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Naming characters
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KKnight



Joined: 25 Nov 2006
Posts: 12
Location: O-H.....I-O
Naming characters  Reply with quote  

I posted this questions in another thread and then realized that no one else had replied to the thread in a couple years. I was always a little behind the times, so I decided I would just break it off onto it's own.

My characters develop themselves slowly, unlike my plots, which I generally start with completely synopsised and outline chapter by chapter (I often even write working my way backwards and forwards simultaneously from some central event in the middle). So my characters don't have names, and it is starting to really irk me. They live in my book using only initials for their places in the story. I have tried asking them, tried some trial and error, browsed baby name lists online. The only ones who have names are unimportant characters in and of themselves that only exist to shed light on some plot point or attribute of one of my more main, unnamed characters.

So do your characters reveal themselves to you with names, or does anyone else wait until their entire book is written to give them names? At what point is it OK to just slap any old monicker on a character and call it a day? And does anyone give a character a temporary name (or a name they thought was IT) and then change it once the deed is done?

Post Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:33 pm   View user's profile Send private message
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
 Reply with quote  

My characters won't say a word until I give them a name. I've changed the names, usually early on, but they have to have a name as soon as they appear in a scene.

Your mileage may vary.

Post Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:40 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
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My characters have names as soon as they appear. I don't struggle with names and rarely change them. I don't know if that is a good thing, but I have found that using the first name that comes to mind can often open up excellent avenues for character histories. I'd rather stick with a wierd name and see what it means for the character than change the name.

Then again, I don't plot much so I have no shape for my characters to fit. Just like my story, they carve their own path and so the name is a label and a little inspiration to get the journey going.

I imagine that if I had a specific purpose for the character, the name might take a little more effort, but so far, thinking up names has been the easiest task.
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Post Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:48 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Vahlee



Joined: 04 Nov 2005
Posts: 3675
Location: Not-so-back to school
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I come up with names as soon as I need them. I rarely ever change the names - never with a main character.
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Post Tue Nov 28, 2006 3:44 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Signal 30



Joined: 09 Oct 2006
Posts: 4
Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
 Reply with quote  

I almost always have a first and last for a character the minute they hit the page. Sometimes I'll grab a name out of the air, although I've found that using the names that come along with my e-mail spam will do in a fix.

In the few times I've tried to change a character's name in the rewrite process, it rarely feels right...they've usually grown into their moniker.

Post Wed Nov 29, 2006 5:51 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Boota



Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 830
Location: Kokomo, Indiana
 Reply with quote  

I work hard on names. They have to be just right. Like Chris said, my characters refuse to participate without a name. If not a name, then something to call them. I have a short story where the main character isn't named in the text, but I know his name. I'm just not telling. The bastard stubbornly refused to be real for me until I named him.
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Post Fri Dec 01, 2006 7:49 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Lloydface



Joined: 30 Nov 2004
Posts: 459
Location: Dublin, Ireland
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My characters names kinda end up sounding like their personalities but thats cause its fantasy and the evil guys get evil names. Guttural sounds or things that end in 'oth' are evil. Elves tend to have and 'ae' in their name. Just ends up that way..
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Post Sun Dec 03, 2006 9:05 am   View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
sgt_steve



Joined: 18 Jan 2005
Posts: 5197
Location: Michissippi
 Reply with quote  

My characters usually don't get a name until they introduce themselves in some way.

Post Mon Dec 04, 2006 6:52 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
KT



Joined: 04 Dec 2006
Posts: 30
Location: Dublin, Ireland
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i usually get names out of lists of baby's names, but that's for background characters. For main ones, they kind of come to me pre-named.

Post Wed Dec 06, 2006 10:47 am   View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
RedOrcaMoon



Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 2399
Location: someplace...probably inside my head or in another world
 Reply with quote  

weirdest thing is I cant usually think of a good name for my characters. I just take a look around my room and come up with something.

once I randomly named a character for a roleplay Shire Morgan. two types of horse.

then Eric Tanager.

My sn is the result of me being bored and having read the Exorcist one too many times (and I watched it too much too. still do) I dreamed about my name being RedOrcaMoon so I created this girl who is a superhero in a sense.

jsut dont steal my idea. its fun to see who knows what I am refering to.

I do have a roleplay character on another board whos name is Nyctea de la Neige.

why? cause! Nyctea of the snow. type in Nyctea on a search engine or wikipedia and you will see.
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Post Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:42 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
mllefifi



Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 8964
Location: Deleoware
 Reply with quote  

I recall from having read A Tale of Two Cities long ago that Dickens sometimes gave characters names that had some sort of symbolic or otherwise enhancing significance, using various means like pun, general sound, or something else. "St. Evremonde" (i.e., "Everyman"), "Miss Pross," "Charles Darnay" (this last has Dicken's own first name and last initial).

Of course, this was not unique to Dickens.
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Post Thu Dec 07, 2006 3:54 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
Poofiemus



Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 91
Location: Education Camp--I mean, college.
 Reply with quote  

My characters often hint at their names and I have to figure the rest out. I can generally get a sense of what the name starts with and how many syllables it has, but then I have to work at it manually.

Well, at least that's how it goes for given names. Last names they don't surrender so easily, so I often go to a dictionary of etymology to find some cool old word that suits them for one.

Every now and then I'll have a character who names themselves entirely. Then I look it up, and it actually fits. That's a really weird experience.

But right now, I'm suffering from characters who refused to be named as well. Actually, I think that they really just don't care what their names are. They will do things, but won't even hint at a name. Brats.
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Post Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:46 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
andy_longwood



Joined: 14 Mar 2006
Posts: 23
Location: Florida
 Reply with quote  

I often have the best luck with characters who come screaming into my head, with the first words being their names.

Or sometimes characters pop up from names when I discover them.

And sometimes those darn headvoices won't let me stick a lable on them if their lives depended on it, and sometimes I have to rename them and it's like pulling teeth or feeding bacon to a pig - hard and oh, so wrong.
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Post Tue Apr 24, 2007 2:23 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address MSN Messenger
RogueSelina



Joined: 30 Apr 2007
Posts: 10
Location: Folcroft, PA
 Reply with quote  

Sometimes I find a story starts in my head because a character pops into my head, whether she's "alter ego" of myself, or just a certain personality type I find interesting. He or she does usually have a name already when they appear in my head - although at times I've had to write a little before it "comes to me".

Very interesting topic!
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Post Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:23 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
Heather Chandler



Joined: 29 Dec 2006
Posts: 80
Location: Stepford, Connecticut
 Reply with quote  

Names are always one of the most difficult elements of a story. I can't begin one if I don't have most of the names planned out. A lot of the time, I might have an entire plot floating around in my head, but if none of the people in it have names, they practically have no identity, and I can't bring the story to paper.

Sometimes I'll spend hours (no exaggeration!) speculating about it, and I'll even go through the story and change them around several times. There's this one story I have were the lead character's name was switched to sometihng else about three times. They mean everything; if the name sucks, your character will suck. That's why I always use slightly uncommon/unique names, so the character will stand out, even if the name isn't brought up more than once in the story.

Post Thu May 03, 2007 11:38 am   View user's profile Send private message
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