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Thread: Naming Your Characters

  1. #1
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    Default Naming Your Characters

    Well, I searched through the Café and have never seen a thread like this before (at least over the past year), and I think it would be a valid issue to discuss.

    I'm talking about naming your characters. How do you go about choosing a name for your character? Is there any special meaning or connection based off the name? Is it based off some constant quirk of the character? Or did you just randomly pick a name from thin air?

    While I do love names that mean something, I end up naming most of my characters randomly. In fact, in The Light in the Darkness, Amber, Kyle, and Kirk were names I chose randomly for reasons unknown to even me. However, I did have particular reasons behind Paco and Soru. Paco's name comes from the fact that he ends up speaking Spanish at random times as he talks. Soru's name has a little more meaning, as it is derived from the Japanese name for Absol, Abusoru.

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    Uhh...about that...
    I seriously just randomly name my characters, eg Jenny (Torchic) Rosa (Piplup), Paul (Alakazam) etc.
    When I was naming the two Treecko, though, I used the names from Oliver Twist just in case if anyone is wondering where I got the names Oliver and Nancy.
    And sometimes, I find names that rhymes with the Pokémon's name, like Cory (Porygon) and Emily (Empoleon).

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    Usually I choose names that mean something in particular to me, like if I use a few personality traits of a friend and give the character the friend's name. Otherwise I choose names that spring to mind when I think of that character, or give them an in-planning nickname that sticks so I can't think of the character with any other name.

    With Pokemon, my methods are usually different. Sometimes I reuse names of characters in stories I wrote many years ago. Other times I search up the Pokemon's Japanese name and change it to make a name for the character. Other times yet, I go with the same methods I use to choose names for humans.

    So basically, the method is random but the names end up holding meaning, either when they're first given or by the time I've worked with that character for a few chapters.
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    I think we're pretty much alike in that I usually assign names randomly, but occasionally will put some significance in them. Like, I have a main character named Michael (picked at random), but when I went to choose the name of the second main character, I named her Michelle to kind of symbolize their connection. 'cause the names kind of look alike. But this is a great thread, thanks for creating it.

    Oh, and when I do try to create some significant names, they end up being too obvious and kind of laughable. I did that once and I'll never do it again, lol. But, you know, I guess my philosophy on names for characters is just that Destiny doesn't pick your name, your mom does, so it makes sense that everyone isn't named what they do.
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    I can't help but put some hidden meaning behind their names. It's just automatic for me. Come to think of it, I don't have any characters that have been named randomly, not even characters that only had a three-sentence-appearance and never showed up again.



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    I just name them whatever first comes to mind. Occasionally it's somewhat meaningful; sometimes I discover after naming the character that it could be taken as being somewhat meaningful. But usually it's just a random name.

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    I name my characters on a whim.

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    (shrug) Names are names. Sometimes the personality adapts itself to the name, but most of the time a person's name is simply another way of ensuring ease of identification. I usually just prefer picking random names, as putting too much thought into it tends to bias my future development of the character (holy cowz, must make sure John is teh favored one of teh gods or else horrorz). I just think of the character and then use the first name that pops into my head, whether overused or not.

    I'd like to raise a point:
    How do you go about choosing a name for your character? Is there any special meaning or connection based off the name? Is it based off some constant quirk of the character? Or did you just randomly pick a name from thin air?
    This should really only be used for nicknames; otherwise, it turns into a cycle of {character tends to float in the water a lot-character is named Bob-author tries to move on with the character's personality but is hampered by mental block labeled 'Bob's Name's Roots'-Bob never moves on-Bob floats in water for all eternity}. Not quite that literally, of course, but, honestly, how many of us are not named until the age of ten or higher? We are given names at birth and then our personalities can develop around the meaning of the name... Or they won't.

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    I've heard a number of people argue against the naming people for their 'destiny' or for 'what they are' thing (not necessarily in this thread, obviously). I can understand it on one side, but I don't think readers even usually look at the meaning of names except for the purposes of finding out the symbolism behind it. As far as literary technique goes, I wouldn't call it a crime, and if you're looking for a name, why not start there?

    Or maybe I'm just defending my way of finding names. XD

    Somewhat of a fine line with that though, because naming a character something ridiculous like 'Destiny' outright is just ... no.

