How do you choose names?

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

  1. meisenimverbis

    meisenimverbis Member

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    Characters are easier to me than plots. I love to give names and genealogy. But I'm thinking about writing some fables which will have caricature characters and I won't give them families, only professions (and names accordingly). I hope I get to do these fables. But these are exception. Usually my characters have names, family names, nicknames, families, ancestry...
     
  2. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    I do the same as what most suggested here which is search for baby names and meanings in google. Sometimes, especially in fantasy/scifi, I prefer making up names based on sound.
     
  3. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I’d like to say names don’t matter, maybe with the exception being within the fantasy genre, but I once gave up on a sci-fi book (I think it was either Dick or Gibson) whose central character was called Horselover (or something like that) and I couldn’t read it for that reason.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  4. Richach

    Richach Senior Member

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    I dont have an issue making up character names, be they regular or totally unique ones that I invent myself.

    The issue I find, is that as long as the character has something to say and is interesting, then they define the name. Not the other way around.

    So Norbert for example, which is a name that can be scoffed at in the UK. Was redefined in the H. Potter books as a Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon named Norbert. That would have been quite an easy example as it was not a speaking charcter.

    My recomendation is , think of the most regular name possible and redefine it. If the charcater is boring a fancy name is not going to help. The point I am making is the name does not matter its is all about the character.
     
  5. Vellanney

    Vellanney Member

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    For me, I think about my story and my characters first, before choosing the names for the characters. I really love odd and unique names. Some I've made myself, others I've just googled by style or time periods. I've also found that sometimes names can just come to you if you don't think so hard about it. Some character names from my own story include, Warren, Alexander, Sarah, Winter, & Azriel.
     
  6. Phenomellama

    Phenomellama Member

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    Unless it's modern, regular names, I'll just start sounding things out. Usually start with a noun that sounds interesting and play off that. Takes a few minutes, but I've created some decent-sounding names that way.
     
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  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think I'm renaming everyone in my novel. It just feels like they have the wrong names. Am I crazy?
     
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  8. disasterspark

    disasterspark Active Member

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  9. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of my generation Contributor

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    Unless I'm working on a story in which characters' names all have subtle or not so subtle meanings indicative of their roles or personalities, I just start a sentence in my head or on the screen that's going to have their name in it and let whatever happens happen. It's almost a subconscious process. Sometimes this takes several stabs before I end up with something in the range from acceptable to great, but even if it isn't perfect, at least I have something to work with and can move on.

    Sometimes a better name occurs to me further along in the writing process. I use the "find and replace" function in Word, and then the new name was always their name. Sometimes a name I considered mediocre at first grows on me in a such a way that I wouldn't change it unless strongly advised to do so by a publisher, and others are just perfect from the start. Often in creative writing, the back of our brain is a better resource than our thinking, processing, analytical fore brain.

    I have a whole other process for creating fantasy world names. I play with real world names and funny words like "marzipan," twisting them out of order and replacing letters until I have something completely new. I end up with a long word bank of nonsense names. Some sound like people, some like places, some like ancient language I can put into a spell. When I need a new word or name, I refer to the list and see if anything fits and has a sounds in keeping with the other names I've used in that world. If not, I make up some more. I also try to pay attention to regional sounds, if applicable. Just like on Earth, names would be as different as the languages that spawned them, and we can often guess with some degree of accuracy in which part of the world a name originated just by its sound or spelling.

    Lastly, I try to make sure none of the names sound too close to each other. We all have certain sounds that appeal to us that naturally find their way into variations in this process. I call that Tolkien syndrome. (Aragorn, Earendil, Elendil, Elrond, Sauron, Saruman, Eowyn, Arwen, Eomer, Faramir, etc., etc.) It's perfectly realistic for names to have sounds on common, but it can make for a confusing read. This is true with real life manes too. It's difficult to keep main characters strait when their names are Mike and Matt or Hanna, Emma and Anna.
     
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  10. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I renamed a lot of characters (including the main) and places in my novel. When I reached the developmental draft I had figured out how languages work in the world (its a fantasy book), and a lot of the names that came from the 1st draft no longer worked.
     
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  11. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    That was Philip K. Dick. The character is Horselover Fat, because Philip means horse lover and Dick is German for fat. But yes, the name isn't easy to read past.
     
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  12. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Senior Member

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    Only if you need a phone or the internet to answer yourself when you talk to yourself. Or possibly if you keep renaming them the same names and expect different results.
     
  13. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Senior Member

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    Could that be how my monster works? It is deciding what part of it gets worked on next as well as just what gets done. Yes, my laboratory is in control of my monster.
     
  14. LunarMythos

    LunarMythos New Member

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    I find my process can vary from project to project, but in general it goes like this:
    1. Open up a sticky note on my computer (the digital kind).
    2. Try and come up with names off the top of my head and type them into the note, but if I can't settle on any then I'll go to fantasynamegenerators.com and generate names that way. I'll then choose the name that I feel best fits the character based on their age, where they grew up, and nationality/culture of parents.
    3. Go to behindthename.com and learn about any possible background on the chosen name.
    4. The first instance in the story where their name is used, I'll say the sentence in my head and sometimes out loud to make one final mental check that the name sounds okay.
    5. Write, and use the "Find & Replace" function in my word processor to change their name if at a later point I decide on something different for whatever reason.
    So until a story is actually done, I consider character names as very much WIP. And again things can vary, so I don't always follow the above steps word for word. Just the basic foundation of the process I tend to use.
     
