Anyone have any tricks or methods they use for thinking thier way though character name creation without having them sound too cliche or hokey?
I've got a character named Revis, and I like the name Revis, but really I just stole it from a cornerback I admire who plays for the Jets. I end up stealing names from stuff all the time: Landmarks, characters in books I admire, types of cars, athletes, whatever.
Just wondering if anyone had a more organic method.
I've got a list of names I keep in a journal. Names I like for some reason or other. When it comes time to write a story I go through the journal and find one that seems to fit with the type of person the character is. (I usually have a feel for each character before I write anything.)
If none of my journal names fit, I go to www.behindthename.com and I can search names by culture, gender, letter, meaning, etc. Some names sound like places, others are people, still others are imaginary creatures. It all depends on what I think when I am searching. If I think a name can be used as a place or a person, I jot the name down in the journal under both People and Places lists.
I don't see any reason you can't borrow names from people you admire or places you think sound good. Last names for me are the hardest to come up with. I sit through the credits in movies and see if I can find a last name I like. So I say borrow away.
When I am writing a person, I will put in a working name that is easy to search and replace later when I choose a better name. It is best not to use a name that is part of words you use.
For a while, I was getting lots of spam in my account, and I would search through and steal the names they used, adding them to a big list. I split first and last names and could put anything together. I knew a guy named Blaire Ruth, but sometimes he was Ruth Blaire. Most names can be swapped like that.
In my story ideas, I don't always use a name in them. but I probably use two dozen names a month. I will decide what first letter the name should start with and then do a name. Many times, I will type a name however wrong it comes out of the keyboard and keep it. IT HAS TO BE PRONOUNCEABLE.
Few people know what names mean, so finding names with the right meanings is a waste of time for most readers. If they sound good or fit the character. Abernathy the Barbarian might not work if one is doing a serious barbarian story. Thor the accountant might also not work great. It is not what one expects for that type of character.
But when you are just writing put in a good name and replace it later. Many times when writing my story ideas, I will type in a name, then copy it and paste it each time the name is used, since my story ideas generally have only one named character.
I have a baby name book that I sometimes use, though I often take a name I like there and twist it so it's not so Earthy. And then sometimes I just start playing with words and sounds until something strikes me as right.
Posts: 1993 | Registered: Jul 2009
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I usually come up with 'em on the spot---though sometimes I put in a Mr. Blank Space or Miss Come Up With Name Later. I'll change a name if it seems too much like something else...but it is hard to come up with a so-called "normal" name that doesn't make me think of somebody else's character.
Of course the opportunity to conceal a joke can't be resisted. I recently wrote something that had an on-stage kid go off to play with an unseen playmate. I gave them first names to play off a recent rivalry between two NASCAR drivers...and, really, what's the point in writing if you can't have fun with it along the way?
Here is what I do. I go through websites with baby names from different cultures matching the background of the character. I try to imagine where he/she was born, what circumstances, and what may be popular in the area at the time.
So far it has helped me immediately gain a bit of who my characters are, even if it take a bit longer to create them.
A sidebar thought on names and different cultures...in a lot of recent cartoon TV shows, I've seen a lot of last names (and occasionally first names) where the name doesn't match the appearance and, ahem, "different culture" type. It's plausible enough---most of these are ostensibly set in the USA, where the melting pot has produced all sorts of delightful combinations---but, as the extended joke it seems to be, I wonder how accessible the matter is to the kids that are the prime and main audience for these cartoons...
Posts: 8809 | Registered: Aug 2005
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In defense of weird names and cultural incongruous: My last name is Cantonese. I am as white as white (seriously, think poster child for the Aryan movement in looks- not attitude). My husband is half Chinese and inherited almost nothing from his father. He has seriously argued with people that his dad is indeed ethnically Chinese (which is hilarious as people tell him his father is not who he thinks his father is). My daughter also has no Chinese features- less so than her dad because she is almost blond. My daughter has an English first name and a Chinese first name given to her by her grandfather. At three, she has chosen her Chinese name as her name (so, when I talk about my daughter and call her Bin, that is actually a component of her name. That may change as she gets older, but right now, as a blond pale woman, I get to introduce my Caucasian looking daughter with a Chinese name that sounds like no English name. Which also confuses Chinese people because the first name is pronounced with the Mandarin pronunciation, the last with the Cantonese with a super American accent.
Posts: 232 | Registered: Apr 2010
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I use my high school yearbook. I went to school overseas with an international population, there's a ton of great stuff to mine out of that group!
My husband pointed out at our 6 year old's dance recital this weekend that it was the penultimate list of Current Names. Madison, Claire, Morgan, Ashley, Blakely, Emily, Emma, Alison, Sophia, you get the drift. I may pull from that list for some of my needs in the future...
I think it is cool that certain names speak to the age of the recipient. If there was a character named Carol, you immediately think of a woman of a certain age. You don't think of a sixteen year old as a Carol, unless the story was set in the sixties or seventies. Or fifties, depending on if they are male.
I think this can be followed into the future. Names that are popular for children now, will (in fifty years) denote a person of a certain age. And naming trends are cyclical. I'm in my twenties, but by the time I'm a grandmother my grandchild might just be named Carol.
I think if you follow the cyclical nature of trends, you can predict what will be popular in the future. That work, not just in name, but also in fashion, or decorating.
I wrote a story set in the future about a grown woman named Miley. Yes, it's a pop star name now, but I've met a bunch of two year olds named in her honor. Sixty years from now, when all remembrance of Miley Cyrus is gone, people will be naming their children after their grandmothers. It's just what happens.