    In Choice and Consequence, the main character is called 'Keegan', which means 'small and fiery/bright flame', because her father is a mono-type fire trainer (among other things). Her rival's name was slightly random ('Tynan', which means 'dark') because he was supposed to be if not evil, then not very nice, but his character has changed over time so it may as well be a random name. A third character who appears is a doctor, so I called him 'Jason', which means 'healer'. Yeah ... not fond of that one, but it stuck so what can you do?

    Conversely, in 'The good fight' I called a murderer 'Jace Patterson' ('Jace' is a form of 'Jason', so 'healer', and 'Patterson' is based off of the name 'Patrick', which I chose so I could name him after the saint). So yeah, went completely inverse on that one.

    I've been trying to give the gym leaders/E4 English family names to suit with their translated names, and I generally base them on what types they train or some attribute of said type (eg, Falkner 'Arrington', from a town whose name meant 'Earna's Settlement', 'Earna' meaning 'eagle' in Old English). I want to give them their Japanese family names too, but I my usual name sites don't really have a huge list of Japanese family names and I don't know enough about kanji and Japanese compounds to put some together myself. ;_;

    Otherwise, I think about whether a name suits the character, which is kind of hard and arbitrary ... even if the meaning is right, I won't choose it if I'm not sure it suits. I could just be scanning a list of names and one will jump out at me and I'll know. On the other hand, I can be looking for days and not find anything. When I do use random names for major characters, I try not to use anything common, but nothing outlandish either--something like 'Rosaline' or 'Sullivan'.

    When it comes to pokemon I look at the personality of the trainer (if they're trained pokemon). Tynan doesn't nickname his pokemon, but Keegan names them after the characteristics of their type, appearance, or the relevance of their relationship to her (eg, she named her growlithe/arcanine 'Firefoot', her vaporeon 'Tarn', and will later name a pokemon she is given 'Token'). When it comes to wild pokemon I often look at what kind of lifestyle they lead; for instance, I have a pair of eevee brothers of which the elder and leader of the two is called simply 'Brother', while the younger and meeker is called 'Bairn'. Otherwise I just use similar letters in the species name, since their species name is ostensibly the sound they make (eg, I've called a gyarados 'Myaki'). The only problem with that is that it's rather language-specific (it assumes that dragonite are always called dragonite and so will always use similar sounds, when they're actually called kairyuu in Japanese, etc).

    And because I haven't said it yet, I also go by the culturally-specific thing where relevant.

    ... okay uh ... everyone has short replies and here I am ranting and raving. Now I feel dumb. ^.^;; Yeeeeahh, I take naming things really seriously. XD Researching for names is addictive. But then, most research is ...
    Last edited by purple_drake; 31st December 2008 at 9:22 AM.

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    It depends on the story and the person's role. In Obsession, pretty much every name has meaning (Asaph, for instance, means "collector") because Jirarudan's name has such a strange meaning.

    But when I need, like, a random person, I tend to go for something off the top of my head. Although that got me in trouble once--I named a low-ranked Rocket "Maxie". Booooy howdy did that come back to haunt me. Although since the fic needs a rewrite anyway, we (me and my cowriter) are going to put in about why that's yet another reason Giovanni hates him.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjack Gabbiani View Post
    But when I need, like, a random person, I tend to go for something off the top of my head. Although that got me in trouble once--I named a low-ranked Rocket "Maxie". Booooy howdy did that come back to haunt me. Although since the fic needs a rewrite anyway, we (me and my cowriter) are going to put in about why that's yet another reason Giovanni hates him.
    I've done that. :X I named a Magma grunt 'Brody'--although he's a decently major background character, not someone minor--and then the dub of the weather institute eps aired, and what did they name Bannai?

    Though I don't think Brody suits him, so I tend to stick to Bannai anyway, which raises some cultural continuity problems ...

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    I came up with my names with an inside gag in mind. Since they work on the weather, I took names of storms from the 2004 (Windmill Kingdom) and 2005 (Water Drop Kingdom) Atlantic Hurricane lists for the main characters. From there, I chose a name that fit the particular character.

    I ripped Spigot off of Talespin. As I developed the character idea, I was reminded of Colonel Spigot from the show. I was so tempted to have him introduce himself "I'm Spigot, the chief engineer for the machine of the Water Drop Kingdom; perhaps you've heard of me."

    Because it's based on a concept, some of the names are given.

    The bad guys were names I came up with that related to what they were.

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    I almost always have *some* meaning behind the names I use, that way it is much easier to remember if one has many background characters.

