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Coming up with names for your characters and races and more...

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Terra Arkay, Nov 20, 2011.

  1. Terra Arkay

    Terra Arkay Minstrel

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    How do we come up with names for our characters and cities and what not? In order for a name to stand out it must be unique and unusual or rarely used. A name may match up to a character's personality or a city's theme, say I was to create a sky city, I'd probably call it something like Avalon, a dark character could be named something that sounds sinister... though this isn't always the case.

    I personally like to use unusual names like Xavia and Seren that have a no meaning but I don't like those Middle-Age names like Dwfyned and Frodo and Aragorn and Fkodlak(Made that up :p), they just wouldn't suit my genre of fantasy... so how do we come up with names? Do we edit our original names? Sound out words and combine them? Do we take inspiration from others? Do tell.
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've got my own style of what looks right to me. There have been days where I've stared at a page and failed to come up with a name in two hours of word-tinkering and other days where I sat down and typed out seven in just a few minutes. For me it's hardest when I've got the character in mind before I write the name, and most of the time the character's personality fills itself in after I type out a name. The same is true for cities as well, and I've had several locations "swap" names to set a better tone for the location.

    I've also borrowed names from some of my other short stories and pieces to use in the works that I really care about. Names are a hot commodity in my opinion, and I have to make the characters worth it or they'll get name-jacked a little bit later.
     
  3. Terra Arkay

    Terra Arkay Minstrel

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    Yeah exactly, sometimes I search up name generators and edit these names slighty and combine them with other names to come up with this one name...
     
  4. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    It depends on the story being told as to the names. I'll take a little different direction which might be of some interest: Sometimes individuals have different names, depending on who is talking about the character or individual...

    For example, in my first novel, there is:
    The Necromancer King (how the main character knows him), The Corpse Lord (as the Crusaders/the Reunited Kingdom name him), or General Mzali or the Ancient Dictator (those who know of his origin from long ago).

    There is another character whose mercanary name is Road Toad, but those who knew him before he was exiled and took up life as a mercenary know and speak of him as Jadd or Major Jadd (as he was once a serpent cavalryman).

    But as far as naming characters, I feel a name does give an image of the character to the reader. For me, it just 'fits'.

    For: Belinda the Cursed, the Eternal Hag, Belinda Iceheart, or simply Iceheart, all fit for that individual. Again, it depends on who is naming her. To the common folks, she is Belinda the Cursed, or whispered of as the Eternal Hag. Those who know her personally or are her 'equals' call her Iceheart or Belinda Iceheart. But all of the names adequalty describe her, and add an aspect.

    While it may sound confusing, when the names are introduced in context, it adds depth to the characters.

    Just a thought.
     
  5. writeshiek33

    writeshiek33 Sage

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    yeah names can be hard i try to factor a lot of elements such as characteritics both physical and pesronal it also depends on society for instants i have called one of my main characters for a dark fantasy crumb this based on that from slums of the city and what folks have called him
     
  6. Cinder

    Cinder Scribe

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    I don't usually use names such as 'Frodo... Eragon... Kvothe.' I'm useless at coming up with them, so they'd just sound stupid on paper. Names for my characters are generally already created names, sometimes with slight variations to add a sense of uniqueness or antiquity.

    Names I've used include:

    Common, ordinary names such as "Adam, Piers, Ella."

    Slightly less ordinary names such as "Silas, Tristan, Ciaran."

    I also like to use nick-names/titles such as "Echo, Cub, The Man With A Face Like A Salmon." (Seriously)

    9/10 times, the name can be found on a baby-name website, no matter how obscure it is.
     
  7. Seth son of Tom

    Seth son of Tom Minstrel

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    I like this thread. Good tips! For me, I usually think of names or words and try to slowly alter them more and more till they sound very original and eventually sound nothing like the name or word I started out with.
     
  8. Solomon Tan

    Solomon Tan Minstrel

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    Hey, I was thinking of this question too. How do you name your character..

    Same as Cinder, I can't do those names.. I tried, and I seriously tried.. but I came up with weird, hard to pronounce names with no exact meaning..

    But I am thinking.. Do I have to use names like Frodo Baggins so that it sounds more 'fantasy'? Or I can just use names like Adam Sanders... haha?
     
  9. demented-tiger

    demented-tiger Dreamer

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    When I name my characters, I give them a normal first name, such as "Alexis", "Melissa", "Madison", or "Esmeralda"; then make up a last name. For minor characters, a unique take on a common last name will do. For my major characters, I tend to make up a name that gives a hint about thier role in the story, or describes something about them. For example, the character Alexis Soliarous comes from a long line of kings ordained by the Sun Goddess (Soliarous looks like solar); while the character Madison Nocternia is Alexis' friend and has dark bluish, midnight-colored hair (Nocternia, as in the Latin noctis, meaning night). For non-humans, such as elves, I use internet name generators to come up with an elvish sounding name, and might tweak it to better fit my tastes.

