name fatigue

Margaret Note Spelling

A feature, not a bug.
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Messages
243
Location
The Heart of Nowhere
I actually had a very strange, and possibly disturbing, experience not too long ago--sometime last year, I had invented a minor character for a single scene, and without too much thought named her Alice; then I went on to characterize her in a mild, but more or less distinctive way. Well and good. Now, just a month or so ago, I was writing another scene (same world, different story) and I needed a minor character for a single scene. I remembered this particular character and thought I'd use her, since it was entirely plausible she was in the area for the time frame involved. Unfortunately, while I could remember her personality, I could not remember her name.

Without too much thought--I named her Alice.

I don't know what that says about me and my personal naming ideas. Generally, when I can't think of a suitable name, I grab the nearest available family member and make them come up with something. That usually works.
 

Karn's Return

The Last Maeshalanadae
Joined
Oct 24, 2018
Messages
471
Location
Chocobo Races
Well, I don't know how much you like AiW, but I often use Alice as a backup or at least placeholder for female characters simply because I'm a massive fan of the story.
 

Mouse

ejtett.weebly.com
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
10,201
Location
in your face
I usually tend to use the first name that pops into my head and stick with it. Not always great when you're writing the Big Bad and he now needs a name and your brain offers up Jacob. (It stuck though and that's his name now).

Names of siblings do need to make sense though, like Karn says. You've got to think how the parents would name them.

I love the idea of using place names as character names though, I'm definitely going to be stealing that idea. Next WiP is totally going to feature Nempnett Thrubwell and Queen Camel.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
5,122
Nempnett Thrubwell: a tubby, merry man from Dickensian London, who gives cake to orphans.
Queen Camel: a friendly, if somewhat aloof ruler of fairyland, possibly appearing to Nempnett Thrubwell in a plot involving changelings.
The villainous Jacob: a crazed, brutal preacher who will commit suicide when he realises that it wasn't God giving him instructions, but the Devil.
 

-K2-

mƎ kn0w dUm!
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
1,583
Location
'Merica
I suppose I'm the odd bird here. Have you ever thought, true or not, that certain names seem to more often than not have people attached to them which have common traits? Virtually every 'Cindy' I have met, has blonde/light-brown hair, tends to be well curved and somewhat promiscuous. Every Nikki (no matter the spelling), dark hair, leaner, gregarious and more aggressive. The list goes on, some names associated traits more prevalent than others, yet, the coincidence is common enough that I abide by it.

I've written westerns, distant future sci-fi, fantasy (LotR similar), and a lot of stuff where other specific nationalities are used. So, I do often need to look up regional naming conventions, era specific, or invent entirely new systems (often based on the languages I develop) so the names are true to what I'm presenting. But...

As I initially suggest, the name often reflects the personality and certain traits I want portrayed. There are direct counters at times, where I want a person's name to be somewhat ironic. As an example, in my western I had a character named Hummingbird Hail. A mountain man and trapper, the Indigenous peoples in contrast called him the 'Grizzly Man' (due to his massive size, ferocity when pressed, covered in hair, etc.). However, in all cases the name helps me to establish in my mind the character in detail.

So, when it's time for a new character in a piece, I 'want' to pause, consider the character in depth (look, demeanor, quirks, etc.), and develop the name then. So for me, a stock list/file of names wouldn't work. I want that time to think about it, no matter how insignificant the character might be. If i had a pat list, then I might not take the time which helps grant depth.

That said, I do have one name which tends to popup a lot. In fact, 99% of my stories use it. Kay, in some form or another.

K2
 

Mouse

ejtett.weebly.com
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
10,201
Location
in your face
Nempnett Thrubwell: a tubby, merry man from Dickensian London, who gives cake to orphans.
Queen Camel: a friendly, if somewhat aloof ruler of fairyland, possibly appearing to Nempnett Thrubwell in a plot involving changelings.
The villainous Jacob: a crazed, brutal preacher who will commit suicide when he realises that it wasn't God giving him instructions, but the Devil.
:LOL: Awesome, I'm taking it.
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
11,059
Location
West Sussex, UK
Not always great when you're writing the Big Bad and he now needs a name and your brain offers up Jacob. (It stuck though and that's his name now).
Actually I think that makes him more credible and human than Thaza'ark the Discombobulator. It might not sound like a Big Bad name, but why would his parents, when naming him, expecting him to become the Dark Lord?
 

Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Messages
1,918
Location
Mercia, UK
I look through Google maps in countries where I need a particular flavour of name. Picking random a random area, I zoom in until village and small towns appear, make a note of any interesting ones and mix the results together.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

A feature, not a bug.
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Messages
243
Location
The Heart of Nowhere
Well, I don't know how much you like AiW, but I often use Alice as a backup or at least placeholder for female characters simply because I'm a massive fan of the story.
Alice in Wonderland is something that, while I've read it and its sequel, I really don't think about for ages at a time. I'm afraid that was nowhere in my head when I thought of the name all those months ago!

Personally, I don't tend to use placeholder names simply because a character, in my head, is very linked to their name and depending on what the name is, it can subtly change the way I write, or at least think, about them. And once a name is settled in my head for a character, there are very few alternatives I can later change it to without also changing the personality of the character. Some names do have a similar feel in my head, making it easy to change between them. But I can't change it to just anything I want once the character is established, which is a bit of a handicap.

And maybe I'm strange, but I actually find naming characters one of the funner parts of writing a story. I invented a particular character and wrote two shortish books about her just because I liked the name. And I had a hard time thinking of another character as an interesting person just because I didn't like the name.
 

Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
Joined
May 11, 2018
Messages
293
Location
UK
Nempnett Thrubwell: a tubby, merry man from Dickensian London, who gives cake to orphans.
Queen Camel: a friendly, if somewhat aloof ruler of fairyland, possibly appearing to Nempnett Thrubwell in a plot involving changelings.
The villainous Jacob: a crazed, brutal preacher who will commit suicide when he realises that it wasn't God giving him instructions, but the Devil.
Just for interest, did you know Queen Camel is a place in the UK?
 

Stephen Palmer

author of novels
Joined
Dec 22, 2009
Messages
4,951
Location
Shropshire
Personally, I don't tend to use placeholder names simply because a character, in my head, is very linked to their name and depending on what the name is, it can subtly change the way I write, or at least think, about them. And once a name is settled in my head for a character, there are very few alternatives I can later change it to without also changing the personality of the character. Some names do have a similar feel in my head, making it easy to change between them. But I can't change it to just anything I want once the character is established, which is a bit of a handicap.
I totally agree with this, and it's how I work too.
A name is a fundamental part of identity, and, even for minor characters, it's important to get a handle on that.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
5,122
Just for interest, did you know Queen Camel is a place in the UK?
Only because I guessed it from Mouse's post. But I wouldn't be surprised: there are some very odd names.

I agree with Margaret Note Spelling and Stephen Palmer to a fair extent. While I sometimes don't have names worked out for characters when I start, I do find that once I've given them a name, it's very hard to feel that I've not spoiled it somehow if I change it later on.
 

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
4,655
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
I do find that once I've given them a name, it's very hard to feel that I've not spoiled it somehow if I change it later on.
Oh this describes me to a tee, too! The other thing is when I've used a placeholder name and then find the perfect actual name, I have to do global search and replace time and time again because force of habit keeps me using the old name. So many times Redd in my wip has reverted to Kate.

pH
 

KiraAnn

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
74
Location
Texas
I have found myself using placeholder names based on movie characters that approximate the character in the story. It kind of gives me a synopsis of the character as I write. If I can’t remember the character name, then I use the actor that played it or is approximately close. Afterwards, I use search and replace.
 

CTRandall

I have my very own plant pot!
Supporter
Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
822
Location
North-east England
A name is a fundamental part of identity, and, even for minor characters, it's important to get a handle on that.
This is precisely why I initially call all my minor characters "The Spaniard". It is a designation full of possibilities: a suave but slightly smarmy gentleman with a pencil mustache, an overweight dock-worker who drinks too much, a simple peasant girl drawing water from a well, the sexy femme-fatale with a rose in her hair, etc. etc, etc. It evokes everything.

Oh, and apologies to any real Spaniards out there for my outrageous stereotypes.
 
Top