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What makes a good character name?
We have a good amount of topics so far; however, I find character names to be more intriguing. It is interesting to see everyone's perspective on character names. Some people are drawn to common everyday names, while others enjoy more creative, unique names.
My question is what kind of names are you drawn to? Do you often find it hard to pick names? Favorite male and female names?
Any, if anyone has names they'd like to give for writer looking for more interesting name, feel free. Personally, I have a ton.1/8/2010 #1
For stories like fantasy or vampires, I like female names that are dark and powerful. Like Widow, for some reason it's a weird name but gothic names or objects spark my interest for fantasy stories.1/8/2010 #2
I used to just pick a name if it was interesting. Now that I've matured, I use names with meanings and if they can add to the story. Take one of my characters- Dexter du Lake. The last name "du Lake" from Lancelot du Lake, the great knight. Dexter starts as a very bratty selfish character. He has to grow into his name.1/8/2010 #3
I tend to avoid names such as Jessica, Brian, typical Caucasian names and whatnot, though that differs depending on both the time period and 'verse of my stories. How I choose my names is dependent on how well their name sounds with other characters' names, the way it looks, and its meaning - typically I need to know who my character is and what he/she is like before giving a name.
Which doesn't bode well for when I have to name my children, I'm sure...1/8/2010 #4
I really don't pick names based on their meanings. Usually, I'll have my friends run some names by me, and if one of them strikes me, I'll use it. Sometimes, you just know--that name is that character, whether it's got some deeper meaning or not. Funny sidenote--I named one of my characters Jonathan, and he had a line about his instrument being a gift from God. I later found out that the name Jonathan actually means gift from God. Totally unintentional. Sometimes, the names just end up fitting...you just know.1/8/2010 #5
I choose my names randomly actually. I just sit there writing and a name will come out so I write it down. I think that the only name I ever actually planed was Frankie. Besides that I just let the story work itself with its own character names and such. Sometimes its rather shocking to me what the name is, usually because it doesn't make much sense to me, even though I'm the one writing.1/8/2010 #6
I am drawn to unique names but I love normal names too.
I am terrible at picking names. There are just too many names out there.
Favorite girl name? Capri I would say. And for a boy maybe Daniel.
Sorry I got no names for you. Hey maybe my name....AKA Monica!1/9/2010 #7
|JD Kirkland. Taurus Land
I like unique names. I just usually make up my character's names, or I take something simple and change the spelling of it. I like to give my female characters, boy's names. I've always done that so it's not like anything cool, but I like doing it. :-) And... yeah... but it's cool to see all the names people can come up with.
-J.D. Kirkland, KH1/9/2010 #8
It takes me a long time to find names. I don't know why, but I can never get into a story until I get a name. Although occasionally I put in a "placeholder" name. And what usually happens is the placeholder name becomes the real name. So I figure the names rarely matter. One thing I don't like, though, is purposely weird names. There are times when an unusual name is okay or necessary for either the character or the time (such as fantasy stories). But I would personally rather the name be normal . . . and maybe even a bit boring . . . and have an interesting character, then to have one of those weird names. When I read weird names it jars me from the story each time.
Okay I am writing a fantasy and need a name for a Voice. It has to be really weird. Like a made up one. If you don't know what I mean then you could ask. Thanks!
Depending on the setting... if it's a story set in the real world, I'd use more realistic and common names found on earth. If it's fantasy, I give the characters weirder names. Some are randomly thought, some names are found from one hell of a research because I wanna make the name related to a myth, legend, animals, characteristics and whatsoever. About 10% of the fantasy characters will have common 'real life' names (the meaning of the name usually relates to the characters' personalities). I like giving my characters names with a meaning cos I think it's more interesting - it makes ppl ponder too.
I use the dictionary to find a name, cos it provides the origin of the word/term. Or you could go here
some of my characters went through name alterations, some stick with the first name I ever dub them.
