Character Names - Page 2


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Thread: Character Names

  1. #11
    A scrawny, glasses-wearing computer nerd named Butch is just going to seem out of place no matter how long you know them.
    This brings up the issue, however, of the fits-too-well feeling that comes with some names. A name doesn't have to 'fit' the character in some noticeable way - sometimes, obvious connections can be off-putting. Likewise, juxtaposition, like the example above, can be great for humor. A giant guy called Tiny, for another example.

    Usually, the way I pick names is by writing the story and using the first name that comes to me. If it works for me, I continue to use it. If it doesn't, I continue to use it until the part of my brain screaming 'Use something different!' thinks of a better name. I never consciously link names to characters. I have a story to focus on; I let the semantics figure out themselves. That or I play with them more once the first draft is done.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
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    I write about anime and internet culture at Hidden Content

  2. #12
    For me the name has to sound natural. That said, people do all kinds of weird crap with their kids' names.

    My mother named me so that my name rhymes--all three of my names end with an "el" sound. Then she gave my younger brother the same exact initials. If she was mad at both of us she would just yell out our initials. If she wasn't she'd yell out our initials with a number. I didn't think anything of it until it occurred to me that I had been numbered by my mother.

    Also, names have meaning and connotation. William, Henry, George, and Edward are all names from the British monarchy--royals pick their children's names with consideration to these names. Some families will name successive lines of children (usually male) the same, or a family might make something up (Moon Unit and Dweezel Zappa). There's ethnic, time period, and cultural considerations as well.
    Last edited by Ariel; April 11th, 2014 at 11:52 AM.

  3. #13
    In my current book, one of the walk-on characters is named Letta. That seemed like an odd choice for a name, so I thought I was saying something very subtle about the mother. Of course, the actual mother-daughter interaction overwhelms that. I was going to call my Siamese twins Yvonne and Yvette, but they had different personalities and the similarity of the names confused even me. So I called them Anna and Zelda. Of course, I normally just work to think of a name and go for something ordinary unless I want cultural diversity.

  4. #14
    WF Veteran voltigeur's Avatar
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    I will go to baby name directories and Surname directories to get names for my characters. I very seldom will choose a name because of its meaning. If nationality is an issue I can look for “Spanish boy’s names” or “Spanish Surnames” this gives me a list and I can get variety that is still very realistic.
    Sleep in fear: Viking is a verb!

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  5. #15
    Isn't the choice of names, and creation of characters, our own psychological imprint on what we, as authors, think those human beings would be like considering the environment they are put into?

    That's what I thought...

  6. #16
    Isn't the choice of names, and creation of characters, our own psychological imprint on what we, as authors, think those human beings would be like considering the environment they are put into?
    I'd let the critics worry about that; I just want to tell a story. Whatever names help tell that story best, those are the ones I'll use.
    Sleep is for the weak, or sleep is for a week.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    I write about anime and internet culture at Hidden Content

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Cadence View Post
    I'd let the critics worry about that; I just want to tell a story. Whatever names help tell that story best, those are the ones I'll use.
    Fair.

  8. #18
    I usually make up names that sound fun and then assign them to characters from specific cultures from my story (fantasy or sci fi typically so not real world cultures). After a while each culture seems to have certain kinds of names associated with it and making other names becomes easier. I don't always think the name has to be specifically fitting to the character because after a while the names do seem to grow on them. Even names which seem odd at first become familiar after they keep coming up. I do tend to try to keep names that have softer sounds or harsher sounds with groups that reflect that kind of personality as a whole. If you are trying to make names that reflect real world cultures you could try to research typical names and meanings from baby naming sites like voltigeur suggested. Ultimately I think names will probably mean a lot more to you as a writer than your reader unless they are names with obvious meaning or have a serious involvement with the plot.

  9. #19
    Not being a real fiction writer, I need help thinking up character names so I keep a basic list of names and pick the next one from the list whenever I start a story. The top names in my list are John, Joe, Charlie, Bill, and Fred for men, and Mary, Betty, Becky, Alice, and Ruth for women.
    El día ha sido bueno. La noche será larga.

  10. #20
    I make them up but not out of nothing.

    My two characters in "The Juice" are names Everett Leighton and David Jessup. Rett and Dave. Rett is named for a former 3rd baseman for my hometown nine -- his last name. He was going to have a different last name but something happened. Dave was originally named Bill but one of the guys in my writers' group said "Why are all vampires named Bill?" That guy's name was Dave. And Dave's last name is Not A Real Last Name of Any Major League Ballplayer Ever -- but is similar to the last name of my first boyfriend.

    In my LM piece, Eleanor is named after no one but has a name that can be shortened to another familiar name and she hates when people *do* that. Stacy, her friend is just a name I saw on FB. Vince is named after an ex-boyfriend -- his last name is from a different ex-boyfriend. And Eleanor's middle name sounded good with her last name -- and *that* came from my BFF's last name -- I wanted a "generic" name and occupation names are like that.

    So any name can be picked up, dusted off, and used.

    If you're (un)fortunate enough to have your work become required reading for tweens, teens or college students, the instructors will invent reasons you used the names you did and discover hidden (from you, even) meanings in them.
    Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
    — Robert G. Allen

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