Names for OCs


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How do you think up good names for OCs? Things that roll off the tongue and don't sound Sueish?

Well, I have several methods of choice. They kinda seem to resemble how Marvel and DC villains are named.

First example: Nickname Breech Loader, Real Name Bridget Loranski.

Breech Loader is a type of gun. I was looking up gun types because my character was a mercenary. Then I realised I needed a real name for her. So I looked up baby names in an online dictionary. I picked deliberately one beginning with B that would sound boring; as boring as you can think of, like a granny knitting. For her last name I wanted something beginning with L. Loran came up, and then I added the suffix, 'ski', knowing that it isn't all that uncommon, and sounds a little... edgy.

I have other examples, but how do YOU pick a name for an Original Character?

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My characters tend to be run-of-the-mill working-class types so I like to give them slightly clunky names, like Doreen Tireiron for one of my Cars characters. IMO it fits with the canon names but isn't sparkly or prettyful. (Disclaimer: Doreen is fine if a little dated, but Tireiron does the name in. Please don't flame me if your name really is Doreen.)

I avoid using names that I'm considering for any future RL kids because it would be a whole new level of creepy to find pr0nz your mom wrote using an OC with your name, even if you hadn't been born yet at the time of writing. I also avoid names that are really popular for kids right now and although I often imagine what my character's middle names are just as I like to know what they eat for breakfast, I don't give them in the stories if there's no real need to do so.

I found this name popularity graph helpful when picking names for my RL kids and it'll let you know if naming an OC "Ayden" is practical if the fic is set in the 1950s:

www.babynamewizard.com/voyager

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When I picked "Project: Mirage" it was because she was Shadow's sister. Obviously in the Sonic fandom it had to be a verb anyway, and being a counter to Shadow's abilities... well, Project 'Light' didn't sound right, so I thought a bit more. So I came up with that OTHER illusion of light - the Mirage.

Sometimes when I cheese names for fandoms that use verbs, I go to a thesaurus.

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Well, I get them out of the blue :)

The very first thing that comes to my mind. Or sometimes, when I need something less usual, I just browse through names tables and pick one that is "normal" but kinda rare. That's it.

And for fantasy characters (I don't have them on aff yet, but just wait! :) ), I try to put some letters together and take what sounds good. Not "romantic", or cliche, but good. Interesting. Sometimes disturbing.

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It may sound strange but when I'm thinking of names for my OC's I think about the character's parents. Ultimately, unless the character is an orphan, it's the parents that name the kid. So I give my OC some parents, give the mommy and/or daddy quirks and go searching some baby name sites for names that would spark the parent's attention.

It adds some dimension to any OC I care to develop. If they don't like their name then they can always change it or shorten or do whatever it is we ourselves do to the craptacular names our parents picked out for us. For example, one of my OC's mother was an English major and very into classic literature so his name was dubbed Dardanius at his birth. However......who's going to go around telling people that that is there name? So he always just says his name is Danny.

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I use a lot of sources for names. The first is a huge baby name book that I picked up used at a garage sale a few years ago. Also, I google "popular girls names" (and boys) and even name sites - of which there are a LOT.

With my huge story, I have to use a lot of non-everyday Anglo-American names so I end up picking an ethnicity/country and googling names - i.e. "Traditional Irish Names", finding one that I like because of the ring, the look or the meaning and going from there.

Unless it's a toss-off name for something, I usually put more time than most folks do into looking for names because of my personality and the nature of my story (my names give clues about characters, if one takes time to look them up).

I analyze common naming patterns given by the author and try to roll in to those. "Flower names", "Common names", "Astrological names" and "Old English/Pict/Gaelic" names are popular in Potter. To me, Ivy is a perfectly reasonable name in an HP story because Rowling has established a pattern of several plant names. I probably wouldn't use River or Rainbow because they are just a slightly hippie touch out of the realm of what she's offered.

I always avoid names of people I know (unless it's so buried that only that the one person knows it and gets a giggle). I also always avoid using my own name, just because it gets so stale and it becomes insertion of me and my fantasy into a story, rather than a STORY.

CMW

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  • 11 months later...

