1. Rick n Morty
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    Rick n Morty Active Member

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    Prehistoric names

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rick n Morty, Mar 3, 2016.

    Not sure if this goes in the character or setting development subforum, but anyways...

    I have an extreme love for prehistoric life (not just dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles, but also the creatures from the Paleozoic and Cenozoic), and so some of my story ideas are set in prehistoric times.

    The names of the characters are really tough to come up with though, since they have to have a timeless feel to them. One of my problems with Ice Age, for instance, is the fact that names like Manny, Sid, and Diego don't fit a setting from before those names were invented.

    Hell, I feel like even older, historic-sounding names like Isaac sound out of place. Anyone got any tips for naming prehistoric characters?
     
  2. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It's going to be controlled by your setting and time period. If your characters have a complex language and are part of a society then they will obviously be called whatever is normal in that culture. I know that's not all that helpful if you are writing in a civilization that has no documentation whatsoever but you can project back from similar civilizations that existed later. If you are in the middle East then work back from Akkad and Babylon for example. In this case what you are looking for is just to find names that sound linguistically similar to the places and gods and everything else.

    On the other hand if you are looking into a genuinely pre-civilization group of characters without a fully developed system of language; say a tribe of hunter gatherers; then it's kinda up to you if characters even have actual names at all. In small groups you sort of don't need names, everyone knows the hierarchy and can recognize each other so what does a name do? It's only when humans started to live in groups bigger than they could remember all the faces of that they really needed names. For the sake of the text you might just use very functional, descriptive names; Blonde, Black, Chief, Hunter. These things will take on characterization as you go so don't worry about that when you start.
     
  3. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Depends on your goals, but you would want names if you have a clan or anything. To call attention to a particular person, to refer to them in their absence, to identify, inspire... names are powerful. Namesakes, attributes, and identifying markers are all important concepts to consider if you want to have strong names. It might be easier to explain them as occupations (as mentioned by LostThePlot) like Archer or Cook, but you might not want a semi-recognizable English-sounding name when there is no "English" yet. That's where it gets fun.

    Since I have a working con-lang - the names are an integral part in defining certain aspects. Names in this case are chosen for idealism, nature and beauty. The society is a bit odd, but the names help define what is important to its members. In my case, the "way of names" allows readers to assemble the vast web of connections between characters and gives much more than a point of reference and shows their station. A warrior might have a beautiful name that really refers to the transience of life in reference to the red petals and speaks of their aspiration to die beautifully in battle so that they may inspire the next generation. (Second daughters traditionally carry such names.) While a child of peace will be given a name of domestic strength - an eternal reminder of the station ordered by their life-giving mothers. It is pact from which they are to be bound by and sets an expectation they are to live up to. Though only in rare cases do I actually give a full explanation of the names, but the reader has enough names to know the patterns and pre-identify them by name alone.
     
  4. Hypatios
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    Hypatios New Member

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    Recently I've been reading a collection of stories called "Early in Orcadia" which describes what the lives of the people of the Orkney islands might have been like several thousands of years ago. In this collection, people's names are literal and they refer to aspects of their personalities. So characters will be called things like Good-Catch, or Fisher, or Fine-Fingers (I can't remember any actual examples from the book).

    If I were writing a story set in prehistoric times I'd either choose words that reflect the character's personality (having created the characters beforehand of course) or I'd think about the sort of things that would be significant to the people you're talking about. Prehistoric people might name their children after powerful animals, forces of nature, or anything else that meant something to them.

    Ultimately, it's all guesswork, so nothing you can do is wrong, but I'd definitely advise against using any kind of modern name. This needs to feel out of place, out of time. Having characters called Isaac or David or whatever might spoil things.
     
  5. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    What I usually do is I research the language that was spoken at the time in that particular area, and I just manipulate one of the words until it sounds like a name.

    One of my stories takes place in the era of the Aztec reign. I googled their languages (they had several), picked some words that I liked, switched a letter or two and bam! Something unique and that sounds like it would be from that time :)
     

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