I always find making up character names a challenge when writing fiction. Often during first drafts I simply use things like pers1, pers2 and then do a find and replace during second draft. Same for place names actually, I tend to call them place1, place2 etc until second draft.
In the past I have had to scrap names because they sound too cheesey.
How do you approach creating character names?
August 5th, 2002, 10:43 AM
I rarely have trouble coming up with names, usually because, in order to add an element of realism (or perhaps just because I'm a history nut) I like to use names that at least ave phonetic groundings in reality- either historical or more recent names.
Classic names like Robert, Daniel, Edward, Edwin, etc. are all commonly found in the pages of history. Look over a list of early Kings of England for more. If your setting is more High-Middle Ages, you might try names more French-based such as Louis, Bertrand, etc.
My latest work is a very nordc-type of setting, Since I've read a great deal of viking/nordic history, I borrow names from the books I have at home- again, they are actual names. Additionally, once you get used to how certain cultures' names tend to sound, you can start making them up yourself.
Eric, for example, is based on a nordic name. You could twist it to Aeric, Arric, Arrick, Aerric, Aerin, Aelin, etc, which still keeping hte Saxon/Nordic feel.
I've also cheated...taken out a phone list of friends, realtives, etc. and used their last names as first names (with slight alterations) when I couldn't think of anything else. You'd be surprised how well some last names work as fantasy names.
For places, I prefer descriptive names: HighBridge is one of names of a principal location in one of my stories because it's the site of a bridge over a deep and dangerous river. If you're looking more for English/American names: they can traditionally end in "ton" "ville" "town" "bay" "port" etc. "Burgh" "fort" etc all work as well. Town's don't usually just get arbitrary names (other than in america where we had little history to build upon). They're often named after founders, important people of the time (past kings), etc.
Simply put; pick up a dictionary (possibly one for a foreign language) and you can very easily mix-and-match syllables until you come up with place-names that you like.
Just be creative. Think about the town or place and ask yourself "what do I want to portray about this place.?" A harsh and barren place might have a harsh and guttural name. A rich place might have a more advanced, phonetically developed name.
August 5th, 2002, 10:47 AM
Persnoally, I enjoy creating names for characters. Yet occasionally, I find myself having trouble being creative and, at the same time, believable. That's when I turn to websites with Fantasy Name Generators. Here's a link to one such website:
By the way, be sure to watch your naming conventions across cultural regions. It doesn't look believable to have a man named 'Drigoth', only to name his sister 'Wu'Takagana'.
August 5th, 2002, 10:48 AM
That is excellent advice wastra, thanks for taking the time.
A fantasy name generator!!! Xcellent, thanks Aidan
August 5th, 2002, 06:38 PM
I find it amusing to see taht we are creating different worlds, trying to make them as different from earth as possible, only to bog ourselves down in earthly conventions and in the ned all we end up doing is making an alternate earth.
August 5th, 2002, 07:01 PM
Who said they had to be as different from Earth as possible?
Middle Earth is a Pre-Norman Conquest English setting. The Seven kingdoms (Martin) is high Middle Ages. Jordan's world is a post-apocalyptic type of setting.
Most Fantasy is based on the European High Middle Ages or the fairy tales dealing with the setting.
No one said as different as possible, only that the world needs to feel very unique from other fantasy settings. Fantasy books even work in modern-day settings.
August 5th, 2002, 08:09 PM
Hey that name generating site is very cool! A great idea! I'm definitely going to drop in there next time I want to write a story. :)
August 5th, 2002, 09:00 PM
I have a bad habit of recycling names - taking them from older stories that I've decided I'm not ever going to do anything and drafting them into stories that might have a chance. I call this a bad habbit because I think it limits the creativity process.
I know a few authors keep a book of baby names handy when they're brainstorming. There are few web sites dedicated to this. Actually one I remember taking a few names from was a websight for dog names - people generally allow themselves a little more freedom when naming pets.
I like Wastra's idea of looking to history for names. During research on the time period, for the story it's a good idea to write down a few names - even if they're not what you're after.
Kegasaurus made an interesting point too. One thing I keep in mind when I write is that the story is in english, even though none of the characters may have ever heard of the language. Thus there is a little bit of translation. The real trick then is making an alien name sound alien, without making it so unfamiliar that a reader isn't going to bother reading on.
As far as places go an atlas is a great reasource. The Arrogant Worms once made up an entire song based on the names of cities across Newfoundland. I can't remeber it's name, but in chorus there was a line that went," so spend the night in Dildo if you think you've got the time!"
August 6th, 2002, 02:31 AM
Watch credits of movies and TV shows, think of famous people etc, then keep a list of male, female and wierd names.
Also, www.ebon.uni.cc has a good name generator for different cultures and lots of add-ons.
August 6th, 2002, 03:57 AM
I've tried a few different methods over the years. Phone Books (stealing a name here and a name there) are fun. Baby Name books. One game I tried once took several multi-syllabic words which described the character, parsing the syllables, and arranging them into pronouncable names.
But I don't always hang onto my names. I have one character who is on her fourth (and, thankfully, the last) name.