How do you come up with names for your characters?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Gabu, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. Gabu

    Gabu Veteran Veteran

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    @SLEEP
    I know that feeling, I'm incredibly fussy as well. For the past few days I've done nothing but look at names online trying to find names that feel right for my characters, but I've had no luck. Most of the names I've found, sound nice, but they don't really fit my characters.
     
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  2. Scinaya

    Scinaya ~ Veteran

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    Well, to be fair, Meri is name in Finnish. Additionally it means sea or ocean, so it is not even variation of Mary. It is possible someone has been scouring through names in other languages to find something fitting, instead of just "slurring 'em up".


    This is actually what I do or did back in my day a lot. I'd add as advice to be consistent though and imagine culture of nation or people in your game. You can pick suitable counterpart or counterparts in modern day world and explore the names in the languages for those counterparts. It helps conveying certain culture similarities across at the same time. For nomad type people you might search Mongolian or Hunn or Hungarian names and for exotic nation cluttered with deserts and bustling bazaar cities you might consider Arabic names.


    You don't need to go after obvious choices though, search for history to find similar nations. Or you can search for historic figures that are similar to your characters and pick names there as well. I always loved the names that ring vaguely a bell and when I search for it, I can see historical or cultural references.


    So think of your characters in the context of the world. Who they are and where they live? What kind of culture is there? What is the possible namespace in that culture? What in that namespace would fit the character or their parents (as in the end, more often than not, they are the ones choosing name that means something for them)? Good side in this kind of holistic thinking is, that you might end up expanding the background of your world and it may ease you on other aspects of game making too.


    EDIT: And since you said you have trouble getting the names fit the character, this approach may help. It takes their background a bit into account too. :)
     
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  3. Niten Ichi Ryu

    Niten Ichi Ryu Grey Lords Emissary Veteran

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    Also keep in mind that in a given society/country, except if the culture is really prone to original names like our modern society where you can call your kid North with a family name like West..., there might be only a finite amount of given names, so a load of folks might actually be called, Peter, Georges, or Martin, even your heroes. I know its a sort of thing that doesn't sometimes is accepted in entertainment as producers are afraid people are too dumb to deal with two characters having the same name.


    Georges R Martin kinda broke this taboo by having several characters with the same first name in a song of ice and fire and it gives added realism.


    Yet the show runners of Game of Thrones broke this sometimes, renaming characters in case some of their maybe dumb audience would confuse...


    Off Topic, they also stupidly killed Stannis, because audience didn't like him, while he is one of the probable 3 most important personalities.


    So maybe do not follow their ideas and allow names to be repeated. You could have Edward the Small, Edward the Elder, Edward the Bold and dirty Ed. If a king of old was called Edward, it make sense (see medieval Britain)
     
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  4. kovak

    kovak Silverguard Veteran

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    I think about the general concept 1st, make a research about what would fit according to my desire.
    What the character do and how it's done also has some impact on the name as well, if not, i go with the research.

    Sometimes it may seem stupid to call an huge ogre magi of Starling till you realize it's a name of a type of bird and that's tied with his personality, background and skin tone.
     
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  5. Gabu

    Gabu Veteran Veteran

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    I have another question I'd like to ask.
    How do you guys go about naming characters of different races?
    For Example; if you have 3 races, Humans, Elfs, and Neko's (I don't know what a human with a tail and Animal ears is called.), how would you differentiate the names between the races. Would you simply give Humans Modern names, Elfs Nature Based names, and The Neko's more Gaelic / Greek sounding names?
     
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  6. Punamaagi

    Punamaagi Hero on their own terms Veteran

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    For me, it would very much depend on the setting. If for instance elves and humans had been living alongside each other for centuries, they might have similar naming conventions. I also try to draw inspiration in the "feeling" I get from the world, its geography, culture etc. My current game project has a somewhat nomadic race who mostly "live off the land"; therefore they name their children according to the circumstances of their birth (weather, environment and so forth), and so they have names like Storm, Breeze, Chasm or Nightsky.