For names it depends on the story, its setting and the meaning of the name, also on what others have written. The best solition I found is compile a list of possible names for the story, its setting and the meaning of the name... Then, I take said list and compare it to the other OC's already used, if it does not alreay match, I am good to go...

Though on the otherhand, if I really like the writing of some other author's fanfiction - I might think of "borrowing" the OC's name, breaking up the surname (Last name) from the personal name (First name) and adding it to the list.

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  • 8 months later...

I use generators, lists of already created names, or (when I can) string sounds together so that it sounds appropriate. Or, in some cases, use old country folk names like Weatherfox, Shepherdson or Fairchild, which have long lost their original meaning.

All names have meanings. That's a fact. In ages past, a child was named in honour of an ancestor/famous figure or because of some augur that made the name meaning applicable. Or sometimes it was an affectionate nickname that stuck. It's a modern custom to name a child with something that sounds pleasant to the parents (and if we're talking about modern times, then you should do as Erasmuss says and disregard meanings, since we live in an age of shape over substance).

Another thing you can do is to keep a list of names you come across that you like, and reference it when you want to start a new story.

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  • 3 years later...

I have a baby name book I thumb through for first names. It can be a good to pick a name that has special meaning for a character, but be careful not to go too far. If every character has an obscure or pretentious name that has a rather trite meaning, say a soldier with a name that means strength, or a a bookish lady with a name that means wisdom and so on that can easily start to feel contrived, and perhaps a little bit of a stretch. Just because a child is named for a virtue or principle, doesn't mean they'll ever grow up to have it.

Circumstances are important, try to look only at names that would have been well known in the time and specific setting and avoid modern spelling alterations that may have been made. Think about what the parents were like, and what they might would have thought when the character was named, I think it's always adds a nice bit of flavor to back stories when the name means something, not necessarily to the character, but to the background they came from.

For surnames and place names I flick through the white pages, and then double check the names I find on the internet to make sure that they make sense in the setting. I never put too much hidden meaning into surnames because I find that sort of thing to be a bit trite. You can't choose your surname, and neither did any of my characters, so I decide purely on what I think looks and sounds good. Though, I did end up having something of a motif happening recently, but that's up to your personal style to decide whether you want to make it a story element or not.

Now, as for preventing sueisms, I think you have that down pat in the example you've shown. Most suish name choices happen when the author tries way too hard to make their characters name have special meaning, or choose a name that is a radical departure from what is considered normal in that setting (Ebony Darkness Raven Way, anybody?) Bridget's name works, both because it sounds good and because I could easily imagine a parent naming their child that, though I would hope that she has some eastern European heritage to rationalize that surname. The nickname works too, because with her backstory you can easily imagine how her friends would make the leap from one to the other. However, I would be careful about naming an entire group of characters on that theme. Having an entire cast with names that coincidentally sound like types of guns or other weapons might sound kinda cool, in an action figure range kind of way, but I guarantee it would be very hard to pull of without sounding incredibly trite and lame. It's a pretty fine line I guess.

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  • 6 years later...

My process varies depending on what exactly I’m writing. For some of my original fiction, I tend to use a blend of “words from nature,” “elaborated words from nature,” and “take parts of actual words or names, mash them together with other syllables from other words and names, and boom, insta-name.” It’s gotten some pretty interesting results like Anabreth, Kessenjer, and Benekeed. It fits for a fantasy-setting culture in another world but it would not fit for most stories.

Fanfiction and other fiction? That process is more...complicated. Sometimes with some characters, a name for them literally just pops up as I’m building the character and sticks. Other times I scour baby name directories, popular media, and websites, and choose what works best for the time. Usually I follow a precedent my family (unintentionally?) set: “Every girl needs an adult name and an old lady name, and one of those names needs to be adaptable into a cute nickname for when they’re kids.” Some fandoms (or families) also have trends for naming – characters in a lot of anime have names based in nature, especially food, and sometimes families follow naming customs passed down. Heck, I know of a person who has several kids, all of whom have an X or Y somewhere in their name. (Yes, he’s white.)

