1. TK

    TK Active Member

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    How do you name characters in your story?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TK, Jan 4, 2022.

    Naming characters can be hard so I'm asking you on how you name characters so I could get some tips. I ususally write characters based on a name that fits their character.
     
  2. Keongxi

    Keongxi Member

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    I take into the account the area or district that they come from and also try to be familiar with the dialect spoken in the area or the ethnic background of people who mostly live in the area. Wouldn't want to a give a Korean the name of Takeda would I? Naming a character where the ethnicity and language doesn't matter is easier. For very minor characters just go for it and then give them common surnames e.g Smith, Adams or Wong.

    Unless of course it's a fantasy world of course. But then some fantasy worlds have civilizations similar to our own world.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2022
  3. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    For my current (and first) WIP I've decided on several naming conventions.

    For secondary characters I've been naming them by function and how they are regarded. As an example, the communications specialist for my fleet admiral is named Nikar Dipercaya. Nikar comes from the Portuguese communikar, meaning to communicate, and Dipercaya is an Indonesian word related to the concept of trust. So Nikar Dipercaya is a communicator who is trusted.

    I have a lost battle scene where I needed a lot of names for a roll-call of the fallen, so used unusual last names from the list of US Medal of Honor recipients.

    I've been naming locations by function.

    One of my characters comes from a family of tree farmers. The planet is called Quercharum; the name of the planet is based upon on the scientific names of trees.

    White Oak tree (Quercus alba), Sugar Maple tree ( Acer saccharum).

    Enemy places are based on the scientific names of toxins and poisons.
     
  4. Thomas Larmore

    Thomas Larmore Senior Member

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    I have no idea how I come up with names. Names just come.
     
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  5. Lili.A.Pemberton

    Lili.A.Pemberton Active Member

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    I just choose placeholder names until the story's done, that way I don't have to worry too much about it until the end.
     
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  6. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    For me it's easy. Writing historical fiction allows me to research names for the region and time-period I'm working in.
    My WIP takes place at the siege of Vienna in 1683, so I have a lot of Polish and Hungarian names to choose from.
     
  7. Cress Albane

    Cress Albane Active Member

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    Possibly the most childish way - I describe a character with one word, put that word in Google translate, run it through a couple of different languages, take the word I like, rearrange it to sound more like an actual name. At least when the world the story takes place in has nothing to do with our own. For historical fiction or modern-day fantasy, I look up existing names and research their etymology. If a name seems to fit my character's personality, I choose it.
     
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  8. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    Usually, for me, its whatever name sounds right. I do have a few characters who are named in relation to their temperament, but I'm of the opinion now that is not the right way to name a character. If this is a fantasy, then making up a name can be fun. You could use a common name as a starting point and then playing scrabble with it to come up with something you like and that sounds good to you. There are name generators you can use, though I usually use them in the same way, as just a beginning and then rearranging and even truncating what is suggested to make it 'my own.'
     
  9. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I don’t. I give them nicknames based on their characteristics, then assign a name after a while when I just happen upon one that feels right. If a story I’m writing now, there is a scientist as a secondary character. In my current draft, I’m literally just calling him Carl Sagan. This gives me a preconceived idea of how the character would act in each scene. I’ll fix the name when I come up with a good one, I just want a subconscious push toward traits of that real life person. I don’t always use famous people either, real life friends also find themselves in first drafts of my stories.
     
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  10. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall I drink Scotch and I write things

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    Same.
     
  11. Aceldama

    Aceldama free servant

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    Arbitrarily. Unless there's something special I want to emphasis about a character, it's usually one of the first few names I think up. The story is what makes the name special.
     
  12. Ralph Gnarlsford

    Ralph Gnarlsford New Member

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    Sometimes some or all of the names are already set before I start writing down a story. Other times I use place holders like people have mentioned before and put in names when I know what I want them to be. Other times I want a name before starting a story because it kind of shapes the character. And finally there are times I just kind of pull a name out of the air, see if it fits and repeat until I have a name I like for the character.

    One character in a story I wrote last year is a warlock living in the modern day United States. I wanted an unusual name but not one that was too strange. For some reason I wanted it to start with a D so I looked up names starting with D and chose Daelan.
     
  13. GoodSeed

    GoodSeed Banned

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    I'll usually look at a number of things: Such as physical attributes (walks with a limp, an eye patch), where they are from (ethnicity/country/race/religion), what they do for a profession; their unique traits/quirks (fidgeting/always smiling/grumpy). Some characters' names will be their physicality, some will be their profession. Mixing it up keeps it more interesting so that all characters are not based on their ethnicity for example, or a region they are from. Hope that helps.
     
  14. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I read an old baby name book called Beyond Jennifer and Jason and the writer separated the names into impressions rather than a long list. Which is what I started doing thinking more along the lines of impressions. For my short story I picked Bartholomew for my MC. Temporarily called him Mew, and switched to Tholos because I wanted to give an impression of strength and endurance even though he is weak at the beginning I thought Mew went too far. His son is named Reo - well because ... Reo Speedwagon.
     