  15. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    If it's a modern setting, I pick a name that I think suits the character. Is he a Nigel or a Bruce? A Jack or a Steve?

    In fantasy, I just make them up. But again, I want the name to suit the character. He probably isn't going to be a Glorfindel if he's a 120kg balding, fat thug. Mainly, the name has to sound "right", which can be difficult to describe. It's just a feeling.
     
  16. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Member

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    Names can be hard. I want them to sound cool, but not "trying too hard" cool, you know? Like, it's really easy to come up with a name that's so stereotypically "fantasy" that it's funny, like "Galvazorax" or "Cylfraendica" but ones that sound legitimately cool and natural are tough. For example, in one of my old books I named the hero Toke, short for Cassitoka. Most people who've read it are cool with the name, but hardly a day goes by that I don't kick myself for naming him Toke. The jokes just write themselves, right? His companion, Zashiel, has a much, much better name.

    I think the best names (at least for fantasy, like I write) are both simple and memorable. In my current novel, the heroin is named Henry. She's a girl with a boy's name, but it's short for Henrietta, which actually is a girl's name so there's actually a reason behind it. I feel like that's probably the cleverest name I've ever come up with.
     
  17. SpokenSilence

    SpokenSilence Member

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    Names are a big problem for me too...
    When it comes to modern times I'm not that picky - the names mostly don't matter that much. I usually use some soon-to-be-parenting-webpage that lists like 20000 prenames of different cultures so it's easier to pick something fitting.

    But the fantasy names often freak me out.... I don't really like the name generators because some I've tried have just given me numerous consonants in a row (like one would call that a name) or they've repeated themselves really often.
    Dependant upon the cultural background of the character I either use really old names that are now exeedingly rare or basically come of ancient cultures or I'm trying to cange modern day names into something old by changing vocals and majorly adding some letters to the name. I actually sometimes leave letters out or add a ' to make it sound different...
    It's still a point that most fantasy characters are not named until I actually finalize the story. I mark them in the written text via formating or colouring so I don't mix them up in the process until they get named.
     
  18. Dorafjol

    Dorafjol Member

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    I mostly adlib. Trying out names in my head, writing them out etc. Does it look/sound stupid? Next! I'm a bit of an "Aerith and Bob" guy, about 50% of my names are fictional (to my knowledge).
    I felt I needed a Finnish name that sounded fairly robust or intimidating, and just googled "Female finnish names that start with 'R'" or some such. Ended up with Rauha, Wing commander. She's a sack of fun, but a canvas one that leaks.

    Purely phonetics. I don't know if (as an example) Rauha is considered a robust name, but it feels very solid to me, so I'll stick with it. In the end, the character does all the work for me, so I don't really care what the name "says", as long as it sounds right to me.
     
  19. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    Once, a long time ago, I wrote a fantasy name generator. It came up with some names I really liked (one of my favourites was "Maiaboromae"), but a gigantic amount of pure gibberish like "Fexijeiwan"... :D
     
  20. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My major characters are easy to name. They just come to me with those names. However, I can run into trouble with the minor ones, because I just name them off the top of my head as I'm writing ...and I sometimes forget what I 'called' them if I don't use them again till much later on. This was embarrassingly pointed out to me by one of my first betas, who asked me who 'Frank' was. I realised I had originally named him something else, and forgot to go back and change the earlier reference. (Ordinary names because it's historical fiction, and the names had to fit the time and place.)
     
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  21. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    in the book i'm currently working on the hero is called 'trick' (short for patrick) and ive realised i've named one of the female characters trish... thats gonna have to change... i tend to just roll with it in first draft and use search and replace to change them during the edits
     
  22. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    I do that, or kind of the opposite. For one of my stories I have a OneNote file with all my characters' names, and sometimes I check it and find I've given a new character the same name as an existing minor character.
     
  23. Joshua Wheelon

    Joshua Wheelon New Member

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    I always google based on nationality I want the character to be. In my book ‘The Depature’ which has just entered publishing phase, I have characters that are Jewish, Arab, German, etc. But my main character I just thought up the name Arliss Mars.
     
  24. Andersson

    Andersson New Member

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    Another vote for 'Behind the Name'. Not only does the random generator create a name, but also a nationality, physical attributes (height & weight), current age, and total lifespan with the eventual cause of death!
     
  25. sleepindawg

    sleepindawg Senior Member

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    I tried a 'random fantasy name generator to try naming characters of my fiction bipedal cat-like alien race. I had to keep recycling it because it also was supposed to generate such names for anime and most of them looked like generic anime character names while very few looked like they could be vocalized by any sort of cat.
     

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