Discussion NSWFF Writer's Support Group - September's Topic: Writing Characters of Various Ages

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade, Dec 5, 2012.

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  1. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    @Mira_Jade I love the title How I Met Your Mother, too!
    Show Spoiler
    Well, until the final episode, which revealed that the show wasn't really about the mother at all ... but I digress :p (Still upset 8-} )


    I'm not a huge fan of one-word titles (though they seem to work for Disney!) because they're so easy for me to forget. All the post-NJO titles started to get muddled in my head.

    @TrakNar I love alliteration! I think it works so well for titles. Very catchy.
  2. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    I think that would muddle the title for me.
  3. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    Oooh, @nycitygirl, I have been off and on watching that show, but the final episode just broke my heart for you guys. Yikes! :( [:D]

    And yet! Back on topic . . .

    I think that alliteration in titles can work either very well, or very poorly. To bring up GRRM again, I love the titles 'A Dance With Dragons', and 'The Winds of Winter'. 'V for Vendetta' is another favorite of mine. There is a wonderful flow and lilt to those titles, but I could see where it could easily become overbearing. Off of the top of my head - 'Awesome Anne's Almost Amazing Adventure' probably isn't the way to go. ;)

    And @TrakNar - that is a fascinating way of naming characters! And one that would seem to have good results. I think I can feel a topic on names coming up - so thank-you for the idea! :)
    TrakNar likes this.
  4. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    Very true -- you have to draw the line between catchy and too much.
  5. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    And thanks to @TrakNar, we have our new topic . . .

    May 2014's Topic: Naming Characters


    “The Baby Name book can be a very dangerous tool in the hands of a prolific author.” ~ Michelle M. Pillow


    The Discussion


    Our characters are the single most important thing we have when telling our story. Before our tale can be told, we need a character to tell that story through, and more often than not, naming that character can be one of the most crucial first steps in putting a story together. After all, the world of make believe would be different indeed if Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, or Frodo Baggins were named any differently. So! When you name your original characters, what are some of the methods you use? Do you chose names for the sound, or the meaning? Do you make up your names through combining interesting letters to create something unique? Tell us the method to your madness! And, if you would not mind sharing, tell us about a few of the character names you have come up with during your writing career. Why did you choose these names, and how did you stumble across them?


    The Exercise


    There is no exercise for this one - just feel free to discuss. :)
  6. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    I do a bit of all of it. Naming characters is my fave part. I love names! :D Yet, usually the meaning or association I personally have with a descriptor I use as a character name tends to be most important. I have heard it oft times --and reject it--that 'you can't know what they're like when they're a baby'. That's not the point. Very often my characters that I nurture the most are aging to elderly males because they are what appeal, speak, and inspire me the most.

    Examples: My RP OC that I recently created is based upon and inspired by Peter Cushing and he lives in a rather harsh world with an unusual nature intact. I call him Shalavon Distantdremer. Shalavon is simply because it looks nice, it sounds cool, and it seems foreign. Distantdreamer is to denote that like his template the character dares to dream and strive to be different.

    My major tribute story characters (also to honour Cushing) are named: Nathaniel, Elisha, and Shelby. The first two are because I like Biblical names. The last is due to meaning (Willow Farm) and because I want to reverse the trend of a masculine name being seen as feminine. Cushing was willing to go against the grain notably but quietly and I respect that and intend to do likewise. The surname is Kepler 'Hooded Cloak'. It is deliberately non-English and I chose it because it says to me personally these characters are hard workers, they work with their hands and it implies a tactile nature as it is associated with handling fabrics and fashioning garments.

    I lean most to descriptive names because I enjoy being up front with how my characters are. The Keplers will even likely drop their Human names assuming their Herd Names: Gallant Song, Gentle Illuminator, and Compassionate Touch full-time beyond a certain point in their story.
    Last edited by Cushing's Admirer, May 1, 2014
  7. RX_Sith C&G Game Host

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    Naming original characters for stories is one of the hardest things to get the right sounding name to me. I do not really have a method to the naming of original characters, just trying to come up with something that is easily recognizable is probably the first part though.

    For instance, in my latest diary, I had to think of a name for Yoda's son (yeah, weird huh, he actually has one). Anyway, I had been subjected to numerous plays of the song "We will never ever get back together" by Taylor Swift, and that is where both the name of my story and the name of Yoda's son, whom I called Evar came from.

    So, sometimes it just is something that comes together for no simple reason than that. Other times, I do try something like the just go to a "Star Wars Random Name Generator" site like: http://www.namegenerator.biz/star-wars-name-generator.php

    And then it shows the following: Kaharrn Saren, so not too bad, but probably not perfect. So, I refresh that until I find something or else wait for something else to just pop in.

  8. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    I used to name characters based on meaning, and I often used a sourcebook. Then, I learned that sound has more impact than meaning, as "Mabuz" may mean "ruler of the Death Castle," but the name itself does not command fright.

    For villainous characters, I lean towards names with a hard sound to them. I got lucky once to have a name with a good sound and a decent meaning (Adrik Hedeon, "dark" "destroyer"), but that was the last name I plundered from that book. After that, it was either altering the spelling of a name, combining names and words, or random typing, simply for sound alone.

