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Nicole_Gestalt
03-26-2007, 02:07 AM
how do you all decide upon them? I always have many different pieces on go and the only problem that i've found coming up over and over again is what to name the characters, even if its a piece of non-fiction and i've used other names to cover up the actual peoples name i'm still always at a loss of what to use. At present I have a couple of names that I use as i'm writing the story and then once it's all done with i'll go back through and try and get a name that fits that characters personality. I'm curious to find out how everyone else deals with the issue, and if in deed anyone else things its an issue and not just me having problems with names :D .

Looking forward to hearing ideas and techniques.
Nicole

Calla Lily
03-26-2007, 02:21 AM
I found baby name sites, ethnic name sites etc. etc. (last names too), downloaded them all into a massive Excel file with a different nationality for every sheet, and now I have about 300 names to pick from. A bunch of work (especially weeding out the dupes) but well worth it.

Nicole_Gestalt
03-26-2007, 02:32 AM
Ooh that sounds like a good idea, I have looked through a book of baby names before but I just ended up more disheartend. I have to say I find naming the characters sometimes the hardest thing to do!

Marian Perera
03-26-2007, 02:36 AM
I love naming characters, mostly because I have to think up a different system of nomenclature for each novel/land (I write fantasy). So for one book, it was perfectly-normal-Anglo-Saxon-first-name plus fantastical-last-name and for another it was fantastical-first-name plus self-chosen-last-name-showing-beliefs-or-goals. I always browse through baby name sites or books if I come across them, but there's one site which lists examples of bad names to give babies - I think the name is "Baby's called a bad, bad, thing" - and some of the examples there are inspiring as well. :D

Nicole_Gestalt
03-26-2007, 02:41 AM
I do find it slightly easier when writing fantasy to name my character but that I think is due to me playing a well known dungeon roleplaying game every weekend. However when it comes to more modern writing its always the first names that get me. I like the idea of a bad baby name site i'll have to keep an eye out for it :D.

Penguin Queen
03-26-2007, 02:41 AM
I find names really important. They can have quite an influence on how a character's, er, character turns out.
When I first brainstorm with a new story I tend not to have any names for poeple, but I need them pretty early in to solidify what a character is like.
I can spend a long time agonising over what somebody is called. All my stories are set in the here-and-now, no fantasy, so the names will always have some sort of connection to reality.

I have occasionally renamed characters (when two had names that were too similar), but only after I'd finished writing the piece. Say, a Melanie who suddenly becomes a Suzanne woudl actually become another person in my mind.

Am I odd?

Nicole_Gestalt
03-26-2007, 02:45 AM
No Penguin Queen your not odd! If I didn't use my generic names I would (and have done in the past) spend hours if not days agonising over the names and therefore wouldn't get the writing done! On the rare occasions where a name has come to me at the begining i sometimes find that I have to change it at the end because the name and the character don't fit. I also tend to find that if i'm not careful all the characters names will have the same first initial, and it seems to be a different one for each story so in one there will be lots of characters with A as their first initial whilst in others it will be M, I have to work hard at catching it and forcing them to change name!

Penguin Queen
03-26-2007, 03:04 AM
<...> I have to work hard at catching it and forcing them to change name!

They can be stubborn, can't they?
But once they have their right names, the story goes forward so much more easily. :)

Glad to see I'm not the only one.

OverTheHills&FarAway
03-26-2007, 03:23 AM
Changing a character's name basically kills him for me.

I once wrote a fantasy story, pretty generic, and wanted to set it in a real historical setting to ground it in reality. So, name change number one. That one was alright, since I had to pretty much rewrite it anyway.

Then I wanted to somehow mirror it with Celtic mythology, so change number two. Had to rewrite again, the character magically morphed into someone else.

So when finally I find the PERFECT name, a real historical person, no less, that would make everything fit, can you imagine my horror when I realize that Bran no longer acts like Bran? He acts like Emrys. I tried to tell myself Emrys was his middle name all along, and he just wanted a change.

