So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#1
Hello so I have been trying to write a story after being inspired in part by this to write down my long standing world building hobbies results but I am facing a bit of an issue with... names.

Names are extremely difficult as my worlds are complex enough that a great multitude of cultures and languages would be needed to take the Tolken make the languages for your world  approach  with names. (By my estimates I would need at least 50+ distinct unrelated languages many of which would have to account for independent origins.) Considering That I lack linguistic experience with anything other than English this effectively eliminates this approach.

However the other approach is to make nonsense or real world names however this runs into problems where pretty much all real world names actually have meanings something nonsense names can not achieve.

Lastly I have tried various name generators but none of the ones I tried produced useful results and seem to either rely on stock fantasy races or random word pairings.

So because of this name problem I have been continuously stuck for a good chunk of a year(and counting world building development time I have been stuck about 10+ years adding up previous name attempts) 

Thus this Isn't something I can just brush off. I don't know what to do as if I can't solve the name problem then I can't write the story(due to how my mind works) thus I will continue to do nothing but lament.

I really want to go back in time and punch the person who started human naming conventions in the face... Because my OCD will not let me cheat around it...

Please help... someone T_T

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#2
I'm curious: did you ever begin writing the actual story itself? Or have you only been world building all this time?



First, I'd say you're setting the bar way too high for yourself. 50+ distinct and unrelated languages? Do you really think the reader would manage to keep up with that sort of information? Obviously not. 

In other words: the reader won't think about it too deeply (if at all), so you don't have to be SUPER unique with all these languages.



Secondly, are you aware that many different RL languages actually have a common "ancestor language" from which they derived? This is why there are so many languages with similar words and names. 

If you really try to be "extremely realistic" about your world, then I suggest you take this into account. Language isn't something which pops into existence outta nowhere. If all the creatures in your world live nearby... their languages can't be entirely unrelated to each other. It'd actually be LESS believable that they all have completely unrelated languages.

Therefore, again, there's no reason why they should be artificially SUPER different from each other.



Now, regarding the names themselves. 

If you want complete "nonsense" names, then you can just give them weird formats. Say, a culture in which everybody's name has the random letters "fes" in them, making names such as: Refes, Loufeser, Fesil etc. Even if some of these names may exist in RL, it shouldn't matter to you since you stick to a special format which you made up.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#3
A quick cheat is to base it on real human cultures and their naming conventions. You don't have to use the names themselves, but you can derive names from them. This retains some form of meaning or significance that will also be easier to remember. Think "John" becomes "Jahn" or "Juhn" etc. (though that might end up linking them to other cultures)
Anyways, your names don't have to make perfect sense but as long as they are rooted in another word or name, it should satisfy your OCD :P

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#4
07/19/2016 19:54:38DarkClaymore Wrote: [ -> ]I'm curious: did you ever begin writing the actual story itself? Or have you only been world building all this time?



First, I'd say you're setting the bar way too high for yourself. 50+ distinct and unrelated languages? Do you really think the reader would manage to keep up with that sort of information? Obviously not. 

In other words: the reader won't think about it too deeply (if at all), so you don't have to be SUPER unique with all these languages.



Secondly, are you aware that many different RL languages actually have a common "ancestor language" from which they derived? This is why there are so many languages with similar words and names. 

If you really try to be "extremely realistic" about your world, then I suggest you take this into account. Language isn't something which pops into existence outta nowhere. If all the creatures in your world live nearby... their languages can't be entirely unrelated to each other. It'd actually be LESS believable that they all have completely unrelated languages.

Therefore, again, there's no reason why they should be artificially SUPER different from each other.



Now, regarding the names themselves. 

If you want complete "nonsense" names, then you can just give them weird formats. Say, a culture in which everybody's name has the random letters "fes" in them, making names such as: Refes, Loufeser, Fesil etc. Even if some of these names may exist in RL, it shouldn't matter to you since you stick to a special format which you made up.


I have a prolouge and about 1-2 paragraphs for what would be chapter 1(I had more but I keep tossing it out because it sucks) The reason names have gotten to be a problem is I have so many (insert name here) markers for various characters that I run into problems keeping track of them.