    If I have a tough character, I want a hard name. I'll pick a name with the sound I want and try to emulate it with various methods (usually scrolling through random text for three letters from one word and two or three from another, where I end up with stuff like "Cerif" and "Anpy").

    Mostly, I tend to default to the Karen Traviss method of random typing consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant. Granted, I usually end up with stuff like Hied and Kehsi, and Wisoe, but every now and then I end up wi a decent name. Often, I'll just write up a list of names for later use.

    Another method I've used was taking existing names and making anagrams. I don't do this very often, but I've gotten decent results from it.
  9. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    I think it depends on how and if a meaning of a name is applied to the character and story. Sound is just that, sound.
  10. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    @Cushing's Admirer - I like your idea of using the last names to denote the personality the personality of your character. It almost has a Native American feel to it that I really, really like. One of my favourite fantasy book series is the Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass - she also does that with a lot of her names, and I always thought that unusual and unique. But, I am with you - names normally end up being a combination of 'sound' and meaning for me. I am a sucker for name meanings - and have whole lists just of possible names for characters waiting at the ready. :-B

    @RX_Sith - I LOVE that about bit of backstory about Evar. [face_laugh] That is hilarious, and yet, the name came out fitting perfectly. Inspiration can be the strangest thing sometimes. The SW name generator is a gem, that's for sure - thanks for providing the link. :D

    @TrakNar - I agree with you about the 'sound' of a name fitting a character. Vader, for example, wouldn't have fit the character as well if it had been a softer sounding name like Vafu. And, it has a meaning that fits the character to boot, so it is just good sense all around. I like to fit both sound and meaning into a character whenever I can. If not, the randomly selecting letters can always be a quick way to come up with something interesting. [face_thinking]

    My heroine in my original novel I am working on I am tentatively naming Epocha Sloane - her first name for the time travel aspects of the novel, and the whole 'start of a new age' that an epoch signifies, while the last name - the one she prefers to go by, means 'warrior', or 'strong spirit', which I wanted for her. It flows and has a nice sound to it, but then, the meaning is there too. And, 'Sloane' is my sister's middle name, and she is my inspiration for everything, so that was an added bonus for that decision. So, ah! That is another reason to name characters - as a tribute or way of showing appreciation for others. :)
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, May 1, 2014
  11. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    @Mira_Jade: Thanks! Yes, that's it exactly. I have been fascinated both by American Indians and name origins and meanings for several years. I like the symbolism of descriptive names. I likewise think meaning is vital. Most of all for me a name has to *feel* right.
  12. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    For non-SW names, I will attempt to name the characters within the setting, drawing from other names and even going as far as to use a name with the meaning that I want. For example, if I'm making up a new professor for a Pokemon story, I'll continue the naming trend of using trees for the surname. Depending on the personality of the character, I may choose trees or plants with connotations to go along with the character.

    Even then, I will strive for sound and a certain amount of beats for decent flow. I want the name to mean something and sound like its meaning, all the while rolling off the tongue nicely. One-syllable first names usually get a two-syllable surname, while two-syllable first names will often get a one-syllable surname, of I haven't chosen a multi-syllable surname due to the sound of the first name.
    Last edited by TrakNar, May 1, 2014
  13. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    @Cushing's Admirer I'm going to second Mira -- I really like the last name thing! I always have SO much trouble coming up with mine, much more so than first names.

    Does anyone else go to baby name websites, pick a letter, and float around until you find something good? :p

    Mira, you read Sara Douglass? Ahh! I have a bunch of her books (incluing the Axis trilogy); she was, at one point, my favorite author.
    Cushing's Admirer likes this.
  14. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    Thanks. :) If you'd like to bounce names or would like suggestions I'm game. :D I love helping.
    NYCitygurl likes this.
  15. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

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    Oh, the many things I have to say about names. If only I had time... (hopefully I will be able to properly join this discussion in a few days).

    I will say this:

    Do not choose names lightly. Names say a great many thing about the characters who wear them. Say the name aloud - what works in your head may not work when spoken. Names have meaning, but they don't necessarily have to have meaning. Consider soft sounds, harsh sounds and the way they may work together. Choosing the right name can be a long process -- I usually use placeholder names, since I can't write without a name attached to a character. Sometimes the placeholder name gets discarded, sometimes it becomes the character's name. I had an interesting experience with my current play where I used a placeholder name ("West"), which eventually became the character's last name, which eventually got traded out for the character's new first name ("Nathaniel"). My creative partner still calls the character by his placeholder name/current last name whereas I call him by his first name. It's kind of funny. :p
    Goodwood and TrakNar like this.
  16. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    Each writer's different. Fascinating to see that. I can't agree though. For me a name has to actually have a meaning to suit my character if it doesn't it doesn't fit.
  17. Idrelle_Miocovani Force Ghost