Didn't work. I've rewritten that stupid story thirty times and it's still unfinished. All because of a name.

weatherfield
03-26-2007, 03:37 AM
So far, my characters' names have always come automatically, but without very much logic, and occasionally that's caused problems in my own head. In one story, a character occurred to me and the first name that came into my head was Justin. Then, I decided I should call him Mike instead, because Justin seemed symbolic, and like it was trying too hard. The change didn't take though, because every time I went to type his name, I would still type Justin. Finally, I just left it. If I were to revise and submit the story, I might change Justin to another name, but only after I was done working on the piece.

Another time, I was in very preliminary planning on a story. I was in the car and decided I wanted to write about a Turkish girl, and I immediately started thinking of her as Adelaide, which was pretty problematic, since it's not a Turkish name and it wasn't a contemporary story. I kept reminding myself not to get attached to the name, because I couldn't use it. Then, I started researching Turkish names and found that while Adelaide isn't a Turkish name, Adalet is, so I renamed her, and because it sounded so close, it didn't damage the character I already had in my head.

Names are very important when I write. I'll almost always go with the first one that pops into my head, even if it's not one that I personally like, because once I think of it, I can't let it go.

Penguin Queen
03-26-2007, 03:43 AM
<...> can you imagine my horror when I realize that Bran no longer acts like Bran? He acts like Emrys. I tried to tell myself Emrys was his middle name all along, and he just wanted a change.

Didn't work. I've rewritten that stupid story thirty times and it's still unfinished. All because of a name.

Can you dupe him by finishing the story with him as Bran and then just doing a search & replace in Word & changing Bran to Emrys?

OverTheHills&FarAway
03-26-2007, 04:24 AM
Possibly, but could I dupe myself? That's the trick.

But the good news is with each transformation, the story gets tighter, and the character more believable. (It's been six years, I should hope so!)

jodiodi
03-26-2007, 05:19 PM
I'm with Weatherfield. My characters' names just are. My characters usually come to me fully formed, name and all. Hence, I don't think about names: that's simply who they are.

I'm also not one who assigns 'meaning' to names. A name is just a way to identify one person from another, for me.

Jersey Chick
03-26-2007, 06:07 PM
I'm with Weatherfield. My characters' names just are. My characters usually come to me fully formed, name and all. Hence, I don't think about names: that's simply who they are.

Count me in as one who usually knows the characters before she knows anything else. My characters already exist by the time I get around to telling their story, but there are times when I only have the hero named, or only the heroine named, and can't think of one for the other half. My only rule is that I have to like the name - I can't use a name I despise.

I've used the phone book for names, as well as The Character Naming Sourcebook, and there are a bunch of websites that will give ethnicity of names, and meanings, etc.

Shadow_Ferret
03-26-2007, 06:43 PM
I find names really important. They can have quite an influence on how a character's, er, character turns out.

You mean like naming them according to the definitions of their names? Like Angel is a good girl. Hope has a good future. Chastity is a virgin? That sort of thing?

I think I've only used a name definition once. The rest of the time they are just names and the meanings are irrelevant to the story.

I've never had a problem with character names. My characters usually come with a name and they tell me what it is before I start writing.

Kentuk
03-26-2007, 07:31 PM
Inventing names is fun. Take an ordinary name and mutate, list various spellings and change the sounds. Instead of Lisa use Issa. Instead of Rodger use Rodg. The trick is to keep them short simple and easy to say.

PeeDee
03-26-2007, 07:47 PM
I just...name them. I can't say I give it very much thought. Usually, they turn up with names.

Sorry, that doesn't help.

Siddow
03-26-2007, 08:00 PM
My characters usually name themselves, but when I'm stuck, I'll use spammer names (great ones in the spam folder, yeah), the phone book, or if I'm killing someone (in fiction, people) I'll use the name of an ex or some bitchy girl from high school.

For instance, in the book I'm about to start, I've already decided to name the villian "Gordon". :D

Penguin Queen
03-26-2007, 08:33 PM
Originally Posted by Penguin Queen http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1219272#post1219272) I find names really important. They can have quite an influence on how a character's, er, character turns out.

You mean like naming them according to the definitions of their names? Like Angel is a good girl. Hope has a good future. Chastity is a virgin? That sort of thing?

No, no, no, no.
I dont think I could ever write about someone named Chastity. :D

I associate characteristics or qualities with names. In some cases this is because I know a person of that name, and then I will think of the character like my friend Lesley, or Rini or Linda or whatever.

