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Naming Characters

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Kestrel, Apr 20, 2021.

  1. Kestrel

    Kestrel Scribe

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    Usually when I name my characters I go through a series of names until I find one that feels right. I consider things like, time period, location, and in some cases the meaning of a name.

    I'm having a problem right now where I've settled on a first and last name for a character that I love. I can't imagine this character with any other name. I did a Google search of the name, which I sometimes do to see if there are any other prominent figures that already have the name. As it turns out, the full name belongs to a somewhat prominent supporting character of a game. I admittedly remember playing this game, completely forgot about this character, but now wonder if I became attached to the name because I've heard it before.

    What would you do? Keep the name? Change it?
     
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  2. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I'd change some aspect of it, especially if it's a popular video game. We're having to rename an entire family with a name we've been sitting on for over twenty years, because it suddenly got attached to a popular movie character. The name?

    Dameron.
     
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  3. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Give them a middle name. Refer to them as only first & middle name or middle & last name until you forget the last piece.
     
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  4. Kestrel

    Kestrel Scribe

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    That is frustrating. Especially because you've had the name for so long.

    I ended up having to change the name of the race I created. I had settled on a name that I had been calling it for years. A Google search once again showed me it was the name of some demon race in another story. I lost my love for it after that and easily changed it to what I have now.

    This one is hard though because I really loved the character it belongs too, and it is so fitting for him. I suppose I'll have to change some part of it. Either first or last.

    I like the idea of working in the middle name until it fits. I might try that.
     
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  5. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

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    I have a character in a Later Book who went by the name Bella. And I changed that because Twilight happened and I was so, so worried about people making comparisons. But after all these years I don't think that change was necessary. My target audience and genre is totally different than Twilight and it's been long enough that people aren't going to immediately think "oh this is ripping off Twilight."

    There's only so many names out there in the (real) world, so sometimes there's going to be characters with the same name. There's probably a lot of Hank Andersons out there in the world, so as long as your story's Hank Anderson isn't a grizzled cop with a mysterious past and is an alcoholic and hates robots then I don't think people are going to really notice or even care. But if your character is a more unique name, like Vicar Amelia....well that's going to look a little weird. But, again, is this going to be a similar audience? Are you writing a story with a similar aesthetic? Also how big of a character is your character? If they're not one of the big players then people might think it's a nod or reference and not a ripoff.
     
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  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I would change it, but that's me. I will spend hours doing google searches when coming up with a set of names for a story. I check 1) number of search results and 2) the type of search results before settling. My favorite result is zero or a handful of search results, particularly for main characters. Think of "Dumbledore." Before the HP series existed, how many uses did it have? Heh. This, even though there were probably lots of Harry Potters already. (But my focus has always been secondary world settings, so common Earth names tend to be ruled out.)
     
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  7. Kestrel

    Kestrel Scribe

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    I considered that. How many people have played this game that would also read my story? Well they're both set in a similar time period with magic and demons, so there is that. They both cater to people into that sort of fantasy. My world is very different from the Dragon Age world though.

    The name im talking about is Cullen Rutherford. Who was a romantic interest to a female player in the game. I'm definitely thinking I need to change the name, because my Cullen happens to also be the protagonists love interest. I think if anything I'll stick with Rutherford, its a fairly generic last name, but still strong sounding. I was also worried some might hear Cullen and think Twilight. So many twilight images came up when I googled Cullen.

    The hardest part is finding another name with a similar feel.
     
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  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Oh! Yeah, Dragon Age lover here, too. You're right, that does need a change. Too many people - and there are a lot of us DA fans and even just Bioware fans who are DA- adjacent - will spot that pretty fast. And Cullen as a last name will definitely draw commentary.

    I have a character in a side-novel of ours, way down the series timeline, named Callum. What do you think about Callum Rutherford?
     
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  9. Kestrel

    Kestrel Scribe

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    Lol, I actually picked the game up again after being refreshed by that Google search! I Love Dragon Age!

    I don't mind Callum. It sounds strong, noble. I'm almost thinking I need to branch out from "C" names though. A lot of my characters have names starting with the hard "C" sound.

