1. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Should you name a character straight away?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by La_Donna, Jan 14, 2013.

    I have several ideas for stories that are in different stages of development, but I've discovered something about myself when I write.

    Before I put pen to paper I know my protagonist's name and her name often helps me develop their character. I also come up with antagonists names quickly - I find myself using unusual combinations normally similar to "Stamford Raffles" (who I think is the best named historical figure of all time), or I end up using alliteration.

    For love interests, side characters etc I am never satisfied with my name choices, possibly because you often know so little about their character that you can't give them a name that would be suitable. This often means I end up with "So-and-So" or "what's his name" in my early ideas because I can't name them.

    Do you think I should be naming characters quicker than this? Do you always know your characters names? Because it often slows down my writing!
     
  2. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    I don't always know what my characters are going to be named, and sometimes the name doesn't come to me until after I've completed the story and gone back in for the rewritting. So I wouldn't worry about "when" you should name your characters, so long as you find a name for them.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Name the character whatever you want, whenever you want. If you don't feel your character's name is the right one, choose a name that is easy to change later by a search-and-replace.
     
  4. popsprocket
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    popsprocket Member

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    I generally don't name main characters until I've written a bit about them. Not necessarily in the form of actual prose, but at least enough random ideas to know what they're like. Until then I often label them as [hero] or [rival]. It can get messy but it works better for me.
     
  5. TheSilverBeetle
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    TheSilverBeetle Member

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    Well said. This is exactly what I do. Characters always evolve.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't do the search-and-replace thing on names. I need the name of the character when I start writing. The name is very important to me - it's very important to the character. As I've said before, Elmer is a different guy from John. Mary is different from Olga. How can you assume that you can just change names without changing characters? To me, if you're asking that question, you don't properly understand your character. If I do a global search-and-replace to change Heinrich to Skeeter, all it means is that I don't understand the character to begin with.
     
  7. Em_Anders
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    Em_Anders Member

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    For the most part I am the same with naming my main characters and supporting characters. There have only been two times I'd begun a story and could not decide on a story-appropriate name. In those instances instead of using a place holder name, I wrote "Jane's oldest son" and "Martha's youngest daughter" which at the time helped me continue writing the basic story line out, but when I went back to add the meat and potatoes, the familial affiliations got confusing and I ended up completely rewriting the story a week later.

    So for the sake of this thread's topic, I say use a name, even if it's a place holder, like Bob1 and Bob2 for those as-yet unnamed male characters and Amy1 and Amy2 for the females until you've decided what their personality needs to be to fit the story. Once you've established their specific role, I think it'll become easier assigning their names. Just don't do what I did and use other character references in place of their names. it was such a terrible idea on my part to do that. Disastrous.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is another one of those "should" questions for which there is no right answer, only individual preferences. I usually like to know the name of my characters, but I also have been known to do the search-and-replace because I wasn't really happy with my first choice. Sometimes the character evolves so that the original name just doesn't fit right; other times the traits I connect with a particular name influence how the character grows. Nothing's set in stone.

    If you're really not sure about a name, choose a unique place holder - like "XYZ" or "Herbaceous" - something that you absolutely would not find anywhere in your story except as that place holder. Makes life a whole lot simpler...
     
  9. Cannoli
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    Cannoli Member

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    I think it depends on what you want. For example, I work with Word, to change a name in a story is too easy (in case no one else is named the same). I knew right of the bat (that is an expression, right?) how I wanted to call the main characters. Still I made changes, mostly to surnames, but also change a girl into a boy, for example. With the right approach, names can be even changed after you've finished your project.

    Also, the tip Shadowwalker (above me) gives is pretty useful. That is something I will take with me myself, thank you for that!
     
  10. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I name the characters in my writing projects before i write i find its easier for me to that then once the character is named i can write the story or book.
     