    For example, people named after the pokémon they use:
    Katalina "Kitty" Fellini - Feline pokémon
    Conan Baskerville - Canine pokémon
    Hilda Drakard - Over-powered pokémon (dragons, semi-legendaries and so on)

    Sound-alike names:
    Sheryl Bloxam [Not related to Cheryl] - Cherry Blossom
    Bion & Vita Twinbourne - Latin and Greek for "Life", they're twins, and well, born.
    Candice "Candy" Sweet -Self-explanatory
    Beau Fyers - Both names mean beautiful/handsome/fair

    Names I just picked up and used that means something:
    Alice Carroll-Lewis [divorced parents] - From Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
    Wendy Moira Barrie - J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan
    Brice Rinehart - Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Case of Jennie Brice
    Incidentally, both Alice and Brice trains ice pokémon, and are rivals (One is named after a highly illogical literary nonsense fantasy novel, while the other is named after a logical crime novel), so their names are triple puns.

    I also have an art teacher at the pokémon academy named Lisa Monet, which is also a double pun (Mona Lisa, Claude Monet).

    As you can tell, I love finding both subtle and unsubtle names for reoccurring characters, and the best part is that they are all real names, as in, I pulled them all from wikipedia and naming sites.

    But if it's just a one-battle trainer I probably would just pick a name. Below are a list of naming sites that I use:

    Not so large database of last names
    Not many last names here either
    Larger database of last names
    Largest database with last names meanings I've found so far

    Staple site for first names
    Not as reliable but has a bunch
    Rapidly growing, you can search by user rating and so on
    GIANT name site

    What can I say, I love naming characters. I have a bit harder time with pokémon (anything between Blitz, Cerise, Rosette, Helix and human names).

    However, this type of naming only works because gym leaders and elite four are amongst the main characters, if I wanted a bit more realistic I'd probably name them names like Alice Grey and Daniel Brooke.

    It all depends on how outlandish your setting can afford to be before the reader stops taking the plot seriously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oktober View Post
    This should really only be used for nicknames; otherwise, it turns into a cycle of {character tends to float in the water a lot-character is named Bob-author tries to move on with the character's personality but is hampered by mental block labeled 'Bob's Name's Roots'-Bob never moves on-Bob floats in water for all eternity}. Not quite that literally, of course, but, honestly, how many of us are not named until the age of ten or higher? We are given names at birth and then our personalities can develop around the meaning of the name... Or they won't.

    Just a random thought floating through a weird brain at 3 in the morning. XD
    Actually that makes a lot of sense - I've created a few characters who I just named, then, after their personalities developed, I checked them out on a site that gave a definition or meaning to the name. A lot of them seemed to fit the character's personality well, and when they didn't, it was more like the meaning was the opposite of the character.
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    For humans, I just use names that sound good to me with no intended meaning attached.

    For pokemon I use different names.

    Some characters don't have names/won't tell them. The Onix clan in my fic all have names of Titans from Greek mythology (Atlas, Prometheus, Cronus, Epimetheus, etc.) I'm a fan of using mythological names like Daedalus, for the Taillow. The Beedrill clan in my fic/oneshot have made up names which sound very Beedrillian (Drezdk, Talvoc, Zurik, etc.) Some characters have names based on their species (Avis for a Pidgey, Strix for a Zubat), and some have names which have no deep meaning (Ace the Squirtle, Blitz the Scyther).
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    I don't choose my character's names with any specific meanings in mind. Most of the time, when I come up with a character, I have a vague idea of their personality and general role in the fic floating around my head for a while before I actually name them, and eventually a name pops to mind that just sounds right for them. Once that happens, it's usually impossible for me to ever give them a different name.

    Anyway, to me, the most important thing about a name is the sound it makes, not the meaning it has.
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    I like naming characters. Naming characters is a big thing for me.

    The names almost always conform to the personality in ways that would be glaring if anyone understood their meaning. However, they mean nothing in any known language. I make them up as phonetic equivalents of the character's main aspect, and occasionally have significant meanings. I more or less make a word that sounds like the epitome of what that character is.

    Dr. Elotarec Quastra is a man whose mental OS functions on logic alone; his first name is therefore made to sound mechanical and logical to me (all right angles and keen edges).

    Ruki, on the other hand, was named merely to ring well when her name is placed along with that of (arguably) her best friend, Amaren. Her surname, Ferena, seems to sum up her personality from The Unedited onwards. Once again, these names make sense in an intuitive way to me, but they may mean other things to other people.

