Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#1
I don’t want to stop for too long when I get on a roll, so I use the stereotyped name that’s closest to what I imagine the character will be like. You know, the Chads, and Justins of your story just get called Chad and Justin until you find a better name. All background characters start out as Frank.
 
That’s how I ended up with the character in my WIP named Butch. Problem. He’s the oldest brother of the two main characters. Milo. Zarla. Butch. (one of these things is not like the other.) I could always switch his name with the next oldest brother. Luthor always felt like a better fit for the family, and they’re the same character right now anyway. But then what would I call him?! It’s unavoidable. I need a new name. 
 
It’s always annoying to have to change the name of a character after you’ve written about them. Now you have all this personality attached when you think the name. I’ve only been happy with the result once. I had to take the name apart into phonemes and decide which were important, and which could change to something similar.
 
So, the name I managed to change had a long “a” at the beginning, a “ph” in the middle, and was three syllables. I was attached to the long “a,” kept it. If you squint, you can replace “ph” with “v,” “ch,” or “sh.” Another character’s name used “v” to be unique, so I landed on “sh” and made the third syllable into a last name. Solved. Finally found a replacement for a name I’d used for 5 years.
 
Let’s try doing that with Butch. It starts with a plosive. Maybe change “b” to “p.” The nice part of the “tch” at the end is the hard stop. Short, abrupt, a little mean. Perfect for the character. So maybe another hard stop? “ck?” Yeah. Puck. If you don’t mind borrowing from Shakespeare. Which I do. Also it still doesn’t feel like it fits with the other names. Back to the drawing board. 
 
I based most of the world building on Rome, and I have a lot of preconceptions in my head for how things in the world should sound based on that. Let’s try using some Roman influence. Most popular Roman names, go. Julius: already used that. Pompei: nope! Crassus: I can work with that. Maybe keep the hard “ck” ending? Make it Crassak? Perfect. It makes him sound like just enough of a douche to secretly be a Butch. 
 
But wait! 
 
I just named another character with a “C” at the beginning, and it was supposed to be pronounced with a soft “s” sound. For consistency’s sake, it should be Krassak. Now it feels Russian for some reason. Back to the drawing board? No! I’m moving on.  
 
And now Krassak feels like a better fit for the brother named Luthor because he’s the more crass older brother. So, I guess I will switch them after all. Good lord this never ends. And I still need a last name for the family… 
 
Anyway, rant over. I’m probably too hard on myself because someone close to me mocked my fantasy names once. Tell me about your process for name making. Complain and be obsessive with me. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#2
Naming is seriously the worst tho. :/

I'll legit get into writing a scene, then stop dead and stare at the screen for minutes on end as I try to name a character or something. I can't even put it off for later because I know I'll give up and never do it properly if I don't do it now.

I've kinda given up and gone to name generators. I don't even care if the names fit the characters as long as they're reasonable names.

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#5
Finally a place to rant.

I’m thinking of whether or not to make pronunciation guide at the start of my book mainly because my MC’s name is “Demini” and there is so many ways to theoretically pronounce it (it’s Dem-I-knee if you wanted to know), I’ll also be using real foreign names which would make a pronunciation guide more necessary, but it feels tacky and I wonder should just let people pronounce the names however they want, but the idea of that makes me cringe so hard.

I also have been hating trying to find names, particularly names that would fit a cultures in a cold climates, because I have been trying to find Scandinavian and Eastern European names but they are a) hard to say b)are already used in Skyrim c) I know people with that name or d) apparently it’s an acronym for a disease. It just feels to use an already “used” uncommon name. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#6
Naming is the bane of my existence. It goes so far as even finding a name for the story itself. 

If I can't name a character I can't write a scene with them in it, and I can't use placeholders except for plotting purposes. I've given in and used name generators for it and I find it makes my life a lot easier, until I get into naming things like beasts which won't have conventional names and the games of 20 tabs on chrome and 12 hours of research into names begins again. 

Honestly if I could just pay someone to solely name characters and chapters and stories for me I'd be far happier 😂

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#8
Naming is a weirdly intermediate experience for me. Mostly because coming up with good name-last name pairings is sort of difficult for me (read: researching multiple baby name webpages and pages with names on other languages I don't speak so that I can try to make a cool reference some may not get). However, at the time of coming up with superhero aliases is sort of easy for me because I sort of understand a bit how the naming convention for heroes work (after studying up superhero media for a long time of course).