    If you are using traditional fantasy races, online name generators might be a good place to start. Alternatively, you can use real world names or words from a language (or language family) which feels most fitting, such as names/words from Germanic languages for dwarves and so forth. Don't hesitate to give give the results your own twist, though, especially if you are not aiming for the traditional medieval European fantasy feel. :)
     
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  7. LaFlibuste

    LaFlibuste Veteran Veteran

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    As Punamaagi said, setting is what would determine my naming conventions. "Humans" is pretty broad. Maybe they're inspired from antique Engyptians, foedal japan, celts, who knows? In all those cases, the names would vary a lot. Same goes for you elves and "Nekos", are they your classic tolkien elves? Are they knowledgeable aristocrats you could find in renaissance France ? Are they shamanistic wildlings? Cybernetic tech freaks?

    As for "humans with a tail and animal ears" are called, the answer is: whatever you like and fits your setting. "Nekos" could work. I could also get "Furries". You could make up a word, like "Nimals" or whatever. Or you could use a pre-existing word but redefine its meaning, like calling them "Elves" (But you already have elves so I guess not), "Fays" or even "Demons" if your world is quirky that way.

    In any event, my main advice would be the following:
    - Always aim for coherence. Things must fit together, it must make sense.


    - Dont restrict yourself with pre-existing boundaries, rules, traditions, etc. Create, experiment, redefine. The most memorable settings often are those that both draw from elements we know but introduce a fresh twist of sorts.
     
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  8. baufian

    baufian lost gear in the grand design. Veteran

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    I just look through common names , look through diffrent dialects, (English, Arab, french, Russian,) and see if I can mass anything from what ever I chose. 
     
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  9. kovak

    kovak Silverguard Veteran

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    Elvens are more into saxon and Dwarfs into Viking stuff thx to Tolkien :v
    If you pay attention to the alphabets he designed you get this feeling and therefore nobody will mock you for using this as inspiration.


    This is also part of the research. Check the kind of culture you want as the roots of those people, aways.


    For the Neko part i'd go for Japanese stuff cuz it's Neko and also something that was born there...i don't remember many materials that would go so far from Japan's roots when it comes from Neko things.
     
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  10. HexMozart88

    HexMozart88 The Master of Random Garbage Veteran

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    Wall of text incoming. 


    It depends on the culture I want a story to have. Right now, I'm making a medieval Japanese game, so all of my characters have Japanese names. Basically, for the main characters I would use Japanese for something relating to them. Example, my main character's name is Rikuto (earth person in Japanese) because he has earth abilities. The thing is though, it's not as easy to judge because it's not a name commonly used for people with earth abilities. For unimportant people, I name them for what they are. For example, I just named a character "the Priestess" because her name isn't really important. For NPC's I need names for, usually the knights, I search up names from Medieval times to see what they mean, then translate them into Japanese. Example, I have a knight who is supposed to be Galahad, so I searched up what that means, found out that it means "pure" and then pulled out Google Translate, to get it into Japanese. 


    As for other races, that also depends on the setting. The elves in my game are not that important, as you only see them once, so not many will have names. I do, however, have some Neko's, but I name them based on what they look like. I put a lot of thought into names, and sometimes I admittedly get carried away, but people appreciate them most of the time. 


    As for last names, I either do the same as first names, or I find whatever flows. Sometimes, though, my names are so... out there... that I don't use last names because nothing fits. Example, none of the characters in my book have last names. Because, 1. I didn't see a point. 2. They're mostly names from a language I made up, so I can't have some characters with last names and others without. 
     
