Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jack Asher, May 12, 2014.
That's how most of my thought processes end.
If it's set in this realm then I just use friends surnames and any ol' first name will do. Bit of a stickler for J's.
If it's a comic, always has to be alliteration.
If it's sci-fi (or fantasy, but I rarely write actual fantasy, just fantastic fantastical ideas) then I actually just hit random keys on my laptop and see what comes out. Then I try and make a real name from it. It's easier. I once tried to name a band, and I would be famous now if I wasn't still thinking of what it should be.
My process is just:
Simon? Yeah that's a cool name. Okay, he's the grim reaper, so last name.... Mortimer? Yeah, cause Mort means death. Okay, next!
Let's name him John White, that's a nice name. Actually it's a bit generic. let's spell Jon without an H. Next!
Emmett's a nice name. Next!
Need a female name this time. Gwen? Nope, that makes me think of spider-man. How about Milly? Sure, that works. I'll think of a last name later.
First names tend to come from people I meet in real life, most of the time at least. Last names are different, but I'm able to be a little more creative with those, so I come up with those on my own.
I like the names to have meainings that convey some of the charectors personality. For instance if the charectors name is Randy he will likely be horny a good percentage of the the time. Amy will be loving etc.
Usually the name comes to me first, then their story, personality, appearance and etc.
I usually can come up with names fairly easily since I think of it as a scrabble game... Sometimes a character will suit the letter J lets say for example, so in my mind I just limit myself to certain letters and scramble it till something rings with perfection. Most times for villains I love names that sound sharp and cold. For main characters I try to make it suit whatever attributes they have, if they're very physically capable I search for more warrior sounding names, and secondary characters I give a more ethereal feel, as if they're floating on the edge of the story.
Music also helps me greatly. I'll listen to certain songs, and a chill will go through me and fill me with inspiration.
I think names are semi-important, for if the character doesn't suit the name they're given it won't stick in the reader's mind as much. Doesn't even have to be a complicated name or out of this world, it could be the name Sam and it means everything.
I usually think and imagine the character for a long time for the main characters, but I look for names that fit the aesthetic I'm going for on name sites (behindthename.com and nameberry.com), online message boards (quora and yahoo) and books of names that I have.
I search by ethnicity, and then by meaning, and then I think it to myself how it sounds then look at it and try to imagine what the name looks like on paper. And of course, take into consideration the family name, the status of the character, and overall whether or not it makes sense for a given character to have a given name.
I do not know of any peasants named Friedrich von Oberheim, Graf von Luzern.
Nor of any nobles named Jimbo the Po'.
I normally try to come up with a vague outline of the character's personality first so the name suits them. Then it depends on the story, e.g. where they're from, what time period, etc.
I don't go out of my way to find names with a 'meaning' that goes along with the character's personality. In my own personal opinion, it's somewhat cheesy and irrelevant unless mandatory for the storyline. But it's only my opinion!
Some useful name sites to check out are https://www.behindthename.com, https://surnames.behindthename.com, and http://nameberry.com. You can also go to Google Images and type in, for example, 'futuristic names' and see the results.
I sometimes carefully construct a name—main and secondary characters—but other times when a new, minor character comes up I just name him or her on the spot. Which CAN prove problematic if I've forgotten what I called them when they crop up again. Yes, this did happen while I was writing my novel. I didn't notice the name change till I was doing my first round of editing.
LOL. Yes, that happened to me. I now keep a glossary so I can go back to see the names of my characters. Learned that the hard way as I was re-writing a scene. I forgot how I spelled a character's name and had to go through the book to find it again.
I have a doc titled 'Characters' that is open so that I can reference it as I write. I update it as I work.
Yes, I'll definitely do that next time as well. Old dog + New Tricks = Better Result.
I like to make the name’s phonetics match the character’s personality. As such, I generally just find any site I can to research names of whatever nationality the character is and choose one that phonetically/etymologically fits them most.
I actually have a question. I am trying to write a story involving a German Officer from WWII and was wondering if I used someone's name already that either exists or existed, would there be a problem? I want the name to be a German name but not step on toes.
It would not. There are so many people who live or have lived in German-speaking countries (before we even think of emigration) that if you pick any name you like, you can pretty much guarantee that someone - several someones - will have had it. There are sites like behindthename.com and surnames.behindthename.com that sort names by culture, so you can just pick from those if you like. The key is not to pick anyone famous. People will laugh if you call your character, for example, Walter Ulbricht (who was the political leader of East Germany for most of its existence).
If you want to I could help you choosing an appropriate name. Just send me a message.
Thanks Esther and Queen.
One of my favorite places to get names is from movie or tv show credits. There is usually a pretty good mashup of different types of names coming from groups of real people from all over (depending on what you’re watching).
I tend to use famous people as a basis of forming what someone's going to look like (e.g, maybe I write about a guy that has a similar face/hair/build to Chris Pratt, so I'd just use the actor as a model in my mind).
However, the trouble with that is that when I try to name the character I associate it too much with a real person and everything sounds wrong. Basically none of my character have a solid name.
Those who are secondary in the story I base on those I've interacted with over the years. It does not have to be a best friend I have. Just someone I have crossed paths with along the way. This may have something to do with the personality. Though it is definitely not necessary. The names of each main character I try to relate with some sort of trait. Something that does not seem too unrealistic while still managing to somehow stand out. It can be somewhat of a challenge. Yet isn't most if not all the best creative writing that way?
So far I have found that I have come across enough names in my everyday life - friends, family, colleagues that I don't need to go to reference books, websites etc but good to know that they are out there if I need them.
I replaced the phone book with google.
I haven't written in over 16 years.
I've also named characters after people.
I link my MC name to a recurrent category, in my case birds. My stories are set in Florence, Italy and my Carabinieri detective is nicknamed Uccello which means bird in Italian. My first novel is called The Falcon. my second novel is called Night Hawk, and my third book is called The Red Phoenix. Uccello has a Spinone Italiano for a pet dog that happens to be a bird dog.I try to get as much mileage out of a name that I can. I try not to waste words or names because my philosophy of writing is that words must serve a purpose.
Separate names with a comma.