1. PraileighCormac

    PraileighCormac New Member

    Oct 28, 2012
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    Will the odd names I choose give them ethnicity without me meaning to?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by PraileighCormac, Oct 28, 2012.

    I like names that are original, like Vaeda Sayler, and Rogan Kemper, and Raevyn, and Cadren, but do any of these make them sound like they're a specific ethnicity or anything other than what I describe them to be?
  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Not that I notice. Plus if your gearing towards young adult fiction a lot of young readers wouldn't spot a lot of cultural differences
    unless they were obvious like a last name like Valdez, anyway.
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Mar 9, 2010
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    They do give me a British Isles vibe - I'd say, in order, English, Scottish, Welsh, and Welsh. I don't know if there's any basis for that or if it's just my brain needing to assign meaning.
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Names can fool you. Names can be inherited through marriage. So you can certainly have a tall, pale Nordic blonde named Julie Chen.
  5. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Oct 16, 2012
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    Very true. Which is exactly why, if a writer has a specific ethnicity in mind, the name needs to be chosen carefully. Clarity in writing helps tell the story, so calling a Nordic blonde Julie Chen, unless specifically married to a Mr. Chen from China in the story, serves no useful purpose and is simply misleading and confusing - no matter how realistic it may be. If the story calls for a clear understanding of the character's physical appearance and / or ethnicity, this name would be a mistake. Ethnic assumptions in a name should only be used if ethnicity does not matter, or if it is important to the plot.

    As for the OP, those names give me a british pagan, or gothic American vibe, which could also be mis-leading unless an 'original' name is necessary, or you are specific about the character's cultural background. New or stange names can often be distracting, not interesting. It depends on the context, culture, and time period of the story.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Mallory

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Jun 27, 2010
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    Tampa Bay
    ^ I agree totally with Selbbin, +rep.

    While you CAN have a name like Julie Chen for a white girl, if you want to, it only really makes sense if there's a reason, like if she has an ethnic Asian ancestor or married into an Asian family. Otherwise, it just sounds out of place -- or, worse, like you're trying way too hard to come up with exotic names just to be cool.

    If I'm reading a story and it's full of names like Raevyn and Cadren, I, like Selbbin, am going to assume that it's a Goth setting similar to something like "Underworld." And if that's the nature of your setting, and if most of the characters have names in that vein, then okay, cool.

    But if I'm reading a story where it's set in an average high school full of Jessicas and Sarahs and Megans, and the heroes are named Raevyn and Cadren with no background explaining why the parents would name them that, then it sounds like you're going out of your way to be unique in a way that tries too hard, or like it's an over-attempt to make your characters seem special.

    Not trying to be harsh, just my honest $0.02.
  7. B93

    B93 Active Member

    Jul 23, 2012
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    To me, none of those had an obvious ethnicity. Perhaps they hint at Scandanavian?

    I wouldn't be surprised to see any of those names on current elementary school children. As a collection, perhaps it is unlikely to see that many uncommon ones together.

    In the last decade or two, many parents in the US have gone out of their way to find new names, new spellings for old names, and forgotten names to make their children stand out from the crowd. Now that doesn't work because much of the crowd has names that were formerly uncommon.
  8. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    sounds like you're studying Old Norse, Old English or you're writing about England in the 9th century or something. Either way, they sound like anglo-saxon names, the kinds my ex who's studying Old Norse Paganism, often told me about.

    Either that, or perhaps you ripped it right out of an RPG fantasy game.

    I'd say if your story is a fantasy, then those names are just fine. But if you're setting them in the real, modern world, then that would just be weird.

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