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Lucky Joe
February 17th, 2003, 08:26 AM
This might have been covered already, if so point me in the right direction.

I wanted to know just how much importance you aspiring authors placed on the names of you characters, places ect...

Do you think that it's possible to give a character the first name that comes into your head,

For instances; could you name the hero of your book Filillibob of Boboolibob and have him really own the name so that when your readers come across Filillibob of Boboolibob, rather than thinking 'that's a very silly name,' they just accept that that is the name of your character and go on to read about princess syruppunpan of the panponiepun?

Or do you believe the name should actually come from somewhere and mean something in a tangiable sense that can be explainned, I've read somewhere else that people actually learn the languages Tolkien created for his work and that all the names - and I'm not even sure of the correct terminology - have roots and the such that can explain how a word or a name evolved from its parent language and so on.

I understand the need for realism, even in - or should that be especially in - sci-fi and fantasy. But is all that work really necessary to give a novel that extra bit of reality or do some people just enjoy taking world building to that next level?

What do you reckon?

February 17th, 2003, 08:35 AM
Sometimes I complete a short story or lots of chapters of longer work without even coming up with character OR place names. I type name1, name2 etc then when I come up with a name I do a find and replace.

Other times I have a name in mind straight away. I don't think it is something to get hung up about but then, I would steer clear of names that just sound crazy.

I don't think many readers would be turned off by a name they were unfamiliar with but I have read stories where the main character names were just a pain to try and pronounce!!!

90% of people who have read Tolkien don't care about the history/meaning behind his character's names, but then Eowyn, Aragorn, Legolas sound so good, you could argue that without the research/building they wouldn't exist!!!

February 17th, 2003, 01:11 PM
When you write a short story, with few character and place names, then it would be good if all of them sound 'right'.

When you write a large story or a series, with countless character and place names, then the names of the central characters and places must sound 'right'. Because, if your main character's name is Aqravorianthor, it would be a pain in the @$$ to read it 2-3 times in a paragraph. Now, if he's name was Gelron, it would be sort and 'all right', easy for the eye and mind to catch, if you know what I mean. It would be better to keep "Aqravorianthor" as a name for a legendary dragon, for example.

As far as meanings go... you decide. But, when you write the series type story with a LOT of names, for me it would be impossible to make them all have a meaning. The exception to this is, of course, if you enjoy making pseudo-languages, like Tolkien. Tolkien's hobby WAS making languages up, and THEN he put this languages in his world.

I too have made a phrase or two, in pseudo-languages, but I simple spend more time on world-building and writing, than language-building. ;)

February 17th, 2003, 11:30 PM
Main characters must have at least a decent sounding name. Some names come off great straight away. Some need good characterisation. I suggest making a list of real names and a list of fictional names. Make up place names too. Then you can (hopefully) find ones that suit when you need them.

February 19th, 2003, 10:47 AM
A name can suggest many things, for instance in Lord of the Rings. Aragorn heir of Isildur, it sounds noble and honorable and great and that's the type of character Aragorn is, he's a strong and noble character. Then we take Samwise Gamgee. His name makes him out to be exactly what he is, a normal joe who is way over his head in something much bigger than him. Names are useful for implying the role of a character. It wouldn't be wise to call a normal joe something like Frandimur heir of Dan the Garbage Man because it sounds awkward and out of place.

February 19th, 2003, 11:37 AM
I agree that the names can sort of conjur up an image of the character, but sometimes you don't WANT that image to be exactly what the character is.

Also, I think that the name has to FLOW. When I see a name that I can't pronounce I generally skip over it and so occasionally get confused as to who's doing what, especially if there are a LOT of names I can't pronounce running around in the scene.

The other problem that I have is when secondary, or even background, characters are named. So many names floating around, I can't attach the name to the character.

February 19th, 2003, 11:54 AM
Okay, I'll add my thoughts.

I don't much care if there is a history behind a name... But it is NOT a detail that I ignore; I, as a reader, very much appreciate the author's efforts when they consider the 'Back-Story.' On the same note, when an author uses names that are just combinations of letters, I do not count that against them...

Pronouncability is a must. I say the words inside my head 90% of the time. If it slows my pace just to wrap my mind around it, I'm not happy... Why are you working against me?

The biggest thing for me though, is having too many primary characters with names that are very simmilar, and this can be as simple as using the same first letter. For instance, I am currently reading Janny Wurts' Light & Shaddows series, and there are two characters, Asandir and Arithon, and when I'm reading late at night, and the mental short-hand has taken over it breaks my pace each time I see one of the names because I am forced to sort out the whole name and figure out which person I'm reading about...


If you want to add a little credibility to the characters, but skip creating a history, one thing that I often notice, and feel adds a lot of depth to the world is giving each region of the world a dialect. So names from the Northern edge of the world will have two or three 'core-sylables' and most the people/cities in that area will include that one sylable. While those from the East will have a specific sound to it that is particular to that region... This way when a new character is introduced the reader can make an educated guess as to where they are from - it helps to bring the world to life... Plus you are more likely to make each name unique...

February 19th, 2003, 03:46 PM
Originally posted by Chlestron
When I see a name that I can't pronounce I generally skip over it and so occasionally get confused as to who's doing what, especially if there are a LOT of names I can't pronounce running around in the scene.

I've read a couple books where the character's name was difficult to pronounce, so I just re-name them on the fly with something I like better. Mentally, I can just insert "Fred" as easily as I can struggle through whatever the author saddled the character with.

February 19th, 2003, 03:54 PM
Originally posted by Lifino
Pronouncability is a must. I say the words inside my head 90% of the time. If it slows my pace just to wrap my mind around it, I'm not happy... Why are you working against me?

The one thing that utterly drives me crazy is when an author tries to be 'cute' with their names. I was reading a story fragment not long ago and the author went utterly overboard, not using a single normal name anywhere in the story. I might be able to see it if it was SF or fantasy, but it was a modern-day mystery and she was using names like Rondan and Cirenia and Areesia and Doorie. It's not cute and it's not necessary.

If you're writing a modern story, use modern names. Do not spell a character named "Chris" as "Khryss" unless you have a REALLY good reason for doing so. Nobody is going to think you're clever because you rape the English language.

Lucky Joe
February 20th, 2003, 03:12 AM
Thanks heaps for your comments everybody.

I usually write sf/f and so can use a combination of real names and made up names, often just creating a name that sounds good -at least to me- or taking a word or series of words that i think describes that character and then jumble them around adding and taking away as needed until i come up with something I'm satisfied with, or just changing a real name ever so slightly.

Linifino; I really like your idea with the core sylables, that would definitely give the impression of a regional dialect.

Cheers. :D