For both cases (real life and fantasy), I'd look up the names from different languages/countries. East and west, north and south. So there'd be Asian names, arabic names, latin etc. just be creative ^^1/10/2010 #11
i like names you dont see everyday. or just names that have fallen from popularity. for my normal stories i usually like to name girls after cities. ive used venice and nazareth before. or i'll combine them with something else, like one of my characters, itali-maria (itali for short). for fantasy i'll usually pick a letter to be first then start putting sounds together. i usually come up with things like, adraisse, keiata, keiedo, atheros, azureus, jaaxzehri... i personally think fantasy names are more fun. my usual method of getting names though, is looking up baby names from different countries and sometimes changing them a bit to make them my own. i love names. especially fantasy ones.
i usually have trouble naming minor characters1/10/2010 #12
I like to use translators and name meaning websites. I randomly search words and meanings that connect to the character until i find one I like. Sometimes I'll change it around a little to make it sound better.
Sometimes it takes FOREVER to get the one I'm looking for :/1/10/2010 #13
I just pick names.
I don't bother to research them or anything. If I have a pale, brooding goth character, I don't want to give her a name meaning "dark" or "sad" or "beautiful death." Nor will I slap a name tag on her that reads: "Hello, my name is Raven Blackwood/Rain LaBri/Demona Moon." Instead, I will call her Yulia Naromov. Or Emily Gale. Or Lauren Stubbs. I don't know what any of those names mean, but they have a nice ring to me, and that's the beauty of it.
I prefer not knowing the meaning behind names because, usually, parents don't know if their kids are gonna turn out to be "loud and boisterous" or "a wise leader" or "a boot." (Seriously. I went to school with a girl named Brogan. Her name translates to boot.) If the name actually has anything to do with one of my characters, it's a total coincidence.
My favorite name for a boy is Martin. My favorite girl name is Annatha.1/12/2010 . Edited 1/12/2010 #14
true that we can't determine a person's personality by naming them when they're born. but i still find it nice to have the name related to some legend or have a deep meaning. Actually I kinda started doing this after I read about video game character developments, more specifically Final Fantasy 7. It's always interesting to read about fan's theory on where the name is altered/taken from. But the name doesn't have to reflect exactly the person's personality... it could be something abstract or contrast. I have a character named 'Raven' but he's not a goth. Another character's name is supposedly means 'Tiger' but he's not even fierce or courageous.1/13/2010 #15
I don't look for symbolism in given names. They just have to fit the culture and era. My period, The Human Touch, was set in 1937, between the two World Wars. The lead characters' names were
- Constance, the young widow.
- Aloysius, the deceased heir of fortune.
- Morton, Aloysius' friend from boarding school and the Great War.
- Sinclair, the butler. It's never established if that was his surname or given name.
I doubt any of these names are popular these days as given names. I wanted names that fit for the time. Calling them Zoe, Brad, etc. just wouldn't work as well for me.
If anything, I would that that naming children after 'virtues', as was common in that era, would leave them lacking in that virtue. Imagine a child being told to 'Be prudent' daily. I could see easily someone who becomes brash out of just cussedness.
Symbolism comes in when the character gets to pick a name. In my Foster's Gambit, the character gave himself the alias "Jack Morgan" after Captain Morgan rum because he was in a drunken stupor for the past few weeks, and because it is vague and plain. The name the character picks tells much - creativity, associative thought processes, bearing and intention.1/13/2010 #16
I like names that aren't too common but not extrememly rare either. Like, Trinity.
Yes, it's hard for me to pick names. They have to reflect the character's personalities at least a little bit. And they can't be dull and flat.
Favorite girl name is a tie between: Trinity, Destiny, and Chantelle. Favorite guy name: Dakota1/14/2010 #17
Depends on the style, you can't have a character called Moonbeam Fairydance in anything you want to seem even vaguely realistic. Conversely, calling a character Gary Smith and expecting him to sound like he belongs in a world of dragons and monsters and such is just daft. Genre will always define names, its what people expect and more to the point, what they want.
Oh yeah, movies produced by Jerry Bruckheimer in the 80s always have the best names.
