How do you choose names?

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jack Asher, May 12, 2014.

  1. Drmr

    Drmr New Member

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    I'll actively think of names that sound good for that specific character. If nothing comes to mind I'll Google a bunch of names, common or rare. I might alter a name to look "pretty" to the eyes but I don't take too much creative liberty when the story is set in the real world.

    For fantasy, though, I go crazy. Sometimes a name will just pop into my head that sounds good to me and I'll immediately write it down on a list where I've got a bunch of fantasy names that could pass for real names. It's very fun, imo.
     
  2. Dakota14breyer

    Dakota14breyer New Member

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    Most of the time I just think of a few words or ideas that describe the character, and then I search up those ideas and words in different languages. Then I change them to sound like a name. For example, one of my characters dies in the first few scenes, and so her word was death. I found that yunke-lo means death and yumni means whirlwind in the Lakota language. So I morphed them together into Yumirtira. Sometimes I can just take the root word and make that the name. (I think Aloe would be a pretty name). That or I'll spell out a name in a different way (ex: Veronyka).
     
  3. Atrophied_Silence

    Atrophied_Silence Member

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    It is so interesting for me to read and see how other writers play the game: Name the Protagonist. I think its important to let the characters name flow naturally and compliment their personality to a degree. On the other hand, a name that contradicts the personality would also be really interesting too. How many people here have started a story and by the end of it changed their main characters name 2 or 3 times? lol
     
  4. replicant

    replicant New Member

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    I love using this list (or the equiv. for boys), because it's a fairly basic list of your standard, everyday names, and I like to keep in check that I'm not veering into dangerously special cookie names when the MS calls for realistic, run of the mill humans. Sometimes I'll start with the ethnicity of the character, family history, where their descendants are from etc., though this is more to do with the last name than the first name, as first names can be pretty arbitrary.
     
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  5. NoItsBecky

    NoItsBecky Member

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    I tend to just use names I like.
     
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  6. Skibbs

    Skibbs Member

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    It's rather a long method, but I like to pick out names that I like from books (baby names will do), then I place them into a random name picker, then let the website do the work. If not, just roll a dice for it.
     
  7. HappyPandaGamer

    HappyPandaGamer New Member

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    I like using names that have some sort of meaning to them. My main character is named Tybalt, and like the character from Romeo and Juliet he has a temper. :)
     
  8. Jason Govender

    Jason Govender Member

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    I just randomly pick a first letter that would fit with the character and then find syllables to mash into it. If I'm really struggling then I'll just go on the internet to find some good names.
     
  9. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Member

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    Since I'm writing fantasy, I usually make up my names. Sometimes I'll take a Latin word that highlights an aspect of the character's personality and alter it a bit to sound more like a name.
     
  10. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    I needed a typical Russian name, and easily found a similar list via Google. What Baby Name lists don’t have is a selection of cultural parameters. They are made for the place and time of that publisher’s audience. So, what would a 6th grade class look like (in terms of student's names) in New Mexico in the year 1960, for example? Or Quebec present-day? I watch “Murdoch Mysteries” and the star’s name is singular in my experience, but according to Wikipedia is a common name, where he comes from.
     
  11. Hwaigon

    Hwaigon Member Reviewer

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    A good thing, when writing a fantasy, is to dig into history of a nation, whatever nation, which provides you with a plethora
    of names you wouldn't come up with. You change the name a bit and, viola, you've got a cool sounding, original name.
     
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  12. replicant

    replicant New Member

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    Yeah, geography-specific names are a bit more tricky. Double the work if the setting is in the past. Luckily, if your character is American, Social Security has a handy little tool here, where you can search popular names by state and year, so you can see for example the top 100 names that were popular in Arizona in 1978. It paints a decent rough picture of the kind of names that were in circulation around then.

    As for far off and foreign-t0-me places, I do a lot of haphazard research, and even then, when I've picked a name, I'll go on facebook and look up people with that name, just to certify that it is A Real Name That People Actually Have. Once I'm satisfied there is an actual person out there from that place, with that name, I feel more confident in applying it to my character.
     
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  13. graveleye

    graveleye New Member

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    I just surpassed 110,000 words and it has occurred to me that my MC does not have a last name. He's a 1st person character and his friends just call him by his first name so I never even thought about it.

    Now I am in a place where his girlfriend is talking to his estranged father, and I feel like she needs to call him Mr. ________. It seems a little weird to me to reveal his last name at the end of the story, even though it seems such a small detail. I'm not really sure how I am going to handle it.
     
  14. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I tend to get names by thinking about some people I think would be similar to the character I'm trying to write, then taking parts of those.

    I have a recurring scientist name Carl Rubin. Carl Sagan is one of the most famous astronomers ever and Vera Rubin was instrumental in the discovery of dark matter.
     
  15. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I finished my entire novel before realizing one of the MCs didn't have a last name :rolleyes: But it's a low fantasy, pseudo-medieval type thing, so it made sense for his last name to be his parents' job: Shepherd. Lucked out on that one.

    Maybe one of your guy's friends could call him by his last name? One of my friends calls another by his last name because when they were in college together, they knew someone else with the same first name. No one else does it, but I've never really thought of it as strange. A similar backstory could work for you without being intrusive.
     
  16. graveleye

    graveleye New Member

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    The funny part to me is I never really thought about it. In my own mind, I know I have a last name of course, but I think of myself by my first name, so it sort of naturally went that way in my writing.

    I went way back to the beginning of the book and found a brief moment where he introduced himself to someone by his first name only, so I can probably work in the last name without making it too stiff sounding.
     
  17. Primordial Knight

    Primordial Knight New Member

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    I always suck at Naming, since I rarely if ever can find the names I want. Though it depends on what I'm naming, A God, a Religion, A Race, those are all easy. Gods usually I just research a few of them that of the same kind, Like a Lightning God, I would look up Zeus, and a few other Religions Gods, Learning about the names and other such things that many have in common. For a Religion, I usually name them something similar to what the original religion I researched. Either mismatched words, with a few extra letters here and there. And races are simple.
    However, Towns, Continents, and the names of normal people. I'm far more inferior at coming up with. Depending on the flavor of sound I want for the names, I'll look up different meanings in different languages, and ect. And maybe pick one for that. I can think of a full character and backstory often before I can even come up with their name.
     
  18. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    He could cut her off after “Mr.—” and say, “No, call me Pops.” or something like that.
     
  19. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    I think normal people should have normal names. Anyone you meet in some role in life is essentially arbitrarily named.
     
  20. Todd

    Todd New Member

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    Have you ever compared yourself to someone who shared your first name? Arbitrary or not, the name we were given at birth has an affect on an individual's self concept. If you search online you can find articles that can better clarify this argument. In short, "A good name is a thread tied about the finger, to make us mindful of the errand we came into the world to do for our Master"
    William Jenkyn (1613-1685)
     
  21. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock New Member

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    I've been planning a novel based in 19th century Kansas, so I dug out the Annals of Kansas on Google Books and pulled some names down from those who served in political positions, as well as Civil War soldiers. For female names, I raided Kansas death records of the 1880s.
     
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