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  15. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Good call not naming him Kevin. :D
     
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  16. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    For a very important secondary character in my current WIP I wanted a very strong name. I eventually settled on "Max" but wasn't happy with "Maximillian." I had the radio on, and the Beatles presented me with "Maxwell." He starts out as a fighter pilot and was, of course, nicknamed "Mad Max." His last name is Redstone. I don't know if it was from a real tribe, a story I read, or if it just came from inside, but there were a people who worshipped an idol that had a huge ruby - the redstone - where the heart would be. That fit well, as my character eventually becomes an Admiral and is the notional "heart" or motivation of the story.

    Fleet Admiral Maxwell "Mad Max" Redstone.
     
  17. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    With nick names, esp in the military, it is often not done to glorify the person. It's most often given in relation to something embarrassing. So someone with the nick name 'Mad Max' may have been given it because he was probably rash or impulsive, maybe even, or especially, quick to temper.
     
  18. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    You are correct. The name "Mad Max" was given to the character just after flight school as he was always pushing his bird - and himself - to the extreme limits so he was initially perceived as "Mad."
     
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  19. Amon

    Amon New Member

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    I name characters in my fantasy fiction writing by what I call 'allen and min of' naming. Make it sound like 'allen' add a 'min' and an 'of ' for where the come from and soon you will get the flow.

    Bolaren of Benamoth : Thief of the night
    Alandren of Otuka : Seeress of the Iykatu
    Neygotum of Palandrum : The jokers pirate

    Translated to the Kanathil language featured in my first fantasy novel:
    Ilith un amer don orunth elas. Min astin on benethlowen. Iras ethelon don erenith olunth amartil.
     
  20. TK

    TK Active Member

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    I know not lots of kevin, did that name just fall out of tradition or what?
     
  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Kevin Cronin is the singer for the band REO Speedwagon, which Peachalulu had just mentioned right above my post. And Kevin is a rather boring name.
     
  22. TK

    TK Active Member

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    I do agree it's pretty boring!
     
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  23. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    [​IMG]
     
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  24. Haskll1

    Haskll1 New Member

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    I really don't like spending too much time coming up with names, so I keep lists of names, for characters and places, which I update regularly, and replace some name with more interesting alterations; either names which create a powerful impression of a character without knowing anything else about him than just the name, and on the other hand, names which are enigmatic or so neutral in flavor that the audience can give them a meaning of their own. It doesn't matter whether the alterations are made up or real as long as they're not too far-fetched. For instance, I don't think redressing 'Adele' as 'Adelle' or 'Adela' is far-fetched. Redressing 'Cliff' as 'Clif' or 'Clyff' might be ridiculous, and redressing 'Regina' as 'Ragina' outrageously sexual, but if that's the point, then it's not far-fetched, and you might as well redress 'Mercy' as 'Merci' for laughs. Unless you envision 'Spock' to be a deliberately ridiculous name, consider that name for a cat instead, or naming a child instead of an adult 'Benito'. Truly, I don't even know most of the time if the names I keep are made-up or real, as I'm more concerned with whether it's imaginable. For instance, I might imagine 'Raas' to be a dutch surname, and I wouldn't consider it a far-fetched one. (Some names are alterations of english words.) I think if you don't share my passion for names, that would be a problem.

    These are names which I think create a powerful impression (many of these have some local flavor):

    Bolak - An bulky, oafish guy
    Hagrid - A bumpkin or a warrior
    Roy - Either a tough or cheeky fellow
    Graham - Smug or laid-back fellow, possibly british
    Yvonne - A somewhat uncouth , european dominatrix-type
    Maxine - Strong or independent woman
    Leopoldine - Somewhat un-feminine connotation, or possibly a hero
    Norman - It's hard not to think about Psycho with someone named Norman
    Little John, Phil the Driver, brother Dave, etc. - Epiteths always create a powerful impression

    Now, there are some cases where these connotations are unintentional, so you should consider alterations, such as naming your character 'Adolphe' in trying to rehabilitate a soiled name, Arnold the surname instead of Arnold the christian name to not have the Terminator as your audience's first thing in mind, 'Diane' to avoid the more cosmopolitan 'Diana', or 'Elicia', either to do away with that rather carnivorous-sounding F- ('Felicia'), or to hide away the Lewis Carroll connotations ('Alicia'). Nothing wrong with some hidden connotations, puns even (names with puns are great when they require a pair of names or several to work), such as 'Oleander' which might be hidden behind 'Leander'. I'm usually taking notes when I think of hidden (and sometimes unverified) connections which seem like no-one has caught, such as writing down a short name with a note of what it might be derived from or diminutive of. Then the localization really plays a big deal in connotations - Is your character a 'Casper', 'Kasper' or 'Caspar' ?
     
  25. Tim D. Smith

    Tim D. Smith Member

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    When I first read this, I realized I must be HUNGARY. I saw Vienna and Polish sausages.

    Once upon a time, I had a dog named Kevin. He was part Dachshund and part not-so-handsome stranger. He had a really low under-carriage, if you know what I mean, and hated snow. Go figure.
     

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