  11. neuropsychopharm
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    neuropsychopharm Active Member

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    I struggle with this, sometimes. I've found I tend to name the supporting characters before the protagonist. Heh, when I was much younger I used to flip through baby name books for inspiration, which others may find lame.
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not at all. I use baby books, phone books, spam emails - one never knows where just the right name will pop up.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And Straight Away is a very odd name.
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find this thread very interesting, because I don't put a ton of thought into my character's names. However, my characters live in a world just like our own, so I have a lot of realism in my story, and my characters have relatively common names. What I find most interesting, though, is that once I've named them, just like real people, they tend to grow into their names, or maybe their names grow on them. Once named, the connotations of the name change to suit the person. So I couldn't do a find and replace, because once I've lived with the characters for however long it takes me to write the story, that's who they are.
     
  15. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I like having good names for my characters before I start writing about them, but I have changed names at times also. Does that mean I didn't understand the character to begin with? Absolutely! So far I've been using a "just write" approach to writing with a minimal amount of up-front planning. I realize others do things differently but this seems to be working for me for now. It's only to be expected that I won't always start with the best name for every character. On the other hand many of my first guess names do seem to stick.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Names do not define a character. A name is merely a label, unless the name is one which brings on trauma or other consequences (Parents, don't name your kid Adolph, unless you want him to suffer greatly.)

    Most names can be changed without affecting the story one whit.
     
  17. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I usually find a central quality of a character I want to have, and then find a name that means that quality in another language - especially if it's the language of their heritage. It helps me keep the character and his/her development straight from the other characters.

    I don't do that with all of them. For instance, I have one character named Locum, because he's only a placeholder boyfriend.
     
  18. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Dup.
     
  19. dudlite
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    dudlite Member

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    I have a bad habit of using the names of people I didn't get on with at school as placeholders for villains :D
     
  20. Cannoli
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    Cannoli Member

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    That was cleverly funny :D.
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why should a character's name define them? For one person, the name Olga could conjure up images of beautiful Russian girls - for me it conjures up the word Ogre and I forever will think of Shrek and ugly things when I hear the name Olga. So does it mean if I read a book with the character called Olga, if the book was written well, that my perception of the name could not change? No, it'll change with the story and writing and the way you depict your character.

    What I'm trying to say is, people have different feelings about the same name - but these feelings change with your writing and the way you develop your character. This then tells me it is not the name that defines the character or how others see the character, but the way you write. Given that, what could be wrong with a global find-and-replace? How could it affect the story or character? It cannot. Sure, it might have an impact on you the writer emotionally - but it wouldn't actually affect the story or the perception of your character one wit.

    And besides, nobody is telling you to name your really moody character "Sunshine" or "Poppy", or something ridiculous. Even with the find-and-replace method, you will go with a name that at least to you feels like the character. It's just sometimes you can't quite come up with the right name at the very beginning.
     
  22. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    ^Some people like to have the character's name define them. I'm a person to likes to pick names that have meaning to what the person is doing, or maybe the exact opposite of what the person is doing. For instance, the name 'Gideon', a powerful hero from the Hebrew (I think) bible. Naming your character 'XXX Gideon' and having him/her do heroic stuff is kind of a throwback to the old character. The character names are for the writer more than for the reader, as the reader may not get the names.
     
  23. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I would say you need to name them, but thinking about the final name for ages before you start can hinder your progress. Th reason I say u need a name is so you can keep track of the characters with little confusion, so on this forum have tried to explain their plot by saying A does this and meets B while C has a curry with D because he not talking X who is secretly in Love with A etc.

    If the story is that important to you, you will go back and change the names if needed.
     
  24. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    A baby name dictionary is a good investment, especially one that lists variations on a name. Just be careful not to be too on-the-nose with your character names. This really only works for J.K. Rowling. She can get away with having a gross old warlock named Uriah Dumpage, or whatever, but nobody else really can.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just don't let a search for the "perfect" name be a means of procrastinating. The hardest story to finish is the one that never gets started.
     

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