How do you choose names?

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

  1. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Senior Member

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    That depends. If I am creating a race I will try finding strange names. If I am using people exotic or rare names.
     
  2. The Italian Viking

    The Italian Viking New Member

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    I see your point and I have both a German character and a Nigerian character where I take that approach. I also take the names from people I know. Like the name of my sniper in my first novel is actually my landlady. So clearly there are many methods to choose from but at the end of the day it comes down to the storyline and my ability hopefully to convey that story in a convincing and interesting manner.Thanks for the advice , and best of luck with your writing.
     
  3. Ectro

    Ectro New Member

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    Mine is traditionally a 2 step process.
    1st: After having established the character background, i will find what culture the background represents (so if my character is similar to an Irishman; i will look for irish names)
    2nd: After finding names i like, i will see which names could have relevant implications in the story. Let's say for example my character is small and evil, i might name him Ciaran, which means "little dark".
    Additionally: If im looking for a name with no real existing cultural influence behind it, i will use medical and scientific terms to name my characters. I usually reserve this for religious or deific characters.
     
  4. Pandaking908

    Pandaking908 Member

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    There is this really awesome book called Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto. That's helped me come up with a couple names. Also, I like using google translate and baby names. I'm usually not a fan of fantasy name generator.
     
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  5. Hackworksubleis

    Hackworksubleis New Member

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    When it's for short stories, I just write the character first, imagine them, and then a name eventually pops up in my mind.

    Or it's the other way around: I know the character's name, usually something significant, and I just go with the flow.
     
  6. Sian Davis

    Sian Davis New Member

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    Mine is a little long winded but I imagine a person, then I type in a description of that person into google... eg , young woman long blonde hair... press images and find one that matches my idea of that character... then I look at this picture for a while until a name pops into my head
     
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  7. Hackworksubleis

    Hackworksubleis New Member

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    I forgot to add that I also have a page in my writing notebook designated specifically for that: when I see a name a like, or think about a name I like, I write it down and use that list whenever needed. For me, names aren't that important unless they are tied directly to the character.
     
  8. Markus12

    Markus12 New Member

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    Interesting question by the way! Everyone uses their own ways what name to choose but if you ask me I will say that I really don't care about it. When I do pre-plotting names pops into my head on their own.
     
  9. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

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    Most of the time I figure out what 'flavor' the name needs to be (which Asian country, which European country, which other fantasy race) and find a generator on fantasynamegenerators.com , or I take a normal English name and 'exoticify' it. Nathan becomes Natham. David becomes Davik. Eric becomes Airic.
    Sometimes I straight lift names I like the sound of from people I met. I once knew a Burmese girl named Nirali, and I've named a series of ships after her. She will...probably never know, as the chances that she stumbles across a book that I wrote and connects my name to someone she worked with briefly years earlier are quite slim indeed, but I know.
    I always know.
     
  10. Cephus

    Cephus Active Member

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    What's hard is when you don't realize you're doing it. In my current WIP, the name I came up with for my main character is almost identical to the protagonist in a movie. It didn't even occur to me that I'd lifted it. It wasn't until I was talking to a friend about the story and he brought up the movie and I honestly had no clue until he said something, then it was obvious what I'd done. Imagine if I had gone to press without realizing it?
     
  11. lactiferousducKs

    lactiferousducKs Banned

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    from reading biographies
     
  12. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

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    My plan is to go through my book, name by name and fake word by fake word, and google everything I've 'made up'. Several things I've done are very similar to real words, occasionally intentionally; for example, my mages who teleport are called Bevegen--from the German bewegen, 'to move'. Or at least, that's what the friend who was helping me at the time told me it meant.
    I plan to ensure that no one has used the names I plan to use before, and the words I've made up aren't accidentally curse words in Persian or something. I'd hate to go around with a novel where one of the main characters is called 'Shaddri' occasionally, but it means 'camel dung' in Swahili. One of my characters has already had to go through a name change for copyright reasons. There's a brand of cookwear called Simply Calphalon, and I liked that name so much I named a guy that in the fanfiction this novel takes inspiration from. When I started to write a real novel, I didn't want to get to publishing and be informed that it was a copyright violation, or a trademark violation, or something.
     
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  13. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    This a link to a resource that I posted:
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/lexilogos-online-dictionaries.160665/

    Lexilogos is a comprehensive set of resources
    for the study of the languages of the world


    This is literally a one stop dictionary resource.
     