I can't wait. I really can't. I mean, all my friends are like, 'When I turn 18, I'm gonna...' and do something so ... EMPTY and STUPID!!! Next Tuesday's my turn, and I'm going to spend it in line at City Hall. I already have the name change form all filled out & ready. Goodbye, Moonbeam Fairydance. Hello, Samantha DaFoe.
(Yeah, he may be old, but he's still HAWT!)"
Sure, you can. I forgot who said it, but it was a rule for playwrights - if you're going to put a pistol in the scene, then use it. Same here - if you're going to name the character something strange, then use it. It needn't be the whole point of the story - the dairy the above excerpt came from could have a whole bunch of other things going on, and not just be about her silly name, but mention should be made of the it, to at least acknowledge to the reader, "Yes, we're both on the same world. Yeah, this name is stupid. It sucks that my folks were seriously stoned when they named me."1/15/2010 #19
Well, you have a point, but being self-consciously daft can serve as a massive block to a reader wanting to get into your world. Unless that is what you are aiming for, then its a bad idea to knock down the fourth wall of reality, grab the reader by the lapels and yell 'Look at me! I've named a character Moonbeam Fairydance! Aren't I ever so odd and loveable?!'
Of course thats just me, and should I ever want to essay a character self-consciously odd and daft then I will name them Moondance Fairycake, or whatever.
I just posted this in the "Click Here" Links for Writers thread, but check this out:
- We seem to have a lot of manga-aholics here (probably because of the overlap with FF.net).
- Regency names: the title on the page itself reads 18th Century Women's names. Dunno.
- Victorian (England) names.
- French Arthurian names - great for 'Warring Noble Houses' genre, such as Code Geass. Here's arandom sampling: Gandelus, Marescos, and Blanchepart.1/15/2010 . Edited 1/16/2010 #21
Well, you have a point, but being self-consciously daft can serve as a massive block to a reader wanting to get into your world.
I'm going to have to disagree. (If my post is totally off-topic, Mods, feel free to delete it.)
There have been several popular and/or classic novels that contain characters with odd or unconventional names. Some examples that come to mind are:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Ponyboy and Sodapop)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (Major Major Major, who later becomes a major in the army: Major Major Major Major.)
Evermore by Alyson Noel (Ever and Honor)
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Huckleberry, of course)
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Now, while there may be many odd names in the Wizard World, there is one that stands out as extremely weird: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.)
Unless that is what you are aiming for, then its a bad idea to knock down the fourth wall of reality, grab the reader by the lapels and yell 'Look at me! I've named a character Moonbeam Fairydance! Aren't I ever so odd and loveable?!'
I wouldn't say just because you give your character a strange name does it mean that you're craving attention and adoration or trying too hard to be "quirky."
True, celebrities will name their kids the strangest things. Fifi Trixibelle, Moon Unit, Audio Science, Blanket, Apple, and Dweezil are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. They might be the kind to cry out for attention, but the matter of the fact is that normal (well, un-celebrity) people will christen their kids with off-the-wall names, as well, they just aren't publicized.
There was a guy on American Idol one year named Sundance Head. I once met a girl who was unfortunate to be dubbed Mercedes Love by her parents.
In the end, what is the point I'm trying to make? A name is a name, not a character. A writer may give a character a strange name, but the reader should not be put off by that alone.
Granted, there may be cases where that name wouldn't fit. But, overall, the name is only one piece of the bigger puzzle. If a writer can make the plot, character, and dialogue believable, it doesn't matter if their main character is a young man, Moondance Fairyjoe, going to Ottawa University to get his Bachelor's degree in Science, while pining over Sarah Darnell, a bitter, cold-hearted dwarf who is sick of all the tall people, and so is creating a shrink ray to get even at all those who've made fun of her in the past for being vertically challenged.
Yes, that's ridiculous and a bit on the extreme side, but a good author can really suck you into their world, and you won't even care about the absurdities.1/16/2010 #22
I agree. Victoria Beckham and David Bekcham, they're big over in the uk. And they called there kids Cruise. It's weird but, a good author can make a weird name happen.
I'm watching sydney white at the moment on my tv screen, the film and the one girls name is Dinky.1/16/2010 #23
I forgot to answer these questions.