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  11. trouble time

    trouble time Bearer of the Word Veteran

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    In my own story all the subraces have nothing special particularly about their names, this is because the human subraces only recently split from humanity, in the last few hundred years. the Elf equivelent (originally I has another name for them but I started using elf again cause well....Ronnie James Dio) were in a pocket dimension with a different time flow for a while so they had a more developed culture until they decided to try invading the Empire, now they've basically been forcibly absorbed into the human nations and don't have much hope of ever leaving, considering the Arcanian Empire was thorough enough to kill the Elven Pantheon. The Beastmen (nekos as you call them) never split from humanity so no one pays the beastmen any mind, though only mammal-human hybrids are considered beastmen. There just aren't enough of the other kinds to be classified as a full subrace as per the Imperial census. The last race are basically just humans who inherit a disease from their parents that necessitates they repalce most of their bodies with machinery, and it depends on their attitude toward their humanity post-cybernetics what their names are. The more machine-like ones hace simple names, some with numbers, and the more humanlike ones have a more human mindset.
     
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  12. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    For the different races, mostly I follow naming conventions from our world, but there is one exception. In my game, I have a Drakon race (look like dragons, but human sized), but they don't quite understand the human language. As a result, their names tend to be lacking vowels (or have them in weird spots) as they don't quite understand the concept. So, now say hello to Rstpk, and his friend Mbthg.
     
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  13. Aoi Ninami

    Aoi Ninami Veteran Veteran

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    This doesn't seem convincing. "t", "p" and "k" are plosives -- they abruptly stop the flow of speech. Pronouncing two plosives in a row is possible, as in abrupt, but try saying that and you'll notice that you naturally add a very slight "uh" at the end to give the "t" room to breathe. There are human languages that have consonant clusters that appear unpronounceable to English speakers, but generally those make use of consonants that can be extended to become syllable nuclei, in other words they are essentially used as vowels. So the idea that they don't have vowels because they "don't understand the concept" doesn't make sense, if they have anything resembling speech at all.

    You could say that the vowels are pronounced but not written -- some human languages do this. But then, you're writing in English, why aren't you trying to convey the way the names sounds to the ears of an English audience, which would include indicating the vowels?

    Alternatively, you could say that dragons' vocal apparatus is so completely different from humans' that their speech really does sound like "Rstpk" or whatever to human ears. That would be a more plausible way of defending names like that. But personally, I'd just find it irritating -- a name that's hard to pronounce is hard to remember.
     
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  14. HexMozart88

    HexMozart88 The Master of Random Garbage Veteran

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    That's not true in all circumstances. If the characters themselves are memorable, it makes their names easier to remember. As well, sometimes hard names can be memorable, because that's part of what makes them different. Example, Hermione is not the easiest name to pronounce if you don't know how, but everyone remembers her nonetheless.  
     
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  15. RHachicho

    RHachicho Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah I'd have to second the whole Rstpk thing being a bad idea. It is an interesting concept. But the reality is that these names are phonetically difficult and ugly for humans. And humans are your target audience. However you could go for something rather alien sounding. Instead of Rstpk how about Rystphik or Mabthyg instead of Mbthg.


    The names are still very non human. But it's important to still present non human words in a way that people understand them. There's nothing that turns me off a character name in a game like thinking to myself .. how the hell do you even pronounce that? What even IS their name?


    For humans in my game I'm going for a mix of western names. But for some of the other races I have drawn from various tribal or far easter/african naming conventions which are often quite different. For feel .. I guess it would entirely depend on the culture those names belong to. A warlike culture would likely have rather abrupt names. Whereas in an aristocratic or highly cultured society the names might be quite long and beautiful. You can also play around with the names structure.


    In all cases I find it's good to actually sit down and think about the culture and their naming sense before you start naming characters. It's also good to think about the kind of realism you want.


    For example .. In final fantasy a lot of names are overtly romanticized. If someone introduced himself as Squall Leonhart you would probably giggle a bit IRL. Same with Cloud Strife. If this is something you are okay with in your game then naming becomes quite easy. Just try and make them as badass as possible. But in my game I wanted some more down to earth sounding names. Hence my main character is called Victor Khalder. Which for me struck the right balance of cool and believable. Some other names from my game are Mira Addroc. Other's have no family name. Such as Silver or Ihria. And another has a double barreled family-individual name .. Krun'Djha.
     