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#9
Oh man, yes I have same issue with the names, I hate naming my characters, though I have come up with names after thinking forever. And this forever takes time away from actual writing (well my adiction to FFXIV takes away from it too but....).

As far as for your questions OP, I would say stick with Butch as a nickname, you can throw whatever name you want, make it sound silly or like it's stupid long and the character hates his name so he calls himself, Butch and only his family actually knows his read name.  

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#10



Marious_Argoz Wrote: As far as for your questions OP, I would say stick with Butch as a nickname, you can throw whatever name you want, make it sound silly or like it's stupid long and the character hates his name so he calls himself, Butch and only his family actually knows his read name.





Dang it. Why didn't I think of that!!?? Nexttime I'm in this boat that's my way out for sure. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#11

Bird Wrote: I’m thinking of whether or not to make pronunciation guide at the start of my book mainly because my MC’s name is “Demini” and there is so many ways to theoretically pronounce it (it’s Dem-I-knee if you wanted to know), I’ll also be using real foreign names which would make a pronunciation guide more necessary, but it feels tacky and I wonder should just let people pronounce the names however they want, but the idea of that makes me cringe so hard.


I think we all end up thinking about it at some point. I've come to accept that I'll never be able to control how people pronounce names anymore than I will be able to make them picture the character looking the same way they do in my head. You could sit there and describe every point in the mountains of their anime hairdue and all the zippers on their vest for paragraphs at a time, the reader will still see what they want. Same with names. You can break it down in IPA and pay for them to get a degree in linguistics, the reader will still go with the first pronunciation they come up with. No sense in loosing sleep over it. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#13
You know, I've never really had a problem naming characters in anything I've ever written, be it a story or RPG thing.  If I get a character in mind, I usually end up with a name oddly easily (either by scanning a name list, or making it up myself, or what have you).  Haven't written anything in years, but still get random things popping into my head and those characters end up with names right off the bat...

May or may not help that I, at some point in my life, decided to just create a massive list of random names I liked the sound of in a document.  Names derived from specific types of historical or mythological origins (and derivatives of them), names completely and utterly made up by my brain, names based on phenomena or natural things... over 700 of them.  I didn't even include "normal" names in that list because there are plenty of places to find those lists.

Now... naming locations in a world, be they towns, cities, nations, or a shop down the street... bane of my existence.  I can't name places.  At all.  Nothing ever feels or sounds right.  I'm so sorry, RandomTown#2 in the Large-Unnamed-Mountain-Range near ThatOtherRiver.

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#14

May Wrote: I think we all end up thinking about it at some point. I've come to accept that I'll never be able to control how people pronounce names anymore than I will be able to make them picture the character looking the same way they do in my head. You could sit there and describe every point in the mountains of their anime hairdue and all the zippers on their vest for paragraphs at a time, the reader will still see what they want. Same with names. You can break it down in IPA and pay for them to get a degree in linguistics, the reader will still go with the first pronunciation they come up with. No sense in loosing sleep over it.
I suppose you’re right, still dislike that most people will prolly mispronounce it, welp no other choice but to live with it.

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#15
I'm a bit of an etymology nut, especially when it comes to names. So naming a major character is actually pretty fun. I sometimes go back to the root words behind modern names in languages like old english and latin. Sometimes, I combine the two root names in a new name. A few times, I take some parts from different languages and make into one name. It looks goofy a lot of the times, but there are some really interesting results that can come from doing stuff like that. 

I typically name my characters after the role they play in my story. But, I also tend to think deeply about the parents of my characters and what they would name them? What history and cultural influences do they possess? What do a character's parents want out of the said characters? 

In one example, I gave a major character the name that roughly translates to "Dark, stony field" in old english, because the the father made an major accomplishment in the battlefields of that type of setting, gaining knighthood. The father of this character wants him to continue that new legacy. 

I go deep with my names, man. Probably to an unhealthy degree. Even with common names like Alan or Marcus, I choose carefully. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#16

May Wrote:  
That’s how I ended up with the character in my WIP named Butch. Problem. He’s the oldest brother of the two main characters. Milo. Zarla. Butch. (one of these things is not like the other.) I could always switch his name with the next oldest brother. Luthor always felt like a better fit for the family, and they’re the same character right now anyway. But then what would I call him?! It’s unavoidable. I need a new name. 


Do people really get named Butch from birth? Seems like more of a nickname to me. Pick a name that you think works with Milo and Zarla to be his given name and make Butch the nickname that he goes by. 