    I'm thinking an old name with two syllables. Thomas, Andrew, Arthur.... I don't know! I liked how different Cullen was. Where does that name come from? Maybe ill try names from the same region?
     
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  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Looks like it originates as a surname in Irish Gaelic. Also looks like there are a lot of books and sites out there devoted to Irish names across the centuries. I write urban fantasy with some fae from Irish and British mythology, so one of my closest resources is a 20 year-old book of Irish names with meanings and some pronunciations - and pronunciation matters with some of these screwy names. lol
     
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  11. OK, yes, the full name being the same, something needs changed, but I'd go against the conventional wisdom and advice here and say if you love the name Cullen, keep it (or do as A.E. suggests and go with a slight variation) and change the Rutherford. Why? Cullen sticks in my head and Rutherford, as you've said, is fairly generic and therefor should be easily replaced. So, to me, it would actually be the last name I would look at and think, this is the part that seems to be evidence of a blatant copy (from DA) because you'll appear to have selected the SAME generic, real-world last name for your character.

    I say this because, fictional characters aside, I've known three people named Cullen in my life, two with it as a surname, one as a first name. It's not that rare in the Eastern US and Canada were I grew up so I wouldn't think twice about it if I came across it in a book. Nor if I saw it repeated in several fictionalizations. I'd long forgotten the association with Twilight and, as for DA? Well, not all readers are gamers. Not all gamers love DA. For me, it's not something I'd worry over because the name, though memorable, isn't made up in the least. In fact, though I am no DA player, if i'd come across the name within the game, I'd assume they'd taken it straight from the real world.

    As for the last name, I've known a dozen families named Rutherford and read two books, very recently, with the last name Rutherford in it. I'm betting there are hundreds more out there, across genres, with the name attached, so why ditch the catchy name and keep the easily replaced one? How often is someone in the book going to refer to your character, in full, as Cullen Rutherford?

    As a new reader/visitor to your world, I'd have no reason not to take to Callum, or Collum, or Cullem, or Collin, or Colm as a name too. No difference to me in memorability or cool factor in any of those potential replacements.

    It's only really US, as writers, who grow so attached at this stage! :)

    Good luck!
     
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  12. Kestrel

    Kestrel Scribe

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    Brilliant argument for ditching Rutherford. I had never met anyone named Cullen before. I always thought it was more one of those old timey names that fell out of use. It always stuck out to me, which could have been why it came to me when naming my character. It would definitely be easier to change the last name.

    Thank you for the different perspective!
     
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  13. Kestrel

    Kestrel Scribe

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    I think i just had a change of heart in changing the first name! However, I think I may search Irish Gaelic names to replace the last! So thank you for that!
     
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  14. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    I think me and A. E. LowanA. E. Lowan might have both liked that in unison.


    I like the sound of the name 'Rutherford'. It would probably be a better idea to change it though, so people don't get confused by your book and think it's a reference to something else.
     
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  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >Dameron
    FWIW, I've never heard this name. Were I to pause to speculate on the name, I'd guess the author just switched a letter on Cameron.

    What seems obvious to one reader will always be obscure to another.
     
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  16. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    It's now the name of one of the main characters in the new Star Wars arc. Poe Dameron. *big damn sigh* I think Disney must have ripped it off from the phone book, just like we did. lol They even pronounce it the same way we do.
     
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  17. Alexander Knight

    Alexander Knight Scribe

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    If the name is something highly unique, then yes, you'll probably have to change it. But there are many Hanks or Freds in the world. Having two different beings with the same name is not uncommon by any stretch. If you like it that much, I'd say keep it.
     
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  18. MiaC

    MiaC Dreamer

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    I would change it, at least somewhat. People will associate that name with the character from the video game and if I had that issue, I'd change the name.
     
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  19. Chinaren

    Chinaren Scribe

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    Most of my stories have a main character with short names: Ian, Bob, Alice etc. Mainly because I know I'm going to be typing it a lot, and it's faster to type Bob than Bartholomew, however you spell that.
     
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  20. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

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    Ah, but you can always go back through with 'search & replace' and change them all to long ones!
     
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