Creating a memorable character name

Zane

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You all have a moment one time or another where you have a very awesome story come to mind. You begin to write it all down without any hesitation and when it comes time to introduce your protagonist, your malfunction of writer's block hits and you begin to panic searching name generators just to find a name. But what's the problem? Well sure you have over a 100 names on a list to choose from but you don't like any of them and you refresh the page again, and again, and again, but nothing of relief washes over you and you sit there, staring at your monitor, your keyboard. Just trying to find names for your characters. How does one make memorable names for a story? I've tried countless times to find meaningful names. Sure I came across awesome ones, but they all sound terrible. Why? It's because I don't feel any meaning to them. You can't just slap a labeled name on a character but you also can't magically pull them from the sky. So how do you come about names? I'm not talking about an average name like Ralph, Eric, Benjamin, Sarah, Sally. I'm talking about ones that have unique sounds to them, vowels that roll of your tongue. Names that just sound right and mean everything to that specific story and character. What is your methods? Do you prowl a generator? Mix and match random letters? Pray till one comes to you? Or something else?
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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Normally I get names from playing games, watching shows and/or reading then mashing them up
 

wallacethepig

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If we're talking about masterpieces like Pokemon, Earthbound and Chrono Trigger, Buttface is a popular choice. ;)

But that statement has a kernel of truth to it – you can let the player decide what the ultimate hero should be called, be it Buttface or Lucas or their name or whatever.

And I wouldn't worry too much about it.  'Sides, you don't want an unpronounceable name for your main character.

-Wallace
 

Alexander Amnell

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   I generally will either use a common name that I like or else use really archaic phrases that describe the character. For instance, the main character in my game goes by the name "Anitan Kihone" which is a very archaic phrasing that essentially means "Protector" and "Storm" respectively(although using two separate languages), which to me represents this character very well, as his primarily role in game is to protect a certain child during a particularly volatile time period. So in my mind his full name means "protector in the storm" although I know language isn't that simple, using dead languages or archaic phrasings to begin with I feel makes it obscure enough that next to no one would know or care unless it was pointed out to them; so in short the naming convention is in essence just for my own personal benefit, but I like that particular method regardless. At the very least it allows me to connect with the character that I created.
 
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C-C-C-Cashmere (old)

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Call him Zane. In all seriousness, just find names that roll off the tongue easily and are feasible. They shouldn't be too long or difficult to read, but all in all it doesn't really matter that much. Even if a name is cheesy, people get used to it after a while.
 

Alexander Amnell

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Call him Zane. 
In all seriousness I seriously considered giving the protagonist of my game the name Alexander as it's a great name and it's meaning fits the same vein that the more archaic Anitan fills, but I decided in the end that might come off as a little bit arrogant and searched for other versions of the name instead.
 

byronclaude

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It is hard to explain how character names come to me...  but I can say this...

I visualize interaction with the character as if they were real...  like I imagine their voice, their demeanor, are they figitty?  mean?  sarcastic?  dirty?  Imagine their posture...  and their scent...  make them real...   then while looking at the person from a real point of view, I imagine what name someone like that would carry well.

In some cases the name is easy or common...  sometimes the individual doesn't come off as someone with a common name.  So rather the name is Rudy, Carmen, Jade, Ash, Jarald, Nica, or Elvarris...     match the sound of the name with the personality.

In some cases I also resort to names that are shared with random people that I have met in life, and observed a trait about them that I liked, and such trait is shared with a charactor I am creating.

I have a female fighter named Lauren, after a former co-worker who was determined, successful, and not afraid to speak her mind.   :)
 

Vexed

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I tend to use alliteration occasionally when naming my characters, though I do try not to overuse it. I also like to make sure that my names have some meaning behind them be it a personal connection that I associate with the character or one deriving from the origin of the name itself. I tend to use existing or "real" names as much as possible too, though occasionally I will make something up if I feel it sounds right.

I also get a lot of names from favorite characters from movies, tv and books, though I try to mix things up a bit.

Some examples of names I've used are Amelia Mallory. Amelia was my grandmothers middle name and means Industrious or Fertile. I prefer the Industrious meaning as when combined with the meaning of Mallory [unlucky or unfortunate] it really sums her up as a character to me. She's hard working and determined but life seriously throws a lot of crap her way.

Margot Miller I like just because of the alliteration of it, and the film that inspired the game in which she is the protagonist is 'Relic', a monster/action/horror movie from the late 90s. The protagonist of Relic was Dr Margot Green who was played by Penelope Ann Miller so, that's where I got that name from.

My character CJ Bennett [My current avatar] was named after two of my favorite movie/tv characters - Claudia Jean "CJ" Cregg from 'The West Wing' and Angela Bennett from 'The Net'.

A few of the more "fantasy" names I've used are Acacia, Keziah and Hadassah who were a triumvirate of goddesses - all three are biblical or religious names and each is derived in one way or another from types of trees or wood.

I don't necessarily think names have to have a meaning that is readily apparent to the player, but I do think it helps a lot as a writer/designer if you have names that have clear meanings or connections to you. Names are among the first things I come up with when working on a character, before I begin on design or backstory usually as they help me work those things out.

Ultimately though, I think what makes a character memorable is their personality and design, though often a character that's been named poorly is gonna stand out and be memorable for the wrong reason.
 

