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Thread: Getting Names for My Characters

  1. #1

    Getting Names for My Characters

    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. #2
    There's a thread on names here. People have a lot of different methods, it's worth having a look through.

  3. #3
    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. #4
    Baby name websites. 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.
    The lies we live will always be confessed in the stories that we tell. - Orson Scott Card

  5. #5
    Senior Member JCFarnham's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    937 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 by JCFarnham; 10-16-11 at 10:49 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Shadoe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    changes constantly
    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, 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. #7
    Moderator Ravana's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    A little south of sanity
    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.
    I have taken all knowledge to be my province. Tariff rates and immigration policies forthcoming.

  8. #8
    I usually hit up the site 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. #9
    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 by The Blue Lotus; 10-17-11 at 11:21 AM.
    " I am out of estrogen, but I have a ball bat - any questions?"

  10. #10 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!

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