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  14. Scrap

    Scrap New Member

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    I name characters after real people, living and dead. Or after places, such as cities. I do this because I am bad at coming up with names myself, but also because I don't want to come up with any names that don't sound real.

    Occasionally, I'll name a character with words in a foreign language. Always nice to give readers a Bilingual Bonus.
     
  15. J. J. Wilding

    J. J. Wilding Member

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    I pull from a wide variety of influences, from foreign tennis players with interesting first names, to using a fantasy name generator available online, to browsing for real African names and then altering the spelling slightly and often times using the names of video game characters with minor changes also. Others are named in honour of my biggest influences, such as the musician Ihsahn being a powerful mage in my book, to a particularly nasty character named Shirow, in honour of Masamune Shirow, author of Ghost in the Shell. I often give each character a dozen or so names before the right one comes along though, very rarely do I nail it first time. Out of all my characters, I would say only three have never had their names changed.
     
  16. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    did anyone mention 20000-NAMES.com?
    When I don't make up a name (or get stumped on what to call a character), I browse through names on here. Sometimes I'll just browse through them just for fun when I have writers block and try to come up with characters or stories to go with the names
     
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  17. Taku

    Taku Member

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    For me names is important to give a glimpse view about a character.
    I try to give name a character by its trait and race.
    I do make up some names to sound funny and catchy, and Google is best refereal nyahaha
    Though for non important character I make it simple and general.
     
  18. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    I generally take something about the character, be it their personality or an ability or something, and find a name that relates to that, usually the last name, and then fill in the blanks with a normal name that is spelled different or a play on words
     
  19. Laughing Rabbit

    Laughing Rabbit Member

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    This thread has been very helpful, lots of great tips and suggestions, thank you!

    I made a mistake with my main villain. I had been using placeholder names for my characters and replacing them with 'proper' names once a better name for them popped into my head which seemed to fit the character. Unfortunately my placeholder name for my alien, power crazed, psycho, slave-holding, human experimenting villain was.... Mike. And now I can't unsee this maniac as anything else. It doesn't fit and it's nonsensical, but I want to keep it! So I'm working around it by having my MC's who explains who this villain is to the others call him Mike so he doesn't have to say the real name due to the MC being absolutely terrified of him to the point of panic attacks -- which has already been established. It might work, I'll see how it pans out.
     
  20. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Sometimes I look up the meaning of names to match a person's personality in the story.

    For instance, "David" means beloved, and it matched my character perfectly in a story.
     
  21. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    Maybe your alien's name has a syllable that sounds like "Mike", but it's so absurdly convoluted or unpronounceable that Mike is all anyone can say with a straight face
     
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  22. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I do advise that you develop a system of name creation. Right now, in my WIP, I've created along the lines of 60 or so names. Having a system in place to quickly give the Stable Master or Inn Keeper a name has saved a lot of hair pulling.
    Also, I have a glossary of characters. So, if I have to remember a name, I don't have to read back through the entire book.
     
  23. Asher Janos Hawthorne

    Asher Janos Hawthorne Member

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    Behind the name mostly. for some reason certain names just seem to go well with certain characters.
     
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  24. Stephen Barnard

    Stephen Barnard Member

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    Sometimes, it ends up being just the tried and tested method of just turning away from the keyboard, swirling my finger over it, and letting it drop. Then come up with a name with that letter that might fit the character. Let's say he's a creepy, eavesdropping postman. Here goes... S... Stanley. J... Jankowicz. He's now my postie: Stanley Jankowicz. (Confession: the first S name was Simon, and then when I thought Jankowicz I wanted another 'a' vowel sound in the first name, hence Stanley.) Then I Google it just to check it's not someone mega-famous I just don't know about!
     
  25. ThyRivalPoet

    ThyRivalPoet Member

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    Hey! The way that I choose names depends on the kind of person I'm naming. I try to avoid having too symbolic names or ones that sound too made up. Usually I look at people I know and baby name websites to decide. It takes me a bit, but I find what I'm looking for in the end. Sometimes, you'll have to work with a character to fit a name and other times, a names will just come to you and fit like a glove. My current MC's name is Basil Hozwin. The name Basil is just a pretty old English name that was perfect for him and Hozwin just came to me. Hope this helps!
     

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