Unfortunately some of the creatures are... not only inhuman they are outright alien... Some are even effectively "eldrich abominations" in regards to their alieness. So they should be alien as well I am trying for a rational story(or as close to one as I possibly can)

I do appreciate you guys's advice I will probably resort to that and then just find a way to indicate that the charecters don't understand each other which would be easier from a first person perspective but I have been writing so far from a thrird person perspective with a focus on descriptive imagery (so describing what sort of actions a charecter looks like and is doing while. I simply have advanced to the part of the story where those interactions between differnet groups are needed.

example text:
"The wind’s howls were occasionally accompanied by the twinkling of some of the many points of light as if perhaps the light was being distorted by the winds. At the edges of this expanse as if framing a portrait, great sharp craggy spires reached for the heavens, forming a great spine across the land. Atop the tallest of these snowy peaks a figure sat unmoving staring up at the heavens as if it sat deep in contemplation of the mysteries held by the great expanse above.

The being could barely be differentiated from the ground it rested appearing as weathered by the wind as the mighty crags. Though dwarfed by the peak which it sat, its body held a sense of age in its dulled and now and tattered scales.  Atop the scales the most motion across this form was the wind creating light ripples on the creature’s feathers and wings, and the controlled signs of breath from its form. 

Despite the aged look it seemed to defy time as it showed lasting signs of strength in its shaped muscles hidden under a veneer skin. The creature’s eyes looked on as if tracking the motion of objects above despite the foggy glaze that had formed across its right eye."-as you see here a description of a character with absolutely no name listed. The problem cones when they have to interact i.e. converse with others...

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#5
07/19/2016 20:31:44Dragrath Wrote: [ -> ]I have a prolouge and about 1-2 paragraphs for what would be chapter 1(I had more but I keep tossing it out because it sucks) The reason names have gotten to be a problem is I have so many (insert name here) markers for various characters that I run into problems keeping track of them.

Did you write any long stories before? Because your project sounds unrealistically ambitious if you've never written at least one long story before.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#6
I disagree with DarkClaymore. I don't think it's overly ambitious for a new writer. Going full throttle from the get-go is a great way to flex your muscles, so to speak, and should help you develop better than starting out with a simple story would. This is mostly because simple stories will usually lead an author to a single, solidified writing style which can make future works seem stale. It's better to keep your writing style in flux by doing something a little outside your comfort zone each time, imo.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#7
07/19/2016 20:43:19DarkClaymore Wrote: [ -> ]
07/19/2016 20:31:44Dragrath Wrote: [ -> ]I have a prolouge and about 1-2 paragraphs for what would be chapter 1(I had more but I keep tossing it out because it sucks) The reason names have gotten to be a problem is I have so many (insert name here) markers for various characters that I run into problems keeping track of them.

Did you write any long stories before? Because your project sounds unrealistically ambitious if you've never written at least one long story before.


...No. but it is the idea with the most well developed backstory I guess I probably should tackle something smaller in scale first but this is a world I am proud of and have a general idea on how events will develop/turn out... at least on the large scale.
What would you recommend me do instead?

07/19/2016 20:49:22WhoCares Wrote: [ -> ]I disagree with DarkClaymore. I don't think it's overly ambitious for a new writer. Going full throttle from the get-go is a great way to flex your muscles, so to speak, and should help you develop better than starting out with a simple story would. This is mostly because simple stories will usually lead an author to a single, solidified writing style which can make future works seem stale. It's better to keep your writing style in flux by doing something a little outside your comfort zone each time, imo.


So wait contradictory responses? I don't know how to... well all my concept/world building projects are pretty complex I guess I should do one with less protagonists first. This one would have at least 8 probably more.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#8
07/19/2016 20:52:18Dragrath Wrote: [ -> ]...No. but it is the idea with the most well developed backstory I guess I probably should tackle something smaller in scale first but this is a world I am proud of and have a general idea on how events will develop/turn out... at least on the large scale.
What would you recommend me do instead?

It's not just about the scale, but also about the fact that you haven't progressed with the story itself throughout all this time. Your situation strongly reminds me of how I used to go about "story writing" many many years ago. I was just spending my time making up world ideas, writing them down, organizing them in power point etc etc.

How much actual "story" did I write for all these "amazing ideas" in the end? About... one chapter. It felt like crap and I decided to scrap it. And this whole process repeated itself again with new ideas. Over and over and over.

What I was doing back then... it wasn't "story writing" at all. I was merely trapped in the fun of making up more and more ideas, making me feel as if I'm really "planning a story". In truth, I was just procrastinating on the actual writing process, which is way more important in practice.