Overall, I think, if you’re worried your OC name will sound Sue-ish or too unusual, there’s an easy way to figure it out. Imagine you just met a new friend and you’re introducing them to someone. Could be your parents, your Nana, or even just that fusty granny who lives next door and always gets up in your business. Imagine yourself saying the character’s name to this person. Did they cringe? Did their eyebrows disappear into their hair? Did they snort under their breath, imitate a codfish, or otherwise react impolitely? If so, the name’s probably going to stand out and maybe too much. Sometimes having an outlandish name can be a good thing – ie, recurring jokes or character reactions to their names – and likewise for excessively bland names.

Whatever you choose, just be sure you make it work.

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  • 1 year later...

Hello, all.

For what it’s worth, If I’m writing fanfiction, I try to follow the naming rules and conventions of the series, if I don’t outright hijack a named “background” character and bring them to the forground.  For example, if writing in Naruto/Boruto, I would be far more likely to write about Uzumaki Kenshin than Ebeneezer MacPhalus.  Likewise, were I to write a Manwha fanfiction, I would only use Korean names, reserving Japanese names for villains.  If I write a James Bond fanfiction, the names of the principal villains and love interests could get more intriguing, because the source material itself makes this okay.  If writing Nero Wolfe, I would tend to use names common to the Northeastern United States, with the ability to use names from almost any real “anywhere else,” since it is New York City where the fabled brownstone with the rooftop orchid garden is located.

Iin the Rowlingverse, I never name Hermione’s parents “Dan and Emma,” even if I make Ron Weasley Lord Voldemort’s more intelligent BDSM sub slave MPREG love interest (and I think i just puked in my mouth writing that.)  While in the Rowlingverse, I also use names in common usage in the United Kingdom during the time the story takes place for non-Wizarding-Culture raised, and names in semi-common usage in the United Kingdom roughly fifty to one hundred years earlier for the Wizarding Culture wizards except for families with their own naming convention such as the Blacks.

In original fiction, the names of the characters should fit the time, location, and social station of the character.  “Stripper names” are generally used for strippers.  Likewise, if a character receives a name that is “less fitting” to their times, they can certainly go by a different nickname, or at least make some note of their naming dissatisfaction.  Sometimes, whether and how a character shortens their name is a clue to their personality, or at least their “comfort in their own skin.”  Someone attending Harvard in 1801 would likely not share the name of someone attending high school in Harvard, Illinois in 2001.  Likewise, unless they hot-wired a TARDIS, Dwezel and Moon Unit would not be named participants in any battle of the US War for Independence.  Different countries also have their own societal quirks.  You are more likely to encounter a full-Anglo Ichigo in the United States than you are a full-Yamato Herbert in Japan.

In an “fantasy original” fiction, the names need to make some sense within that universe.  Even in such a universe, an “odd” name can find a place, though it will be questioned by the readers, and perhaps should be questioned by the other characters themselves.  The Dark Elf whose elven name translates in the the “common” “He who sodomizes bull whales” should frequently be asked, “But does the whale actually realize that you’re there?  And what should happen should your new friend return the favor?”

Of course, in a parody or farce, going absolutely the opposite way of normal naming conventions can also make sense.  For example, in Bleach your super-villain could be Elisabeth Henry, with her plot to hasten Ragnarok by forcing all the Quincys and Hollows of Huecho Mundo to actually drink the water without boiling it first for at least three minutes, followed by eating the worm and licking the toad.

Cheers!

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For main characters, I put more thought into it.  For side/background characters, I’m more likely to use a random name generator for guidance.  (Trouble is, I’ll use create a side/background character, and *THEN* decide to center a story around them, well, I’m generally not renaming them.)

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For me, it depends on my setting. My original fantasy settings seem to work best when I use Irish or Welsh names. I’m also not above using Quenya or Sindarin for naming elven characters. For anything original with a contemporary setting, I try to use contemporary names without sliding into the overly unique. There is nothing at all wrong with a simple name.

