Character Names


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Thread: Character Names

  1. #1

    Character Names

    How do you decide on your characters' names? Do they have importance?

    I take a lot of time when I choose names for my characters. To me, for every person, there is only one right name. Or at least, a name that seems appropriate for them.
    Here are a couple of my characters and the names I settled on. (Note, the setting of my book is in Japan):

    Marco Nakahara: A 24 year old male who's mother is European and Father Japanese. Blonde hair with blue eyes.

    Takeru Shimamoto: A large 28 year old male who was a mercenary for several years after escaping his village that was overrun by pillagers

    I don't know that Japanese names were the best examples for this discussion...but maybe you guys can see how the names match the character profile? Does Marco sound like a European pretty boy? Does Takeru sound like a large, hardened combat veteran (think "tank")? Maybe you think names don't mean anything?

  2. #2
    I create names from nothing! Well, that's not true. I take the dominant elements of the linguistics of the race I invented and combine them into a name that's unique, but never overly complex. I should probably note this is what I do for aliens.

    For human characters, I take classic names like Michael, and change them slightly. So Michael might become Mikal, making it a bit more phonetic makes it sound futuristicy if you ask me. I like to think that they started to simplify names the same way that slang degrades the complexities of language. Others might go the other way, and add letters like Frank becoming Fraynk. Sometimes, I keep them just as they are! John, Alan, Ophelia (that escalated quickly). Usually I make the surnames the more complex ones, so you'll get a lot of characters with names like John Lovamb. Or Sarah Cutlan.

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  3. #3
    Names...I usually choose ones that I find appropriate for whatever I'm working on. I could explain why, but that's futile. Everyone has their own preferences and reasons for what they do.
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  4. #4
    James Bond, if my information is accurate, was inspired by the name of an author of a gardening book. Names can come from anywhere and often will mold itself to fit the character. When you think Bond, you think spy. Before his conception Bond was probably just a common last name. James Bond made the name work.

  5. #5
    Creative Area Specialist (Fiction) Blade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -AT View Post
    Maybe you think names don't mean anything?
    In real life no one goes around assigning just the perfect name to everyone after deep thought and contemplation so why is it so important in a novel? Generally you just meet someone with a particular name and get used to the person who goes with it. I prefer common, easy to pronounce, names myself rather than a tangled mouthful as they slip into the story without any fuss.
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  6. #6
    That's not exactly the case. While there isn't a particular someone going around assigning people proper names, everyone's name is generally chosen after careful consideration of the parent(s). As well, while names do grow on you, that doesn't necessarily mean the name fits the person. A scrawny, glasses-wearing computer nerd named Butch is just going to seem out of place no matter how long you know them.

  7. #7
    Easy to remember. Pretty much it.
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  8. #8
    I like to take normal names and change/replace letters here and there until it's something that's still familiar, but unique and grabs me in some way. (Similar to what Bishop does.)

    Quote Originally Posted by -AT
    Takeru Shimamoto: A large 28 year old male who was a mercenary for several years after escaping his village that was overrun by pillagers

    I don't know that Japanese names were the best examples for this discussion...but maybe you guys can see how the names match the character profile? Does Takeru sound like a large, hardened combat veteran (think "tank")?
    I like the strong, chopping "T" and "K" sounds of Takeru. Very forceful consonants. Works well.

  9. #9
    Creative Area Specialist (Fiction) Blade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -AT View Post
    That's not exactly the case. While there isn't a particular someone going around assigning people proper names, everyone's name is generally chosen after careful consideration of the parent(s). As well, while names do grow on you, that doesn't necessarily mean the name fits the person. A scrawny, glasses-wearing computer nerd named Butch is just going to seem out of place no matter how long you know them.

    The parents consideration of the name happens before they are even born.

    I think that the fact that we are used to letting names grow on us downplays the importance the choice of them in a novel. Certainly a severe misnaming should be avoided but trying to select just the right match doesn't seem to me to be worth the effort.

    In any case most of us have subliminal associations with many names anyway. If you only knew one 'Ralph' as a child you have a pre-image assigned to that name regardless of how carefully it was chosen. Since we all have a different cache of prototypes you would be best off just choosing reasonably familiar names and let it go at that.
    I was fighting with temptation but I didn't want to win.
    A man like me don't like to see temptation caving in.
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  10. #10
    I simply made up the names for a few of my characters. The dragons (except one and only because I had forgotten the use of the name from my childhood) are all my creations. A couple of the characters are too. I do try to stick with normal names in my work as much as possible. But I make up as many as I can, or if I deem it necessary.

    I actually have to change the name of the villain in my story because I unwittingly named him after a European Power Metal band. LOL
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