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  16. HexMozart88

    HexMozart88 The Master of Random Garbage Veteran

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    Yeah. I never said it was a good idea. Just, hard to pronounce doesn't make it unmemorable. Like for me, I have a book with dragons in it, and they have their own language, but it takes a bit after Latin. The language is so throaty, however, that it sounds more like the popping and whistling of dolphins. You should go for something like that (obviously don't completely copy my idea). 
     
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  17. consolcwby

    consolcwby (2015: afk...) 2018: BAK! :P Veteran

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    Naming is hard. Period. But in my writing I usually followed a few simple conventions:


    1) Beats and Complexity. The phonetic beats of a name should convey something of the character, a Sorceress named Lill is too simple, short, and has no feeling of power behind it. But if we cap the beats at 3: Yanstura - this has a better connotation when it comes to beats. An easily excitable character who is 'flighty' could be called Wisp. It's a single beat and has an 'air' connotation.


    2) Anagrams: Sometimes anagrams can be used if you are really hard up. Looking around me right now, I see cardboard. A character with an anagram of this who is a hero could be called Dorc'Badar - the name suggests he learned to fight because he took a lot of crap from his name! :D Maybe he's more of a villian then, eh?


    3) Letter Rules: When I wrote a S.F. short story once about a space-faring race I created specific letter rules for names: Important families had a pre-fix to their last names depending if they were from a Partriarch or a Matriarch: Xe' or Fe'; because the characters were few, first names ended with a soft sound if male or a hard sound if female, but still had to sound feminine. So, using these simple rules, Captain Tac Fe'Lenorn would be an important female, and her subordinate could be Ensign.Treys Dognas, a male. Pronouncing them out loud and keeping the rules intact and consistant is important! (In my story, I had TOO MANY RULES! Watch out for this!)


    And when all else fails:


    4) Cheapo-Encryption: Take someone's real name and use a letter-replacement encryption algorithm on it. Sometimes it can give you some real crazy phonetics, but it helps if you're just brainstorming anyway! :D Example: Go one letter back: Bob becomes Aza, Tom becomes Snl (Snell? Senel? Snoll? your guess is as good as mine at this point! but you get the idea!)


    I hope my 'tricks' helps the OP and whomever else! ;)
     
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  18. Plueschkatze

    Plueschkatze Veteran Veteran

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    I usually do the following...


    If the story is set in the real world I search the web for pages with realworld names fitting the timeperiod.


    Like "Victorian Names" or something. Also taking the nationality into consideration.


    If it's a story within a fantasy world I create fantasy names. (Which I do most of the time)


    Sometimes is use a "name generator" as inspiration. Dunno if linking is ok, but the name gen of choice would be http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/ Maybe it's helpful to someone else. So I roll it and check through the names, reading them out loud to see if something sound pleasing to me. Most of the time I modify the names more or less heavily.


    Or (most of the time) I just make up names by opening a text document, typing done lettercombinations and speaking them out loud at the same time...


    For example if I know I want a characters name to start with an L  I do the following: La Le Li Lu Lo... Lhoren. Lhoriel. Lhoria. Lhoriana.... and so on, until I've got a long list, which I can pick from or to revisit later on. Or I just find the perfect name while playing around. 


    Beside that I always make sure that it's a fitting name... like soft and kinda mystic name for elves and hard and powerful ones for somehing like warriors or orks and so on, this shows of in the use of vocals und consonants. Like... Lael vs Kharuk vs Xorx.
     
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  19. Vandriette

    Vandriette Dark King Veteran

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     I've actually named my characters on my own for my upcoming horror game~ naming them does not seem to be so difficult~


    EDIT: the story actually takes place in the real world equivalent of 2016, but I don't take current naming trends into account, actually.
     
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