Another Ned

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I always circumvent the initial "naming block" by just using a placeholder for character's names. Like P for the protagonist, sometimes even P1, P2, etc. if there's more than one, or just one word describing their roles.

Naming them usually comes after some time spent with writing about them and taking notes. Depending on the setting, I just use what comes to mind (and seems consistent with the world and story).

I also have this rule of thumb to use first names for important characters that are only one or two syllables in length. But that's mostly because when I was still a teenager, I had the tendency of using overly long and complicated names for the sake of overly long and complicated names. xD

I seldom think about meaning, though. When it comes to naming things, I rather go by sound and rhythm.
 

Titanhex

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People get too bogged down in names.

The name doesn't make the character, the character makes the name. When I say Brock Samson you don't think of 1000 Brock Samsons. You think of THE Brock Samson from Venture bro's. That's because he made the name. The name is who he is.

Of course Brock Samson would probably not be the same character if he was "Timmy Lohan." And James Bond wouldn't be the same character if his name was "Frances La'quinn."

If you know the character's personality and you understand the setting, it won't be hard to come up with a name. The name you come up with will be plenty accurate and all you need.

Just think up your genre, your setting, and your character's personality and let the name flow. Don't get stuck on it.

It's really not that hard. Infact it's such a miniscule thing you shouldn't even think too hard about it. It can be changed as long as you haven't published it yet. It's not set in stone.

Stop overthinking it. Just stop.
 

Aeternus

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the way i go about it is..

I think of something i like, a sword, a spell, an element etc.

then i think of a battle style like stealth, DoT, Defender etc.

Then i mash both words into something that sounds cool (sometimes it takes weeks)

Then i choose a language i dont understand (latin, greek, japanese etc)

look up the name in the respective language and then turn it into english and voala =) name found

hence the name Venor

It means Hunter, its a combination of stealth and bow turned into Latin.

Hope this helps atleast a bit n.n
 

CWells

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I let my story dictate the names of my characters as best I can.

That and I'm obsessed with the name Corbin Wells.

I tend to put one of them in a few of my works.
 

whitesphere

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I like the name generator built into Scrivener.  It allows me to make a name based on gender, country heritage, etc, and tells me the meaning of each name.  So if I want an Irish name, I can have one and know what it means.  I also use that when writing for the Nanowrimo challenge.  Otherwise, I end up with such amazingly original and colorful names as Bob or Sue.
 

Kaiser

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After I get the ending done first and the beginning I think up of the characters and their fates, I want their names to be signature and unique to them and give the reader or the player hints to how they act, use in battle, etc etc. I generally don't use generators, I use names from memory, or I crack open baby books that have meaning behind their names and I use those. If I really want a unique character I pick names not commonly heard, or names that are a combination of two names.
 

Zane

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"or I crack open baby books that have meaning behind their names and I use those. If I really want a unique character I pick names not commonly heard, or names that are a combination of two names."
This is something I've heard quite a lot lately from some friends and is usually a successful strategy towards finding a name. Although the last baby book I encountered was my mothers when she was naming my sister but that was back in 2004. So I doubt she still has it around her house. Aha.
 

Aeternus

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ive never heard of that xD but i guess its the same as looking at an ordinary book 

possibly even from a documentary on an exotic animal or such :o
 

CWells

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One can also look at the credits to movies. Just check out first and last names, mix some up!
 

McTricky

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It's like someone said above, names can always be changed. I had one character in my game who was called "Ariella". That was set in stone up until the point where I held a casting call for the character, and halfway through that period I realized, Ariella looks too similar to the name "Ariel", the name of one of the main characters, and the two spend a portion of the game together.

To avoid confusion, I decided to change her name from "Ariella" to "Saoirse", which is a name that belonged to one of my colleagues at a place I used to work at. I liked the name, so I used it. I'm glad I changed it too, because the name is more UK than Ariella was (Saoirse is an Irish) name, and her sister "Meredith" is a welsh name.
 

KeyJester

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Strangely enough, I've never had any problems finding names. Like all my lovely "companions", it just drops down on me out of the blue. It's always fun to have a random burst of information thrown into your head when you're busy doing something else. In the rare cases where I haven't gotten a name, along with all the other info I have on any newbies to my stories, I try to sit down and visualize the person. Like mr. byronclaude posted! I pretend I'm having a conversation with the person, as if he or she was real, and get a feel on what kind of person they are, and then I politely ask their name. Or shake it out of them. Whichever works best.

I am also a sucker for using unknown languages to make names. I made an entire language for my work, and I often use it when picking out names, using something I feel represents the character. Like, if I have a female earth mage, I might just call her Ehra, which means "earth".
 

Lars Ulrika

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Usually i like to make pranks with names. Like in my current project there is a duo named In-Son Park and Hal Zeimer. There is a very unlucky character who is named Ike Anfail. Three sisters in some inn are called Miss Tek, Miss Leeding and Miss Pelling. Some over sarcastic woman is called Mary Meenot etc... I have much fun doing that. :p if not doing so i'll usually go from a concept name that fits the character usually in this case i'll dig into religious stuff as many words sound badass (like Ragnarok or Sephiroth etc...) . Can also be a mash up of some stuff i like.
 

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