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How do you choose your characters' names?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by kdl121, Mar 26, 2017.

  1. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    Not at all. It would be interesting to see exactly how that dragon behaved, given that name. In a dark tale, a dragon named Pandemonium, who spread fire and chaos everywhere, would be aptly named. In a humorous tale, a dragon named Pandemonium, who squandered her treasure hoard visiting different pubs across the land, buying beer for strangers, might also be aptly named.
  2. Fair enough.

    My main problem with the name, to be honest, is probably not being able to shorten it to any kind of nickname her rider can use. Five syllables is cumbersome.
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    "Pan" seems like a perfectly good nickname for that dragon.
  4. Hmm...I've thought about it, but I find it hard to like. It doesn't fit a female dragon especially...
  5. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Pande? Panda? XD
  6. I settled on that for forever, but I don't know how to pronounce the first one and the second is just a bit weird...especially for a dragon that's striped rather than panda'd. :p
  7. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I imagine they'd be pronounced the same; the 'e' in Pande is like the one in 'the', just an unstressed "uh" sound.
  8. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    Maybe Moni?
    Ireth likes this.
  9. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    You could also shorten Pandemonium to "Demon" if that struck your fancy. :)
  10. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

    Are there pandas in that world? And even if there are, it's very obviously a shortened name.

    I'm more partial to "Pan" myself. It feels like that would be the natural shortened version. And the maleness of the name shouldn't be an issue either. There are girl names that are shortened to something that sounds/is male without any issues. E.g. Samantha to Sam, Alexis to Alex, Jo-anne to Jo, etc.

    But in the end, if you don't like it, you don't like it. Alternatively, the nickname doesn't need to refer to the normal name. It could refer to a feature.

    That seems like it can be incredibly confusing. How many characters are we talking about here? And how long is said story?
    I've read almost zero stories where name-withholding aided the story. Though The Road managed to pull it off without being confusing, but you should just be aware of the landmines you're setting up for yourself.
  11. That's what I thought...I don't know if it would occur to readers though...
  12. There are really only three, possibly four important characters. I refer to them as "the boy," "the girl..." I suspect a novel of about 65,000 words, but it really shouldn't be too confusing. And I think I know what I'm doing. It definitely doesn't feel right to give these characters names in the story I'm going for.
  13. I could. :p
  14. Graceless Liar

    Graceless Liar Dreamer

    I tend to use real world names, but I choose them from a culture that has similarities to the world I'm building.
    For example, my current revision in progress uses a lot of Welsh and Irish Gaelic names and terms. Many of these are real names, but I will make up my own once I get a feel for how names sound in my chosen language/culture. Another WIP takes heavy influence from India, and so the names I chose were Indian or Hindu in origin.

    My published work has naming conventions that seem to be all over the place, which is deliberate. Most of the characters have modern names (Audri and Izak, for example) but some have latin based names (Octavia and her mother Septia) because of their heritage, and others still have totally off the wall fantasy names (like Ikarios and Dieos) that follow no real naming system because those characters are so old they predate most current cultures.

    As for name meanings...well...unless there is an in-universe reason for it, I wouldn't put too much stock into the meanings. It just seems a tad to contrived if your hero ends up with a name that actually means hero, unless that's the point of course.
  15. RedAngel

    RedAngel Minstrel

    I have somewhat of a system I use.

    1: Where is their race?
    2: Where are they from?
    3: What is their role in the story?
    4: Do they require any extra symbolism?

    1: Human male
    2: Small farming community modeled after the celts. Possible name: Shamus
    3: Mc in a fall from grace role
    4: He will cause harm in the story
    Harmus comes to mind when considering those factors.
  16. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    That seems just a tad "on-the-nose" for me.
  17. I have two name books, two Japanese dictionaries, an Irish Gaelic name book, a Latin dictionary, a Greek dictionary, a thesaurus, and an etymology book. I go through and pick out names/words that I like best, and all the names have some sort of important meaning to the story [Kurea, for instance, is the Japanese pronunciation for Clare, which means 'bright/shining/clear'].
  18. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Minstrel

    Brute force. I look at websites with thousands of names, add minimal restrictions based on culture, and then go through as many of the names as possible, each time trying to think of something specific that I don't like about the name.

    After I have a few names that I haven't found any problems with, I look at the whole list, try to rule out a few more in comparison with / contrast against the others, then I pick one at random and use it until I like it :) I've never worried about trying to get The Perfect Name ahead of time: once I've used a good-enough name for a character enough, it becomes the perfect name.

    "Harry Potter" and "Walter White" would both be incredibly boring names if not for the stories about the characters, and "James Bond" was picked because Fleming wanted the most boring name in the world so that Agent 007 would be emphasized as an uninteresting person that interesting things happened to. The Milwaukee Cannibal was not terrifying because his name was Jeffrey Dahmer, the name "Jeffrey Dahmer" became terrifying after being associated with the Milwaukee Cannibal.

    The only time I distinctly remember feeling "This is the perfect name" before getting heavily invested into the character herself was when I was adding a bunch of extra restrictions that I normally don't:
    Two of the characters in Doctor Who / Torchwood were made superficially similar so that the fundamental differences would stand out — one is a heroic leader, the other a villainous loner — and one of the superficial similarities was that the more important character went by the alias of Captain Jack Harkness while his ex-husband went by the alias of Captain John Hart.

    When I first came up with my fanfiction, I wanted one of my own characters to fit the same theme as the two canon characters, so I scoured the internet for "girl names J" and "last names H" before deciding that my character would go by the alias of Captain June Harper.
  19. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

    I usually don't have a problem choosing names for my characters, but I did accidentally invent one name as the result of an autocorrect that went wrong.

    When I wanted a name for a Magic Academy I just closed my eyes and typed until something useful appeared; then I Googled it to make sure it didn't exist in the real world/hadn't been used before in fiction.
  20. Antaus

    Antaus Minstrel

    With me I usually find something that sounds interesting, then fiddle with it. It can be totally made up, from a pre-existing word, or combination thereof.


    Talinchanakaris - totally made up and an intentional jaw breaker

    Magnox - derived from the television brand name Magnavox. Magnavox - av = Magnox

    Spartac - Sparhawk is the name of character from a David Eddings book I read a loooong time ago. Hardtack is a type of biscuit. Sparhawk + Hardtack = Spartac
    Last edited: May 10, 2017

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