Unorthodox fantasy names. It can be weird, it can be beautiful. it can be based on something we have in the real world too.
It's not hard at all if I randomly thought of it. But it's not easy to pick one if I have designed a character, but yet to be named. This is even harder for supporting/recurring characters. I can give random names for minor characters.
Picking from my collection of original characters;
male - Tiroux, Jaron, Raphul, Grahana (means 'eclipse' in Sanskrit), Ribut (literally means 'storm' in Malay)
female - Ivora, Fiametta, Yura, Azalea
Fave names from existing media - Sirius Black, Kurda Shmalt, Sonea, Sabriel, Arra Sails, Eowyn, Galadriel, Beatrix...
Then, can you help me out here? Give me a name for a 700 year old Welsh warlock (still alive in this age). Assume he comes to existence during King Arthur's time, but he's not as famous as Merlin because he's more low-profile.1/16/2010 #24
You're welcome. ;)1/16/2010 #25
I just think that by calling a character a name that is utterly off-the-wall it implants an idea in the readers mind that your character is too, and its puts yous several steps behind point zero just to make them believable. We're used to celebrities giving their children stupid names because we assume they are barking mad, fame-hungry headcases and thats the kind of thing they do, but its just so hard to assume a reader will get into a story that contains two such radically different elements as 'Fifi Trixible' and 'Went down to the shops to buy a pint of milk'.
Of course, that could just be me, maybe I'm not good enough of a writer to mesh the two convincingly, although having read all this again I realise I do just the opposite, I take people called David and Simon and feed them to zombies.
TTFN Sputnik1/18/2010 #26
I'd just go with Freud on this one: blame the parents.
"Fi and Wendy were best of friends since grade school. Even by Hollywood standards, their parents were barking mad, fame-hungry headcases, and even by Hollywood standards, their given names were asinine. However, schoolyard bullies existed in every chalkboard jungle, and their school in Soundstage 19 was no difference.
And, with names like Fifi Trixible and Went Down To The Shops To Buy A Pint Of Milk, guess who were the top two targets?"
I used to sweat names. I used to read and ponder and thinkthinkthink them, looking for the perfect name.
Nowadays, I realize that
1. Names matter naught - if this is work is going anywhere of consequence, anywhere where the name therein are of consequence, then it's going to have to be revised and I'll look at the names then. Complete it first, kitty!
2. Names don't reflect the character, unless they're aliases the character chooses. For non-"masked avenger" stuff, the character will want to chose as bland a name as possible in everyday aliases, and as bland an ethnic name as possible for undercover aliases.1/18/2010 #27
Names matter to me because.... I want my characters (especially the lead) to somewhat memorable. Even if it's an epic character, but the name is well... let's say it's John. Then assuming there's a fan who'd shout "OMG I love John!!". One would ask something like, "Which John? John Smith or John Ralph?"
That's just a hypothetical situation. Of course I know if more than one person have the same name is just a coincidence!
I just... love looking for names like crazy for my self satisfaction.1/18/2010 #28
Names matter to me because.... I want my characters (especially the lead) to somewhat memorable.
Characters don't even need names to be memorable.
I absolutely love Cormac McCarthy's The Road. (Haven't seen the movie, but I'm sure it sucks.) Throughout that entire novel, it's just "the man" and "the boy." These characters are never given any names, and yet they are still memorable. What they go through, how they deal with it...
I modeled this in one of my one-shots, where throughout the entire story the main character is just "the girl." Even after the ticket taker reveals her name to be "Emma Dean," I still refer to her as "the girl" because she can't remember who she is/was. She isn't Emma Dean anymore, she's just herself, and that's all she knows. Her name is irrelevant.
As a writer, I can see where you're coming from in terms of wanting to create a character that will stick in peoples' minds. But, personally, I still stick with my belief that a name alone does not a character make. :]1/18/2010 . Edited 1/18/2010 #29
yes, I know what you mean. It's just... it's something I really like to do. so I'll stick to my beliefs too. :)1/18/2010 #30
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