I am just finding out that BabyNameWizard was shut down, which is hugely upsetting to me. What I typically do for sibling names is pick one, then go to BabyNameWizard and check what real families with, say, a Milo, named their other daughters and sons. Then I'd just pick my favorites from their pool.

Ugh, now what am I going to do? Anyone know another site with similar functionality?

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#17

300YearOldMagician Wrote:
May Wrote:  
That’s how I ended up with the character in my WIP named Butch. Problem. He’s the oldest brother of the two main characters. Milo. Zarla. Butch. (one of these things is not like the other.) I could always switch his name with the next oldest brother. Luthor always felt like a better fit for the family, and they’re the same character right now anyway. But then what would I call him?! It’s unavoidable. I need a new name. 


Do people really get named Butch from birth? Seems like more of a nickname to me. Pick a name that you think works with Milo and Zarla to be his given name and make Butch the nickname that he goes by. 

I am just finding out that BabyNameWizard was shut down, which is hugely upsetting to me. What I typically do for sibling names is pick one, then go to BabyNameWizard and check what real families with, say, a Milo, named their other daughters and sons. Then I'd just pick my favorites from their pool.

Ugh, now what am I going to do? Anyone know another site with similar functionality?


I know exactly one man who is unironically named Butch. I also know a dude named Jimmy. Not James, just straight up Jimmy. As the times go by, people start to forget that some names are just nicknames of others. 

Also, take note that we rarely name a person after a thing, such as a rock, grass, or ect, but instead choose names that are from old eras without knowing the history behind them. Names like Daniel, Stan, Jacob and stuff like that. I've also met people who are named Justice, Rain, Blue and Destiny, but they're not common names (except maybe the last one).

I think everyone today choose names based on if they sound pretty, familiar, cool, or not. This one kid I met was named Atticus. Did their parents know the meaning of that name or did it sound cool to them? Don't know and I wont assume. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#18
I'm always afraid that some of my characters names are too similar. In the story I'm writing right now, two of the main characters are Cole and Kenji. It's silly, but almost 60,000 words in I became annoyed at the fact that they both start wit the same sound. Oh well.

When it comes to using existing names, I always go one of two routes. One, just use a name that sounds good. There's nothing wrong with naming someone John or Tom if it fits them. The second route I use is to make their name fit them with its meaning. 

For example, one of the characters in my story is named Pristina (proto-slavic, "Spring of Water"). In the story, she is functionally immortal and forever young, so it thematically fits. Plus, it sounds like "pristine".

For fantasy names, I always just make things up on the fly. There's a cool site called Awkwords that can help you generate real sounding words from a phonological inventory. One name I used recently from words generated on that site was Marwen.

Now since I already have the name, I can reverse engineer the meaning. So Marwen is an elf who is also a master criminal, and I wanted his name to reflect that. Therefore, I made two words: Mara, which means "son", and Wen, which means "Dark". Marwen is literally "The Dark (evil?) Son".

Naming can be tough, but I try to enjoy it. If I don't have the time to come up with something, I just use filler names and (hopefully) remember to change them later.

Edit: 

Also, something else I just thought of. The story I'm currently writing is a fantasy story, but I didn't want it to sound European. So the phonology I made for the naming language is very much inspired by South Asian languages and uses a CVCV(N) structure. Sometimes taking inspiration from non-European languages can be really refreshing. 

Keep at it!

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#19
Naming is harder for pantsers than planners. Pantsers have to come up with a stand-in name on the fly when a character suddenly pops in their scene. Plotters are writing up character outlines and can afford to take ten minute hitting "generate another 50" on a random name generator of choice until they stumble into something that sounds plausible for the character they are working up a bio on. 

My issues with naming is one of the reason I am trying my hand at being a plotter and working up some character bios for my next story. I figure even if i work some up that I don't use I can pull those characters for other stories somewhere. Like my own personal casting directory. 

Re: Naming Characters. Come Rant With Me

#20

May Wrote: I've come to accept that I'll never be able to control how people pronounce names anymore than I will be able to make them picture the character looking the same way they do in my head.

The only way I have seen someone force a pronunciation of a name is to use the name in a rhyme in universe. If you can force characters to make fun of the way a name is pronounced then you can force a reader to recognize how the name is supposed to be heard. If all you do is write it, then you leave it to the demon voices in your readers head to mangle it.