How do you choose names?

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

  1. CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX

    CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX Member

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    I have a thick book of baby names from around the world. I'll choose one then change it a little to suit what I think I want from my character. I also keep a written list of names that I come up with that I can use for later. In The Dragonglass Bowl, I used names of my nephews and changed them a little. I have had people ask me to use their names for characters in the book, so with their permission, I did so, all with a twist. Some names have a meaning that ties in with the language of the world. But I have to say that baby name book helps a great deal as it includes names from around the world.
     
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  2. LittleTwistedMe

    LittleTwistedMe Member

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    Stereotypes... Bad ones at that. Have you ever run into anyone who is highly intelligent and named “Brittney?” Doesn't “Gladys,” or “Grace,” sound a bit like an old southern woman? Doesn't the name “Trevor,” sound like it belongs to a jock? Does “Brad,” sound like his bank account is pretty big? How about “Tristan?”

    Seriously, I find a name that sticks to the character. Sure, it's a been over played but I believe familiarity; even something as simple as a name; can relate to a reader. If I do use a more unknown name it's generally simple. For instance, one of my main characters in a fantasy piece is called “Teatah.”

    I usually end up saying a few sentences the character might say or listing off a few actions.

    For example,

    Brittney giggled and then titled her head to the side like a lost puppy. “Wait, um so like why not just totally drink all the water instead of drowning?”

    If it doesn't fit I find another name and try the statement again.

    Side note: Sorry to all of those people I stereotyped.
     
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  3. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Supporter

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    My process is... Strange... I'll give an example of how I go about it:

    "Alright, what's a good first name? Bill? Nah. Harry? Nope. John? John could work. Alright, let's see... John, John, John, John, John, John, John, John, John, John... Smith? Nope, too generic. John Fredrickson? Too much of a mouthful. I give up, I'm gonna take a nap."
     
  4. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    That's how most of my thought processes end.
     
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  5. Cohen

    Cohen Member

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    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.
     
  6. WaffleWhale

    WaffleWhale Active Member

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    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.
     
  7. Nathan Coleman

    Nathan Coleman New Member

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    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.
     
  8. evenflow69

    evenflow69 Member

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    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.
     
  9. Edgelordess

    Edgelordess Member

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    Usually the name comes to me first, then their story, personality, appearance and etc.
     
  10. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    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.
     
  11. wrabel

    wrabel Member

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    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.
     
  12. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

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    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'.
     
  13. Still Organized

    Still Organized New Member

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    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.
     
  14. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    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. :bigoops:
     
  15. CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX

    CAROLINE J. THIBEAUX Member

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    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. :D
     
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  16. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I have a doc titled 'Characters' that is open so that I can reference it as I write. I update it as I work.
     
  17. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I'll definitely do that next time as well. Old dog + New Tricks = Better Result.
     
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  18. Shanks

    Shanks New Member

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    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.
     
  19. TenorHowlerMonkey

    TenorHowlerMonkey New Member

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    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.
     
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  20. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    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).
     
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  21. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    If you want to I could help you choosing an appropriate name. Just send me a message. :)
     
  22. TenorHowlerMonkey

    TenorHowlerMonkey New Member

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    Thanks Esther and Queen.
     
  23. drewelise

    drewelise New Member

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    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).
     
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  24. prettyvisitors

    prettyvisitors New Member

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    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.
     
  25. Ian37

    Ian37 New Member

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    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?
     

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