Naming Characters

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Naming Characters

Postby Base54 » Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:37 am

I'm not sure if anyone else has this problem, but when it comes to naming certain characters in stories, I kind of hit a roadblock if I hadn't already decided on one. I usually try not to use the same name for two different characters because in my paranoid mind, I think readers are going to get confused because they're thinking about one character when they should be thinking about this character. And don't get me started on Pokémon names: good fricking god, let me tell you first hand that naming Pokémon outside of their species names is one of the most stressful things I've done when writing. Like seriously, I have this request where a Gardevoir is a central character, and while I did come up with a name eventually(meaning as I'm writing this thing), it was a nightmare to try and come up with one.

Anyhoo, that's my rant about naming characters.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Peptidase » Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:48 am

I hate naming characters. I usually find a random name generator that gives a list of around 20 and have to refresh it a good five or six times to find a name that doesn't belong to someone I know or sound too similar to names ive already used (although I rarely bother to filter out foreign names) . I seem to tent towards A and M names for women and J and T names for men.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby dragonjerky » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:39 am

This is definitely a tough one. This is what I do. If the character is absolutely of no significance and needs a name, I'll use a random name generator. However, if I design a character and they're important, I can't stand assigning a random name to them with no though. So... I think about the function of the character, or their defining characteristics then try to find names that mean that thing. So... like, googling something like "names that mean <desired trait>"
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby spanxthanx » Fri Jan 10, 2020 8:14 am

I have a text file with names, whenever I need a name I pick one from the list:
Ada Alice Alma Alyssa Amanda Adeleine Barbara Bea Bianca Camilla Cassandra Celena Cecilia Cornelia Daryna Ebba Elinor Elyssa Elvira Emma Felicia Fiona Gloria Helena Isabella Isadora Julia Kajsa Katarina Katja Laura Lima Lina Linda Lisa Loa Malin Maya Moa Nadia Nadine Nikki Nora Ofelia Olivia Patricia Petra Qiana Rebecca Rafaela Rosa Sara Sandra Sonya Stella Stina Sylvia Tara Tessa Thea Therese Tilde Tina Zora
Those are all girl names, somehow I find it against my nature to have a list of boy names.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Cuddlekins » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:05 am

I try to make names match the setting. For modern romps, I'll go to a list of common girl names, but in fantasy and stuff, I might go for rarer ones. For supernaturals and demi-humans, I may use mythological names or even just make shit up.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Ghrelin » Fri Jan 10, 2020 1:02 pm

I've never had much of an issue with names. There are lots of good ones out there to choose from, so I either use one that I've liked and been waiting to use, or go on a hunt for something that suits the character's background and personality. I enjoy it just as much as any other part of making a character.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby SuperfluousGreens » Fri Jan 10, 2020 2:45 pm

If you're after real world names just check your spam email folder, it's like your personal name generator.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby VoidInVoid » Fri Jan 10, 2020 3:08 pm

dragonjerky wrote:This is definitely a tough one. This is what I do. If the character is absolutely of no significance and needs a name, I'll use a random name generator. However, if I design a character and they're important, I can't stand assigning a random name to them with no though. So... I think about the function of the character, or their defining characteristics then try to find names that mean that thing. So... like, googling something like "names that mean <desired trait>"


Yeah, if I don't care too, too much about a character, I'll just give them a random name or make one up. However, I tend to write under the pretense of: if I'm going to give a character a name, they're probably fairly important to the story at hand or long-term. Elsewise, I'll refer to them by occupation or state of being. For a Fantasy setting or the like, I've found that playing linguistic surgery with old languages is a fun way to make a character's name literally represent themselves. That's how names used to work, anyway. Wiktionary is helpful in that regard.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Septia » Fri Jan 10, 2020 3:59 pm

I adore naming my characters.
Always fun to think of meaning behind the name or pick out what sounds spiffy. Usually go through a couple of naming websites which has decent enough search functions and go by them, and I also have an archive of names I enjoy in a few files on my harddrive.
Babynamespedia is a strong resource, and so is meaning of names.

There are wide resources out there to peruse~.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Birichino » Fri Jan 10, 2020 8:43 pm

I tend to feel out a good first letter if there's no subtle pun available, and make a name up if necessary. Some names seem very accommodating, though. You can also try to find a meaningful name, or contort root words to become one.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Cowrie » Fri Jan 10, 2020 9:40 pm

I have two distinct methods for this: spam the button on a random generator (usually something here) until I find something I like, and browse a baby names web site for something culturally relevant and/or meaningful. I tend to find both methods rather fun.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Grick » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:13 pm

Sometimes, consider not naming a character. If a story is short, has few characters, and you expect people to skim it, then a name can do more harm than good. Characters can only accumulate so many attributes over the course of a short story. Names are useful mental containers for a character's attributes, but it is only worth building this container if it holds enough attributes to be worth the cost of construction.

For example, imagine a short story featuring Joe the farmer. Joe is the only farmer in this story. If you introduce Joe as the farmer and then refer to him as "Joe" for the rest of the story, then the reader will need to remember to associate "Joe" with the farmer character. However, if you refer to him as "the farmer," then it might be easier for the reader to follow the character across the story, particularly if they are reading quickly.

If a story is long, has enough characters, or if a name has significance beyond identifying a character, then consider using some of the methods posted by others in this thread. They have some great ideas!
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Cowrie » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:44 pm

Grick wrote:Sometimes, consider not naming a character. If a story is short, has few characters, and you expect people to skim it, then a name can do more harm than good. Characters can only accumulate so many attributes over the course of a short story. Names are useful mental containers for a character's attributes, but it is only worth building this container if it holds enough attributes to be worth the cost of construction.

For example, imagine a short story featuring Joe the farmer. Joe is the only farmer in this story. If you introduce Joe as the farmer and then refer to him as "Joe" for the rest of the story, then the reader will need to remember to associate "Joe" with the farmer character. However, if you refer to him as "the farmer," then it might be easier for the reader to follow the character across the story, particularly if they are reading quickly.

If a story is long, has enough characters, or if a name has significance beyond identifying a character, then consider using some of the methods posted by others in this thread. They have some great ideas!


Not giving a character a name can also be a stylistic choice in a story. I know of a novel where only one character has their actual name given. Everyone else is referred to by some sort of title or description, the latter often taking the form of their relationship to other characters. This was done by the author to intentionally evoke the feeling of many fairy tales.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Grick » Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:33 am

Cowrie wrote:Not giving a character a name can also be a stylistic choice in a story. I know of a novel where only one character has their actual name given. Everyone else is referred to by some sort of title or description, the latter often taking the form of their relationship to other characters. This was done by the author to intentionally evoke the feeling of many fairy tales.


Thanks for pointing this out! Fairy tales are a great example. The style exists for a reason, too. In fairy tales, it's better to know a character's role in the story and a few of their characteristics rather than their name. The wolf from Red Riding Hood would have the wind taken out of their sails if they were named "Ralph."
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby Jayezox » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:51 am

Online name generators are my best friend. You can also look up lists of names for babies that have every name in alphabetical order imaginable.
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Re: Naming Characters

Postby wolfSnack » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:12 pm

I don't usually have TOO much trouble naming characters, but as a last name I tend to use their species name translated into a language native to where the species is from.
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