But I have an idea of what a person called X is like in general. The more I think about how ot explain this, the more convinced I become that this is a personal weirdness of mine.
Look, I used to work in this office & there was a young woman working there whose name was Rebecca, but she looked nothing like Rebecca, she looked exactly like Patricia. I kept calling her Patricia by mistake because I just couldnt get it in my head that she was Rebecca. Same with Petra who looked like Helga...

You're looking at me oddly. But thats how it is. If I write about somebody named Catherine, she will have different qualities from someone named Elizabeth, or Ruby, or Bethan. Just because of the name.

Vandal
03-26-2007, 08:44 PM
I found an on-line census from the late 1600s as a source for my characters in colonial New England. I took the last names from one town and the first names from another (who knew Flint and Harding were so popular) and combined them.

For the modern-day characters, I used the last names of people with whom I went to high school and college. The first names just happened. I sprinkled in a lot of Portuguese last names because any collection of people from southeastern Mass will include a high percentage of Portuguese.

Sassenach
03-26-2007, 10:16 PM
Possibly, but could I dupe myself? That's the trick.

But the good news is with each transformation, the story gets tighter, and the character more believable. (It's been six years, I should hope so!)

Are you saying you've worked on the same story for six years, and keep changing it simply because the character's name changes?

Mud Dauber
03-26-2007, 11:43 PM
I keep a Word document where I collect names of people from articles on the internet... from my homepage or from an interesting news piece, etc. I've found that if I'm reading one where, let's say, someone in the music biz gives a quote and the guy's a real scumbag, it evokes a certain visual in my head of who's attached to that name so I jot it down. Then I may read a different piece where a woman gets out of her car and stops traffic to let some geese cross the street. I have a total image in my head of her name and what kind of personality she has, so I jot hers down. (Goofy examples, but bear wtih me.) After I've collected all sorts of names of people, I take a look through and find a good combo. I never use "real" names (same first and last taken from an article) just b/c then my characters no longer feel fictional. LOL this sounds completely convoluted, but it works for me. And a nice bonus: just from checking the news stories online daily, you can really pick up some interesting tidbits on human nature. I've gotten quite a few characters through the news.:tongue

OverTheHills&FarAway
03-27-2007, 12:21 AM
Are you saying you've worked on the same story for six years, and keep changing it simply because the character's name changes?

Yeah but no, not that simple, and yes, I'm an imbecile.

I've rewritten it many times for many reasons, and the name changes simply correspond with several rewrites. Like, the first time was because I moved it out of generic fantasy-land and into real historical land, the second was because I moved the location again and had to give a correct name, the third was a complete makeover after a year of not writing and months of research, and the name changed again. This looks like the story that will never be finished, and my main character has changed his name and identity so many times I forget what originally inspired me to write about him.

And every time I change his name, out of necessity of changing some critical part of the story, he becomes someone completely different. So not only is it a makeover of setting, but the change of character means certain elements of the plot must change as well.

It's all connected, and probably means the voices in my head are giving me the runaround, but I like to think of it as my Lord of the Rings. . . twelve years, several rewrites, as I'm finding my story and my characters. And I'm only half-way through. (Yeah, sure, Lord of the Rings. . . .)

Not my chosen method of getting it done, but thank goodness not all my projects end up like this!

ccarver30
03-27-2007, 08:39 PM
Yes, baby name sites are great- especially if you want to have a hidden meaning in a name. In my book, I first named a horse "Thunder" then realized how LAME that was so I changed it to Tarrant- which means thunder in Welsh. LOL

Penguin Queen
03-28-2007, 09:08 PM
Yes, baby name sites are great- especially if you want to have a hidden meaning in a name. In my book, I first named a horse "Thunder" then realized how LAME that was so I changed it to Tarrant- which means thunder in Welsh. LOL

Sorry to but in - it's taran, not tarrant. :)

Croque Madame
03-28-2007, 10:07 PM
A combination of baby name books and phone books. I usually have a harder time with last names, though.

I like the Excel sheet idea mentioned in this thread, I may have to try that. (

dmytryp
03-29-2007, 12:21 AM
in my present WIP I have several countries. first of all I decided for each country what ethnic origin I'm gonna use (one has German origins for names, the other slavic and the third is roman) and then go from there.

In another piece I needed an native african name, so I googled and got a list of names...