1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Everyone has the wrong name.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by deadrats, Dec 3, 2019.

    So, novel done. First draft, anyway. But I'm realizing that I don't like my characters' names. Like none of them. They all seem to have the wrong names. Is it crazy to change everyone's name? Will this have an effect on the story? I feel like it could... if I could just figure out the right names. Anyone else ever feel this way after completing a story? Did you decide to change names? How much thought did you give names before or after finishing? I might be overthinking things, but the character names are throwing me off a bit as I go through the story.
     
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  2. Madman

    Madman Active Member

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    Names are a tricky thing.
    I usually figure out who my characters are before I give them a name. I give it a bit of thought. They sometimes must have some sort of meaning or correlation to our world (I'm writing sci-fi set in another universe). Perhaps a bit of symbolism in the mix. I sometimes "daemonise" christian names John > Jorhnikaus, Peter > Peeterix, et cetera.

    If it's an important character I try to give them a heavy name with lots of middle names and throw a bit of symbolism all over the place.

    All that said, I'm still struggling with giving my main protagonist a suitable surname. If my struggles continue I might as well give up on the notion and have him take his sister's name as a second name later on.

    Changing your characters names when the story is written is a bit like changing their soul to me, but that's just because I'm used to my process. If change is necessary, then it is, and I don't think it would be crazy to change their names. Names are just names after all, and if your character is well defined otherwise, I'm sure they won't mind a name change.
     
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  3. Aceldama

    Aceldama Active Member

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    I name my characters willy nilly honestly. Usually just the first name that comes to mind. I feel its the story that makes the name memorable. My main character however is a bit different. But not by much. I named him aftet an alias I made for myself when I was a teenager. Vincent Kaede. The surname I literally pulled out of thin air. It wasnt until just recently that I discovered that Kaede actually is a real name. Its Japanese and it means maple, like a maple tree. Since my story takes place in America and Vincent is caucasian, I'm probably going to end up changing the last name during revision.

    I really don't see how a name would affect the story unless the name is part of the story. I see no reason why they can't be interchanged seamlessly.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  4. Rockatansky

    Rockatansky Banned

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    A little bit of this plus controlled randomness and if I need a little inspirations, I look up baby names from said culture or region similar to where my story takes place

    In some cases I adjust name I like to fit in better, IE swap out vowels with other valves such as I and Y
     
  5. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    I rarely put thought into my names, it's always just what I think sounds best. 95% of the time I don't have the symbolism in my names. Only on rare occasions, and even then it's mostly just accidental. I'll look back and realize that the name holds a bit of a symbol, but hardly ever do it intentionally, if I ever even do it.
     
  6. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm either symbolism-crazy or completely thin-air, but I did have a problem once when I named a character after an old coworker based on a physical similarity only to find out that there was someone with an almost identical name who was a big name in the field that my MC worked in. Had to change that one, but it still reads wrong to me.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I kind of have the opposite problem. I think up names out of thin air, figuring I can change them later on ...and pretty soon they're firmly stuck to the character. Ditto 'working titles' of a novel. Pretty soon, my working title is the only title I can think of!
     
  8. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Active Member

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    Ugh, I know what you mean. I renamed three of my major characters in the second draft. Hell, I renamed one of the Empires. I was trying to balance names that are unique- not too common but not outlandish, well still being relevant to the character and their personalities. For example one character is leading a rebellion. She is of French heritage so her surname and middle name tie her to a resistance leader during ww2 who worked against the Nazis. Another was named for a demonic creature from Lithuanian folklore as it describes the characters personality and was appropriate for the region he is from. For the empire, I ended up going into Slavic mythology and using a reference that was appropriate for a militaristic empire based in Europe and Asia.

    I like these new names more than the old, they seem to flow for naturally but are still interesting.

    For several of the characters I had a list of potential names that I used until I decided on one.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Thinking... Supporter Contributor

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    You might be overthinking it, but if the names don't fit then you
    have a legitimate reason to change them. It is at your discretion.

    I have never changed a character's name after finishing the story.
    Granted I make up many of their names due to them not being
    human by default. Though it did take a bit for my recent WIP
    with Prionya, had to find a spelling not recognised bt any known
    language.

    Granted on the other side of the aisle, you can't have every character
    named Steve/Bob/Samantha/Mary, otherwise it would be far too
    generic.
    I trust you have found more fitting names for yours?
     
  10. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Member

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    The names come first for me, and then I develop the characters. So far, the only one I've changed was because my partner at the time had the same name as one of the villains in the story and I got creeped out every time I typed his name. I'm no longer with that person, so I could potentially go back to using it, but I like what I changed it to.

    I'm going to say it's probably going to feel impossible to decide, but if you trust what you're feeling about it all now, maybe use the current ones as placeholders till you figure it all out.

    Sorry if someone said this already. I skimmed and I'm not very good at that.
     
  11. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    The answer to this question is really based on opinions. I don't feel like I need to like the name I give my characters, it's not like naming a child. The name needs to make sense to the situation and the setting. What would the parents have named their child? What were the most popular names during the period my books is set in? Or maybe race needs to be considered. Beta read for someone who was writing a book about elves, with no humans. Yet her main character was called "Hannah". Love that name but it's a human name. No humans had ever existed on that planet. See my point?