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    For me, it depends on the kind of work it is. If it's a highly metaphorical, lyrical work, then I will probably choose a name that has a specific meaning to go in-line with the character's purpose within the story. If it's not, then I will focus more on the sound of the name, rather than the actual meaning. In real life, the meaning of our names rarely match up with who we are as people, so that's probably where that sentiment comes from for me. My real life name means "grace" and I am the least graceful person out there (trust me on that). I find it interesting when it's the same for fictional characters. Metaphors are fun, but the disconnect between a character's personality and what their name means is just as much fun (or even more).
  18. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    @NYCitygurl - Sara Douglas just kills me dead! I love her Axis books, and her Troy series has been on my 'to read' list for a while now, I just always seem to be distracted by something else. I think that a re-read is in order now. [face_love]

    @Idrelle_Miocovani - That's a very good point. I have named characters the complete opposite before - like, 'Tace' means silence, and I had instead this chatter-box who didn't know when to quit. Meanings are fun for the author - because, let's face it, your readers will rarely pick up on such things, but its true, in RL it is almost always the opposite with names and personalities. In the end, if it doesn't sound, or 'feel' right, it's not going to work. So, in short, the name process! It is fascinating, ever churning beast. :p
    NYCitygurl likes this.
  19. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    For me though I deliberately make the name suit the character because it is meant to reflect them. I don't enjoy deliberate disconnects. I also think assuming the reader won't pick up things is selling everyone short. All you have to do is state what it means. Some are but again assuming their name doesn't suit them seems rather hasty.

    Interesting to see some of you like intentionally doing opposites and such. For me that simply doesn't work.
  20. Goodwood Force Ghost

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    @Cushing's Admirer Whoa, nellie! You've made your thoughts on this subject quite clear, so I'm not sure why you keep coming back to bash other users' statements (yes, I consider your responses to be at least somewhat in that vein). We all have our methods, and as long as they work for us, who gives a flying flatcake? ;)

    I'm also someone who will go for sound over substance, because we don't choose our names. Even the most despicable of supervillains had a name given to them when nobody had any idea what they would go out in the world to do (for example, Voldemort having been born as Tom Marvolo Riddle—Jo Rowling's anagram is brilliant here). I don't go to name generator sites, nor do I look up baby names, because the act of coming up with an original or unique name, or at least crafting a twist on letter arrangements that are recognized as names, seems to be a personal thing that adds to each character. The name of my primary original character, a soldier-turned-Jedi Knight called Laera Reyolé, is one example: "Laera" is a sort of meld of "Laura" and "Leia" while "Reyolé" is a Spanish-inspired version of a Naboo surname from an era long before Naboo had been colonized by Humans (and sounds like a Mexican dessert when I pronounce it!). She sort of grew into her name as I wrote her story, and I'm happy with it.

    I have used references and even outright copies of other things in names before, either for minor characters that may see only one or two mentions, or if it is a reference to a person I know who has directly inspired a certain work. The protagonist of my Dear Diary for this year is testament to that: Chak Ravartin, a starfighter pilot flying for the Republic in the Jedi Civil War, is named for the Buddhist concept of "chakravartin" which is also the IRC handle of the Irish kid I know who inspired the original character. I directly referenced "Ummagumma", a Pink Floyd album, as the given name for a Rodian fighter pilot in his squadron, both for lulz and because it sounded like a Rodian name (to me at least). Cheap shots for cheap characters? Probably, but hey, it seems to work okay. The only problem may come if I suddenly decide to make them into major players.
  21. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    I'm not bashing. Sorry you think I was.
  22. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Anyway...

    I passed the discussion along to another forum, as I thought it rather pertinent. That discussion has more to do with RP characters, though.

    In terms of RP characters, if I'm not using some form of one of my usernames, I tend to give characters throwaway names. This is mainly due to that at first, I'm just play-testing. The name eventually sticks, though, and oftentimes, I end up with a collection of oddly-named characters.

    For stories, I generally take some time to think up character names, at least for the main characters. Extras will get names as I come to them. For RPs, for whatever reason, my characters get throwaway names. Even my Pokemon get throwaway names. It's just a habit that has followed me through my years of gaming.
  23. earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost

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    For my stories I use a lot of characters and naming them... I work at a town-hall, see a lot of names and combine them to get new characters. One of my main characters - Kaagi Adin - was named differently though. In the place where I live - Warmond - we have a big canal called the Kaag. Add an 'i ' and I had Kaagi. 'Adin' came when I thought about his species (long lived and with a very old history)
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  24. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    I ran this discussion by my dad last weekend and got an interesting response. He agrees with meaning, as it is important, yet he also agrees with sound, depending on the character. A name wi a hard meaning and hard sound work for a hard character, while having a hard character whose name has a hard meaning, but the sound is soft can sound a bit awkward. However, if you're going for sounds that don't synch with the meaning for an added dose of irony, all the more better.

    When it comes to made-up names for SW fics, you can very easily go sound first and then ascribe whatever meaning you want to it. Also, altering the spelling of a name with the right sound and meaning work really well, which is a route I've taken off and on.
  25. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

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    I've done my fair share of throwing letters at the wall and seeing what sticks, but baby name sites are helpful for getting me out of using the same letter combos again and again. I seem to like names that begin with A and L a lot, and I could use a little variety sometimes. I admire those who are a little more creative!
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