Fandom just means I need to stick to the ‘verse as far as naming conventions. As a caveat, my fandoms tend to revolve around CRPGs that I enjoy, so it helps to know what influenced the devs of the game. I’m pretty sure no one in the Dragon Age universe is going to have a Japanese name, although the Forgotten Realms game of Baldur’s Gate 2 does have one particular NPC from Kara-Tur named Yoshimo.

 

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For human characters who are not from a fantasy world (and for furries who have human names), I try to avoid using the same name twice, at least for major characters. (I actually keep a list of all the names I’ve used.) I think this helps make my stories more interesting.

For whatever reason, sometimes I like to give sexy female characters names that I don’t think of as sexy at all, like Geraldine, Enid, and Mitzi. 

 

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1 hour ago, GeorgeGlass said:

For human characters who are not from a fantasy world (and for furries who have human names), I try to avoid using the same name twice, at least for major characters. (I actually keep a list of all the names I’ve used.) I think this helps make my stories more interesting.

For whatever reason, sometimes I like to give sexy female characters names that I don’t think of as sexy at all, like Geraldine, Enid, and Mitzi. 

 

I started to foul up on my originals … now I’m bit more aware.  A substantial number had “J” as the first initial, became worse when a number started with “Ja” and you’d have to go to THREE letters in to get them any different.  Too late to correct all of them, however, I’ve been trying to introduce nicknames for secondary characters.  Too similar and the names blend together in the readers minds.

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40 minutes ago, Desiderius Price said:

I started to foul up on my originals … now I’m bit more aware.  A substantial number had “J” as the first initial, became worse when a number started with “Ja” and you’d have to go to THREE letters in to get them any different.  Too late to correct all of them, however, I’ve been trying to introduce nicknames for secondary characters.  Too similar and the names blend together in the readers minds.

That can happen if the breadth and or the depth of your universe of named important characters gets large.  That also happens in real life, too.  And sometimes, the most “generic” name a society has to offer can ultimately name great heroes, great villains, and people of major achievement that while not evil aren’t valorous either.

“John Smith” is considered a very generic name.  Yet this name was borne by a colonial governor of what became Virginia, a modern television actor, and a furniture merchant with a fondness for the letter “y”  who sold his goods on credit to the citizens of Chicago immediately after they were all burned-out (literally) in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  The eponymous furniture store that merchant created, John M. Smyth, remained in business for just over 140 years.

You will also find that certain ages in certain societies will have given names become so popular that they are overused in one generation and fall almost completely out of use in the next.  “Adolph” was once a moderately popular given name.  For some strange reason, that name became very unpopular after the mid 1940s.

While not likely in real life, it is in fact possible to have two people with the same exact name, who not only can’t trace back to a common ancestor closer than 500 years, but who are diametrically opposed to, and loathe each other.  Or, with a different switch flipped, they can be closer than actual brothers, or in these modern times even become spouses to each other.

 

Thanks.

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Oh, name duplication does happen in real life.  Got a number of alter egos if I do a goggle search on my own name, a lawyer, a director of a food company, a firefighter? etc.  Even an occasional issue at work where there’s duplicates in the global org-wide email address list, if people don’t realize that my real legal first name *is* the short version, not the customary long version (an assumption that’s valid 85% ofthe time, but I’m not in that 85% group).

Issue comes to writing a story, if you had a story full of John Smiths, how do you distinguish them to the reader?  In a movie, it’s less problematic, because unless the actors looked the same, the viewer would get the drift. 

Another J example is that I have “Joe” as a major character (short for Joseph).  His mother “Josephine”, those two, role wise are easier.  However, a side character coming in was Joey, see where the confusion can come in?  Especially if I fat finger the name while writing?  You typically don’t want to (unintentionally) confuse the reader more than you have to.  Of course, having a duplicate name might be a good plot point too, but you still need some distinction for the reader.

Now, in my main potter fanfic, the perpetrator is making heavy use of Polyjuice (or an equivalent), impersonating Harry while doing nefarious deeds.  However, makes it challenging because as the narrator, I don’t want to call the doppelganger “Harry”, so I’ll go “raven haired boy” or similar descriptions.  It still comes to the same philosophy of not wanting to confuse the reader to what’s happening (aside from deliberate misdirection).

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