    The names come last for me because I feel they aren't that important. Because really I'm not naming the character, that characters parents would have. So I think to think about who they were. Where they family orientated? If so maybe their is a traditional family name or pattern? Maybe one was into classical music or liked a song. Or into literature so maybe a popular literary character. Parents usually put a LOT of thought into choosing the perfect name for their child. I like my characters to do the same (I know technically it's me doing it) but I like to look through their eyes. I wanted to call my character Holly. But after developing the mother I realized she would have likely called her daughter "Ivy" after her beloved sister.
     
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  12. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Sure, go ahead and change 'em. Just be careful when you use the find-and-replace feature in your word processor. If you don't, you may be changing more than the names. "Tom" becomes "Will" ... fine ... but "tomato" becomes "willato." You see the problem.
     
  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There was a story from the late 80s/early 90s, when the term "black" was being replaced by "African-American." A newspaper used find and replace and ended up stating that "After a rough quarter, [company X] is back in the African-American."
     
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  14. TScream

    TScream New Member

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    I've changed the name of all but 2 of my characters (including the pet), and I'm still on my first draft. I initially chose names I liked but as the plot and characters developed I realized the names didn't fit. My main character received a complete (first and last) name change, but I think I have found a name that fits her personality. I know some can just choose a name, but for me, it has to fit the person and if the name doesn't sound right to you then I would say change it.
     
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  15. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

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    I usually find the character and then the name has to fit the character. I rarely change it.
     
  16. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's why I always choose names that I can find and replace easily lol - at least until I've decided I've definitely settled on it for real. My main character is Will - I've settled on the name so it's a safe choice, because his name isn't changing. But that would be an awful name to "find and replace" :supergrin:

    Anyway to the OP - change the names as many times as you need, in my opinion. Yes the story could change as the names change, but in your case I'm guessing you wouldn't settle on the name unless it actually fit the story anyway. And if the story changes, maybe it was meant to change in the first place.

    My main character Will was initially Heinrich and then Josh before he was Will. When his name was Josh, he was the most hateful character imaginable. He was also Heinrich Bakewell for a time lol. Awful, I know. Will is a much different man.

    And in two cases where the names didn't change, the essence of the character changed instead. Norlina turned from an elf-child-like creature to a majestic dryad. Luniah turned from vengeful human spirit to another grieving, outcast dryad.

    Basically, I think names - at least for characters - are pretty important. Place-names I couldn't care less about lol.
     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm still unsure what to do and I have days to submit sample pages for a fellowship-type thingy. Thanks to everyone who weighed in on this. I'm just freaking out because I have to make a decision and I'm nervous about how rough my sample pages are going to be. And I want the names to be right. My application is coming with a very high and prestigious recommendation. I'll hate myself if I don't send this in soon.
     
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  18. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    I say do what you feel is best until deadlines tell you otherwise, but I really don't think it's crazy to change names at the last minute. I can't think of any specific examples off the cuff, but I'm pretty sure I've heard of people doing this after getting feedback from publishers, and you really can't get much later than that in a book's work cycle.
     
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  19. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My experience has been similar to @jannert's. Once those 'temporary' names get in your head, it's hard to change them. I tried once because my critique group kept complaining about one of the names. I changed it and they all wanted it changed back.

    But I have a lot of minor characters and I'm toying with changing all those using a star theme to chose the names from. It makes sense to me a colony in space might start using stars as a theme for their kids' name. That would be for one group on the planet. The other larger group would not have star themed names. They're more diverse.

    Whatever you decide, if the readers haven't seen the work yet, they won't be affected much by the change. But if you do it later they might react.
     
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  20. Bowie_the_Birb

    Bowie_the_Birb Member

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    I usually try to keep my character names sort of "generic." Also when choosing a name I often have an idea of what the name should sound like, and list names I can think of that fit said idea. When in doubt, one can always use names that have personal significance.
    Some normal(ish)-sounding names for my protagonists are Alex, Rose, and Rodney, and in another story some names are Will, George, Rudi, and Maxine, just to name a few names.
    As for last names, I personally see no limitations! D'Anver, a last name I used, is based on the Barbu D'Anver chicken breed!
     
  21. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    This puts ime in mind of a certain AD&D rulebook, which had references throughout to "dawizard". That confused the hell out of me until I figured out someone had found and replaced "mage" with "wizard" and the word was supposed to be "damage". :D :D
     
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  22. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Not sure I would have ever worked that out on my own :D I thought dawizard was some hippie way of writing the wizard :D
     
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  23. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I change names all the time, and will continue to do so. There's one character who's name has changed at least 3 times and I'm about to change it again. I find it has no impact to the character, their 'soul' as such, or anything else. The only thing to be wary of are nicknames and references not found by 'replace all'.
     
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  24. CariF

    CariF New Member

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    I agree with this ... i have a family map and start thinking about the family history by first thinking where they come from and the background
    for example currently the one i'm working on the history is 2 very different family backgrounds one very english and the other very italian but have joined in marriage by a change of fate so the off springs (who are the main characters) have names that represent a mix of these 2 different backgrounds. also i look at building the characters up first and looking for names that symbolises who they are.

    maybe look at who the characters are and try imagine what they parents would have called them a way i do this is before actually writing the story i try different mini scenes with the characters names and try out different names i've liked to see how it flows as well till it just clicks into place
     
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