    For places, I mostly just use naming conventions similar to the real world; for example Bluvale (a city in the valley of the Blue River), or Bayside (a city by a bay). For countries, I use a similar convention that I use for last names (Sierria for a landlocked mountainous country, after the Spanish word for mountains; and Marinia for a lowland country on the coast, after the word marine, which comes from the Romance word mare, meaning sea).
     
  10. Cinder

    Cinder Scribe

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    I wouldn't say so. Like I said, I've used many ordinary names including Adam, and it's never felt like less of a fantasy story because of it :)
     
  11. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    I use ordinary names too...in fact two of my main characters are two brothers named Jake and Josh.
     
  12. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

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    Don't know how old you are, and there's a good chance about 95% of the forums won't get this reference, but that sounds eerily similar to a show I watched when I was little
     
  13. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    I think you're referring to a TV show called Jake and the Fatman that was on in the early 80's...I just named these two brothers after my sons, Jacob who died before he was born and my firstborn, Joshua...
     
  14. It depends partly on your audience. In my WIP, the realm was originally (sparsely) populated by one particular group of people, who had names in the English/Welsh style. They were conquered (500+ years ago) by a nation from across the sea, who sent waves of colonists. The foreign nation has names in a style that's a mix of Albanian, Kazakhstani, Uzbekistani, and other Eastern European/West Asian names. The foreigners ended up as the ruling/noble classes, and the locals ended up as the commoners/working classes, although after 500 years there's been plenty of interbreeding.

    Still, commoners tend to have names like John, Michael, Bryan, Karen, Francine, Helen; the nobles tend to have names like Asmus, Dardan, Viktor, Amira, Besiana, Alise, Lalia.

    The reason I chose this scheme was so that to my primary audience (Americans) the names of nobles would sound foreign and exotic, and the names of commoners would sound familiar and plain. This is deliberate; of the four main characters, two are nobles and two are commoners, but one of the commoners has a noble-sounding name (for reasons that are explained in the WIP).
     
  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    That's clever. Good scheming.
     
  16. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

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    No, I wasn't alive then. So sorry to hear about your son though. To be clear, I wasn't saying that you got the idea from the show, just saying that the names triggered a memory, sorry. By the way, the show I was referencing was called Drake and Josh, it was a stupid show on Nickelodeon that I watched when I was about 10.
     
  17. Solomon Tan

    Solomon Tan Minstrel

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    I guess it still boils down to how you write the story that makes it fantasy.

    I do like to share something that is in my line of thoughts.. My story that I'm working on, will have different cultures, across different places. So I thought of a kingdom that will be using names that are pretty normal, like Paul, Wilson, Diana..

    Then, I do have another kingdom and I planned to use the way people are named in the bible. E.G: James, son of Zebedee. only for sons, as they are more highly esteemed.. Women will be looked down upon in this kingdom.. They are from a more barbarian, tribal culture, so my idea of their names will be Hurto son of Monash, from the clan/tribe of Sain
     
  18. Masronyx

    Masronyx Minstrel

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    My system is unusual. For starters, any character I come up with, whether it's male or female, doesn't have a name. One of the first things I do is think of a name. I go through a catalog in my mind of names that suit this person, whether it's an 'ordinary' name or something I make up off the top of my head. Most of the time, my stories start out as a scene that flashes in my head or linking a nameless character to a scene, and/or backdrop. The naming is almost always the first thing I start with.

    As for making up names in general, it's usually the twisting and respelling of a random word, no matter what it is. Usually, that system works for names of places. Normally I'll have some paper with me and I spell it out in different ways until I find something that I am satisfied with.

    It never hurts to recycle old names from other stories. I'm always doing that. The name of the world I started creating recently, 'Ayroslanaeir' was the name of a city in another story I gave up on. I'm basically reusing parts from that one for different ideas I've had since.
     
  19. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I cheat.

    The main region of my primary world - which is not earth - features a quasi-roman empire that didn't fall all the way into barbarianism, but instead merged with quasi celtic and quasi greek cultures (and yes, there is a quasi viking nation just over the horizon).

    Many years ago, I obtained AD&D source books for ancient Rome, Celts, mythical Greece, and the like. Among a great many other useful tidbits, each of these books contains lists of names common to those peoples. I need a name, I look at the lists. There are exceptions, of course.

    A couple of the books gave common names for dwarves and elves (not so many, but a few).

    The AD&D 'Crusades' book (same series as the others) gave me a source for middle eastern names.

    For a culture very roughly based on ancient India, I flipped through a few present day books on India and pulled a bunch of names with which to make lists.

    Other non-humans...took some thought.
     
  20. Stranger

    Stranger Dreamer

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    It takes me a lot of time to come up with a name. Sometimes a good name just comes to me, but until it does I use placeholders. I have way too many short stories where the protagonist is still named "Main", "Insert Name Here" or "Some Guy".

    I use behindthename.com a lot for ideas.
     
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