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Naming Names


by ellenie

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Let’s face it: Some names just get boring after you’ve heard them hundreds of times. However, finding good names for your characters can be daunting sometimes. So that’s where “Naming Names: Your All-Purpose Guide to Finding Satisfactory and Fun Names for Your Characters” comes in!

Now, the name you give a character in a story can be either the most or least important part of that character. We’re going to be working under the idea that it is the most important, so that this column can actually have a practical purpose. ;) Anyway, to make this article easy to navigate, I will split it up into eight sections, or eight methods you can use to name your characters. Enjoy!

Section One: Spelling Mistakes Work

When you’re typing up a storm, trying frantically to get all your fantastic ideas onto the screen, you’re bound to make a few spelling mistakes. (I know I do; I just spelled “Mistakes” wrong twice. But that’s beside the point.) However, these mistakes may not be such a bad thing. For example, in one piece I was writing, I wrote both “are” and “is” and smooshed them together accidentally. But when I went back to correct it, I saw how interesting of a name I had created (“Areis”). Regular mistakes in spelling also work. How about “Kinh” or “Nsme”? Spelling mistake names are a little hard to get, however. These generally just happen when you’re typing, so be sure to keep a look out for them if they come your way.

An alternative to misspelling a word is mispronouncing a word. Have you ever been sitting, perhaps in class listening to the teacher, when the person who is talking accidentally says a word wrong? Well, here’s your chance to pick up a name. For instance, two years ago I had a teacher whose tongue did not want to obey her, so she said things such as “Aushelly.” I took this opportunity to get a few good names. Just remember to always carry a pen(cil) and paper around!

Of course, if neither of these opportunities come your way, you can always purposely misspell a word. This is much easier. Try “Hapi,” “Taer,” or “Grahs.” Names inspired by a real word, but with, say, a different vowel, or a few letters dropped/added, also work. Did you ever think “Oricla,” “Claeda,” “Florici,” or “Anara” could be names?

Section Two: The Dictionary is Your Friend

Let’s just clear this section up before anything gets messy. I am not ((not)) telling you to go pick up a dictionary and read it. I’m merely suggesting that you open up a nice to a page at random...and there! POOF! You have “Malariae” and “Pilule” right at your fingertips! Just don’t spend too much time looking through words, or you really will start reading it! (And yes, those are real words; I just have a very, very big dictionary.)

Here are some tips to using the dictionary: Firstly, try to pick uncommon words that most people haven’t heard of. It makes your characters sound more mysterious, and encourages your readers to look things up in a dictionary. :) Secondly, while not necessary, it is recommended that you pick a word that at least slightly resembles your character. For example, “Styx” would probably not be happy-go-lucky and kind. Unless, of course, you’re working on irony. Then that’s a great name, very clever. And lastly, you may have to mold words a little to fit your purposes: “Verisimilitude” is a bit of a mouthful, and doesn’t sound like a name (most likely because it isn’t). However, shorten this to “Veris” or “Risi” and you’ll be golden.

My favorite dictionaries to use are online ones, at least for this naming process. I love the “Word of the Day” features that most dictionaries have, because they list unique, interesting-sounding words that most people have never heard of. They’re very useful; plus, you get to learn new words! :D

Section Three: Try Description

You can always use words that describe your character. As a general rule, simple names work for simple characters (again, unless you’re working for irony). “Happy” would work for a cheerful, positive Yellow Kacheek. For more complicated characters, look more complicated words up in the dictionary and you will have a more descriptive name.

I don’t advocate this section as much as the others. While description names can work and can be effective, they should really be used in moderation. Although it may not be your intention, having all your characters named “Silly,” “Faerie,” and “Petulant” doesn’t make you seem very original.

Section Four: Go International

Do you know another language? If yes, this section is very easy. If no, this section is very easy with some way to accurately translate!

As I said in the previous section, description names aren’t the best. However, description names (as well as noun/adjective/verb/preposition/etc. names) in another language work quite well. Not only does it give you an original name, but people reading your piece who know the second language will have a little treat because they know what the word means. Just remember to keep the name appropriate; just because it’s in another language doesn’t mean that people don’t know what it means.