For me, it took a very long time to realize that I was at the bottom of an alluring pitfall and I ended up wasting a lot of time without doing anything productive. I had the urge to raise a red flag here for that reason. If you feel like it's irrelevant for your case, then that's great. 



As to what I'd suggest: 
You can stick with your current story idea. It's obvious that you like the world and has been working on it for a very long time. But you need to WRITE

For example: take a sequence of events from this world and write them as a fully fleshed story. Ignore that it's just a "back story". Write it. See how it goes.

Until you write enough, it's hard to come to terms with the fact that no matter how enormous and detailed your world is - your methods of conveying it to the reader are very restricted. Unless you plan to info-dump all the details about races, languages, cultures etc (and you definitely shouldn't), then you'll realize that on top of planning your enormous world... you also need to plan how to present it in a way that's enjoyable to read.

And this is where things get ugly. 

Planning a world? That's super fun. 
Planning how to properly present all these great ideas within a story? ... not so fun, especially when inexperienced.
Writing it as a story? It'll most likely feel like crap because it'll fail to convey how great your ideas are. But you have to get used to that feeling, otherwise you'll never bring yourself to write it.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#9
@DarkClaymore I have to agree you need to write. It is fun when you just think of all these things but until you're much much much more experienced writer you would end up just endlessly trying to make thing "perfect" But reality it will never be perfect so you're just looking for excuse for yourself to not start.

Only after you start writing do lot of the issues begin to pop up, one of the big issue with just planning is you only have the key points but the stuff connecting them sometime just happens are you write. You can go for a grand story as your first if you wish but the key is to write, only by writing can you truly get it out because if all you do is planning then you will never write it.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#10
Wait, this is getting sidetracked.

But I think @DarkClaymore had the right starting idea there. One should start writing first, and when the image of the characters become clear in the writer's mind then do the naming. For starters just put in whatever you like, some mundane or super-edgy sounding name is fine. Remember to write it all in the same format, for convenient replacing later.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#11
This is probably going to be terrible advice to you, but I will give it anyway.

I've spent a lot of time trying to write serious fiction.  Literary Fiction.  For the most part I've gotten quite good at it.  But I've always had trouble with names.  I comepletely undersand where you are coming from.  A name seems to beg for a depth to it.  Meaning.  Kismet. Whatever.

A month ago, I thought to myself, why not just have some fun.  Who cares about ambition, who cares about meaning, who cares about anything beyond writing something fun to read.  I started World Servers and haven't regretted it a moment.  Funnest piece of writing I've done in a long time.

In regards to names, I've just been choosing whatever comes to mind to describe the character.  Sometimes I choose normal names like Lauren.  Other times I will name someone after a character in a different work that I want to reference, like cj cregg or benny profane, or someone frome history like a soon to be introduced character Savonarola and black dahlia, but a lot of times I've just been grabbing random words.

So if I have one piece of advice to share, it would be to just relax.  Enjoy youself.  Me, I'm saving the serious stuff for college and after I graduate.  This right now, Royal Road is just fun.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#12
Do names really matter that much?
Also, is the meaning of the name really that big of a deal. Most of the times, names are given for various reasons, which rarely coincide with what they mean. They can even be used ironically, where the meaning is completely different from that person's character.

If you can't decide about names, just put placeholders for the time being until you figure something out before you publish it.
You don't have to have every single name planned. If you've written 3 chapters, how many characters are actually named there? 10? 15? I doubt it's much more than that.

RE: So Names Why are they so hard to come up with?

#13
Cool trick: Pick a country. Google common first names and last names for that country. Mix and match first and last names from your search results. Rinse. Repeat.

No one knows every name in existence, so they won't know whether you made them up or not. But the cool thing is they'll still sound like real names because they are.

You don't have to worry about the meanings behind the names. Very few people are going to be looking up what your names actually mean. Meanings are almost more for the author than they are for the readers.

Anyways, write what you want; learn as you go. If you want to write something complicated, write something complicated.

Another trick: Plan some aspects of your story. Then write some of it. Then plan more. And keep doing this until you finish. It will help you balance between calculation and intuition. The story will be both natural and planned. Professional illustrators use a similar technique for making complexes illustrations. It adapts well to pretty much any kind of art.