched Toward the Terra and saw a copy of Artemis Fowl sitting on my dresser then I'd still probably be searching. It just fits. Without that coincidence one of my characters wouldn't be who he is today. Weird thought.
     
  12. Anielle
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    Anielle Member

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    I use sites like babynames.com or behindthename.com because I try to base the names on the personalities or the purpose my characters serve like the name Kendra means water witch according to some sites so I'd use it as a name for a mermaid, or a character who really loved to swim or dances in the rain. William means warrior, so I'd name a fighter either William, Bill, or Liam. For last names I try to choose something that either fits by meaning or just sounds good. In one novel I'm currently writing my main character is named Mina Crowe; Mina is another name that means warrior or fighter and Crowe refers to crow the bird. Mina may like the color black but she's an artist and I don't plan on making her a goth so I chose Crowe because I think it sounds nice with Mina.
     
  13. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I ask my characters what their names are, and they tell me.
     
  14. Keiti Ryoko
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    Keiti Ryoko Member

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    Joanna, I agree. Sometimes I find myself trying to create a character, until I remember that it is the main character's story, and I can't put in a technically random stranger. It would be like writing an autobiography and throwing in an imaginary friend to spice things up.
    To answer your question, PhilipJLeae, I don't know more names than you. In fact, I probably know less. Google "_____ names", and fill in the blank with Irish or Old English, or maybe D+D if you aren't trying to be too specific. If you're writing a story with an older setting, then researching the name more sounds like the best idea. Honestly I always get it wrong when I try to name my characters (a few of them are glaring at me right now), so if I were you I would use _______ as a space filler for their name, or if you have this problem with two or more characters put Male 1 etc.
    Then again, I'm not you, and maybe you are able to create characters completely your own that you have control of. If you can do that, Google is your best bet for names.
     
  15. Tdennis625
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    Tdennis625 New Member

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    I also think that choosing the first name that appeals to you is not really a bad thing. especially in the early stages of writing. Nothing is perfect on the firs try and I think maybe its a good thing to just pick and develop the story and plot first! just start writing! Setting is REALLY important in the later stages and you can always change the name of the character to make it more believable. Setting is a really good point though, unless there is some reason your character has a 21st century English name in 17 century Brazil that would make no sense XD.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've never had much trouble coming up with a name... when stuck, i'd just open a phone book...
     
  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Naming characters is the "hardest" thing in writing for you? How odd. One would've thought making believable characters, an interesting plot that also builds itself up smoothly and quickly, and in general the persistence to actually edit the damn thing, would all trump "naming" any day. Well, count yourself lucky, if naming really is the "hardest" thing in writing for you lol.

    And no, there's no trick to it. Just keep changing the names til it fits - that's pretty much what I did.

    MC went from: Heinrich >> Josh >> Thomas >> Will

    And that's just my MC. My entire cast of characters all changed their names at least once, if not a few times.

    The most important thing is that the name appeals to you and resonates with how you think it fits the character. Nothing else matters - the meaning in the name only matters if it's somehow integral to the plot, or if you wanted to drop in a few "Easter eggs" for the reader, but it's not essential.
     
  18. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I have a baby name book and i use it for my the names for my characters in my writing projects.
     
  19. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I've had several characters in my current project change names multiple times.

    Some of them are deliberate nods to ancient mythology, others to fables and folktales while the main character has been cycled through decidedly mundane monikers.

    That might sound disjointed, but it works. I hope.
     
  20. SGTGerman
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    SGTGerman Member

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    I think the most powerful is actually believing the character really does exist. That you can see him in your imagination to perfect detail. At the end of the day if you don't believe in him them how on Earth will the reader?
     

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