    And so on. Any resemblance to real-world names is unintentional.

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    It depends on the character. If they're a minor character, or one just thrown together, usually a random name is slapped on them.

    For characters for integral to the plot, I tend to use names that mean something to me, or are fitting in some manner. The inspiration for the names varies usually depending on my mood, for example, earlier I used an online Japanese translation site to work out some names for some minor important characters in my current fic.

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    It actually depends on the sort of story I'm writing. If it's just written for fun, names are picked at random or from me looking over the concept and thinking, 'that looks like a Nancy' or whatever. If it's written with intentions for psychological play, character sketches, or moral tales, the names usually mean something.

    It also depends on the story's style as well. Some traditions 'require' or lean towards certain naming schemes. This may be a bit extreme, but if you were writing with a touch of southwest Native American, your trickster is likely to be named something based on 'Coyote' or 'Wolf', because those are traditional trickster names.

    For picking Pokemon nicknames, I also go with the Trainer's personality, in most cases. In Pokemon Mage Ruby, the Pokemon that Kiri has named personally reflect her playful side: Billina, Samba, Honey, and Mach. But there were a few that she didn't name and their names do stand out a bit in the group. Fred got his name from another Trainer and Choora was named to some arcane Abra tradition.

    On the other hand, Wally picks rather simple representations because he's a simple guy: Amigo for a Ralts and Sandy for a Trapinch. Then again, he 'trades' for most of his, so he doesn't get much choice. As for Vincent, when he does name things, they tend to be on a high language level because he's highly intelligent.
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    Randomly for me. Not one of my characters has ever had a fancy name: Oliver, Michelle, Agnes, Daniel, Jason, Claire, Andrew...they're all pretty common names. However, in most of my one-shots, the characters' names were based off on classmates whose personalities I completely distorted and exaggerated.
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    Usually my names are random, but sometimes a name clicks in my head for no reason at all. When it comes to Pokemon names, I like to use mythology or a name that clicks. Like, after reading Ysavvryl's Mage Ruby fic, I've come to like the name Laura for Glaceons.
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    I just name characters by what I think fits them. I have never named a Pokémon partly by it's Japanese name, nor have I ever researched a name that fits a character.

    For humans, I just use a name that sounds like what I want them to do. For example, evil people have evil sounding names. An evil 'team' I was going to use has the name Sodexho, which sounds kinda evil. Also, this is true: Sodexho is the actual name of a real dairy company that wants to change it's name because the name sounds too evil to be a dairy company.

    For Pokémon, I might take their real name and make a different name out of it, or I might name it a human name (an Espeon named Kari ((pronounced CAR-ee)) ). Meh, totally depends on the character.

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    When I name characters I will usually use names of people I know. For example, in one of my first Fics I had my character name Tyler; my best friend's name is Tyler and I figured it'd be fun to use him in a Fic.

    For The Sapphire Story (my current Fic) the characters names are Cole, Kira, and Dillon. Cole and Dillon are names that my mom actually liked and would use if she had anotehr baby xD I really like the name Cole and I got used to Dillon while my mom was pregnant with my sister a few year ago. Now for Kira - ya know that sister I just mentioned? Yeah, her name is Kira and she is the best thing ever I wanted to use her in a Fic, een though she is three and the character is almost fifteen xP

    EDIT: I also nickname Pokémon in my Fic, and their names are a tiny bit more complex. One of the main characters has a Treecko - obviously it is green, so I thought of the name Krypto after the Kryptonite (SP?) on Superman and also because my friend has a dog named Krypto xP Anotehr character has a Mudkip which is named Amper - this comes from Swampert. Hehe, I feel clever xD
    Last edited by Walcott; 2nd January 2009 at 1:00 AM.

  24. #24

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    I sometimes look up names if I'm writing a story that needs a japanese name and I search for a specific name that describes a character. For example if one of my characters had something to do with a dragon, I usually name the character ryuu, which is the japanese name that means dragon.

    Otherwise I just pick a random name for my characters such as Bob, yeah Bob is a good name.

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    Let's see...the fic I'm on at the moment, the main character is named Ryu, which, as Pikapikapikachu said, means dragon. I have a total of six Kenjis (oops) which means intelligent ruler. If I'm really stuck, I just close my eyes and whack the keyboard, then open my eyes, shift a few letters and add a couple of vowels until it feels right. A friend recently asked me to name a Gym Leader for his fic, so I suggested Moana, which means ocean, or water, in the native language of my country.

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