A few examples for other language names (all in Spanish because I hardly know any others) are: “Noche,” “Lluvia,” “Espejo,” “Casi,” “Hikari” (alright, that’s Japanese), or “Fleur” (and that’s French). The names you can make are endless!

Section Five: Just Make it Up

This is my favorite section, and the way I use to make most of my names. Just squash some letters together and you’ve got a great name!

How about “Adanei,” “Firieq,” or “Questav”? If you’re having trouble thinking up names, keep in mind that names just come and go, so just keep at it until a really good one comes.

This section can be hard for some people, so if you’re having trouble, try basing your names off real-world objects, like “Avrador” (it came from “door” and sort of...evolved. Heh...).

When using this method, sometimes names can be too overcomplicated, or they look good on paper, but are really a mouthful. Names should be fairly smooth, so if your name looks like it would take an hour to say and say correctly, try actually saying it out-loud. By doing this, you can hammer out some of the kinks and you’ll have a better-sounding name out of it.

Overall, this should be fun, so don’t try to force it. There are other ways to think up names if this doesn’t work.

Section Six: Look to Items for Inspiration

NeoPets is full of interesting items just waiting for you to come and immortalize them in a name. I, myself, have taken advantage of item names a few times, such as “Sponderola” (from the item Sponderolas).

However, there are thousands of items on NeoPets, so try to narrow your search down before you dive in. Flowers are always a good place to start for girls (flower names work for both girly girls and tomboys, so don’t rule them out just because you have a warrior...they can make for some interesting twists in the character’s personality). Food is also a personal favorite (what self-respecting pet wouldn’t want to be named “Bagguss”?). Item names also help bring a more Neopetsy feel to your pieces, so never overlook them.

Section Seven: Use an Existing Name

Now, many people never read the Neopedia (over 50,000 people last time I checked the polls), and I really think that that’s a shame. There are hundreds of great names waiting unread in the Neopedia, just begging to be used in your story. And not only does the Neopedia supply names, but it can, if you want, supply whole characters. And if you don’t want to take a character for exactly how they are, you can always create the background of a flat character and make them come alive. (Ah, but I digress. Back to names now.)

The Neopedia isn’t the only place with names. All over the site there are characters with names that you can use if you can’t think up your own name. And, like in the previous section, using names from the site also boosts the Neopetsy factor of your piece, which is never a bad thing.

Many people also like to use their own pets in their pieces. This is also very good (though, technically, a lot of people named their pets, so you did have to think of a name in the first place...but now I’m just rambling). Other people like to put someone else’s pets in a piece, too. Just make sure that you ask the person before you use the pet’s name, just to keep everything peachy.

Section Eight: Try Real-Life Names

Baby books are there for a reason. Find a baby book or an online naming site and you’ll find a whole store of names. If you want to, you can also use your friend’s name, or even your own. Just keep in mind that using a lot of “Roberts”, “Saras”, and “Zachs” does tend to take a little away from the magic of NeoPets, so try to use these names in moderation. I like to use them for characters that don’t really do much, but that still need a name.

A different option to common names is uncommon names, such as myth names. These are often very interesting names; plus, you can be certain that they are, in fact, names.

    And what’s this? A Bonus Section?? That’s right! You get nine sections for the price of eight! Aren’t you lucky!

Section Nine: Take My Examples

That’s right. Just go ahead and take ‘em. Personally, I don’t think that they’re all that grand (well, maybe just a few of them. Hehehe...Grahs. Gets me every time.), but, if you can’t think of anything else, then why not? I haven’t copyrighted them; I’m even giving you permission to take them. I mean, it’s obviously much more Satisfying and Fun to come up with your own names, but everyone has the dreaded Writer’s Block sometime. Besides, I kept all my really good names to myself. ;D

Final Notes

Naming should be a pleasure, not a pain. Try to have a fun time thinking up names, and that will usually come through in the name.

Remember that names are all about language and words. If you get into the mind frame of thinking of words, letters, and names, the names will come easily to you. And always remember to keep your eyes open for interesting words. Who knows what treasures you could find in company names (which sometimes are just obscure words), street signs, or license plates!

In conclusion, I do not dub myself the Supreme Grand Master of All that is Name. Thus, you must not take my word to be the final authority. Experiment with names, try to make them your own, think up new ways to name things. The more you name, the more easily names will come to you!

 
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