Getting Names for My Characters

Discussion in 'Research' started by Queengilda, Oct 14, 2011.

  1. Queengilda

    Queengilda Apprentice

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    The current book I'm working on is set in England in the late 9th century AD. I was find it difficult to get myself moving because I just couldn't get my characters any names. Then I found the Domesday Book on line. I selected a couple of towns and used the names from those towns to get me going. The was the first time in history that people really started to get last names that stuck. As there weren't that many first names, the big wigs needed to give the peasants last names so they could keep better track to them. Makes it easier for tax collecting!

    Where do you get your character's names?
     
  2. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Grandmaster

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    There's a thread on names here. People have a lot of different methods, it's worth having a look through.
     
  3. Benjamin Clayborne

    Benjamin Clayborne Dark Lord

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    Lists of names. Some of the names of main characters in my WIP (Dardan, Amira, Besiana, Valmir) are straight-up Albanian names. Some names, I take a real name I find and twist it to make it sound more fantasy-like, and less realistic. "Muzaffar" is a common Uzbek name, and it sounds almost too specifically ethnic, but "Bahodir" sounds great, so I used that as the surname of a noble.

    Consulting real-world lists is the best starting point, especially if the culture you're writing about is inspired by a real-world one. The two cultures comprising my fictional nation are English and Albanian, primarily, so I use names from those cultures (but again, sometimes they're modified).

    We can't all be Tolkien, inventing whole languages. And we don't have to be. But more naming consistency and realism helps draw readers in, I think.
     
  4. mythique890

    mythique890 Mystagogue

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    Baby name websites. Babynames.com even has things specifically for writers looking to name their characters. And you can search for a name by meaning (which I love), gender, or ethnicity on their advanced search. I've also found, however, that if you already know which language you want your names to come from, it's better to google names from that language (i.e., "Welsh names") instead of use the big baby name websites, as the websites dedicated to one language/nationality tend to be more comprehensive.

    I've also googled "popular names in medieval England," or something like that and found good stuff.
     
  5. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Dark Lord

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    behindthename.com is my favoured naming site, if I want to use real-world names of course.

    If not.... mashing on the keyboard works sometimes haha, seriously though, I love Behind The Name. Sooo much choice.

    Oh and if I'm feeling "geeky", or rather, in the right mood, I like to create my own naming languages, with rules and a set of sounds they can use. I have two basic naming languages .. and one where I just pick various sounds from Scandanavian type languages. Cheating can be fun sometimes.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2011
  6. Shadoe

    Shadoe Mystagogue

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    Usually, just thinking about the character gives me an idea of what I want to name them. When I'm feeling lazy, I go to Seventhsanctum.com, which has a number of name generators for a lot of different things. I generally don't use the names they come up with, but I fiddle with the names they give until they come up with something I like.
     
  7. Ravana

    Ravana Istari

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    Baby name books, histories, maps, taking another language and putting it through a few linguistic twists, making them up out of whole cloth. Pretty much anywhere, in other words. Well, anywhere except websites: I'm too much a hard-copy addict. If it's a real name, I probably already have it somewhere (and, yes, that does include reference books on both Albanian and Uzbek ;) ); if it's one of those Chinese-menu name generators, I have to go through too many attempts to get anything I like.
     
  8. SarahM.

    SarahM. Acolyte

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    I usually hit up the site 20000-names.com and click through until I get something I like or at least something I can tweak. It's pretty good and has the meaning of quite a few names I couldn't find on baby name sites.
     
  9. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Dark Lord

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    I figure out what personality my character has, Names at least to me mean something.

    I want the name to mesh well with the "person" ... To that end I sometimes use place holders until I find just the right name.



    Since my work is regional based I pick Uncommon names, from that area, that match up nicely with the life I am creating.

    For the Indian names I dug through thousands of texts hunting down historical names that are not commonly heard today.

    For the American names, I selected names that had a meaning either to me or the names meaning nicely summed up the characters.



    Now the only name I had a really hard time with was the Taiwanese name. She proved to be harder than I had expected but she eventually coughed it up one night.
    ;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011
  10. Queengilda

    Queengilda Apprentice

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    Behindthename.com is new to me. Thanks JCFarnham for suggesting it, I will definitely give it a try as well. It is always great to have a few places to search out new characters.

    I personally haven't had much luck with smashing on the keyboard. lol!
     
  11. Thursday

    Thursday Journeyman

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    I combine names of people I know and if I come across a strange name on TV or in real life I'll jot it down and keep it for a future book. Combining names in strange ways works the best for me.
     
  12. Ravana

    Ravana Istari

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    The best resources aren't always the obvious ones. For instance, if you want names from the Medieval period–and don't mind doing a bit of work extracting them–try the Yale Law School. No, I'm serious: their Avalon Project is a compendium of legal documents dating back to the beginning of written history. The very first hit here

    Avalon Project - Medieval Documents : 400 - 1399

    is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which covers the 1st-12th centuries–and is rendered in modern English: all their documents are. Much of what they have are short extracts (whatever some professor wanted to use for a class, I'm guessing), or surviving fragments; the Chronicle appears to be complete, however.

    Another possibility–though you have to have a pretty good idea what you're looking for–is Project Gutenberg:

    Project Gutenberg - free ebooks

    This is a compendium of out-of-copyright works… from the last century on back, and in numerous different languages. It also has the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (also in modern English–sadly, and not the common practice of the site), but more entertaining are the Chronicles of Raphael Holinshead: Chronicle 1 is complete (albeit in eight parts), and covers up to the time of the Norman Conquest. Better–at least for capturing the "feel," in my opinion–they're still in the original Elizabethan English. The were used as a source by some other English authors you may have heard of before. (The search interface on the page could be better, but unlike the Avalon Project, they don't have an Ivy League budget backing them up.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
    The Blue Lotus likes this.
  13. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Scribal Lord

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    I've found names of streets to be a good inspiration for names.
     
  14. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Grandmaster

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    I've used one or two, and I'll probably use more. It's also nice to have name ideas come to you when taking a walk.
     
  15. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Dark Lord

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    Pick a rual area of the country and throw darts at the map... ROFL sometimes that works!
     
  16. Foxmc

    Foxmc New Member

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    Depends on where the story I'm writing is set. There are lots of great suggestions for historical and modern names already listed here. In my own world I just make them up by looking around the office. Right now I'm looking at a doorhandle. So, jig the letters about a bit and, presto, the name I take from that is Lande. Okay, it might not be the best example. But it could fit a stand in character. Inspiration for names is everywhere.
     
  17. CharlieDay

    CharlieDay Journeyman

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    Search for character name lists for various tabletop role-playing games. I have found several such lists and have printed them out for my stories. They have been incredibly helpful!
     
  18. lawrence

    lawrence Lore Master

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    Thanks for the replies here folks, I sometimes struggle with character names, and this info is really helpful. Getting names right matters, its quite jarring to come across a character with a poorly chosen out of place name, its a big reminder that there was an author sat at a desk making up all this that I am reading ! :p
     
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