What I find always problematic is that, concerning new characters, the names are not always forthcoming. They can’t always be easy and I find that it’s not often that a good one comes along, sits in your hat, and deems it fit not to move until you bloody well agree that this new character should be called thus.
Sources for these names are all around us. Religious texts, philosophy books, fiction both modern and classic, and even dictionaries are good places to find these names.
Yet it can still be difficult to find these names to fit the character. Sometimes the character fits a name that you’ve found.
Recently, whilst playing Dungeons and Dragons, I had to come up with the name for my newly created monk. I went through a few names before finding the right one; the issue with a monk character is that the archetype of a monk inspires an asian ethnicity, so naturally I went through some sources for an asian sounding name. Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee are too obvious, whereas Sun Tzu could be recognised by less people, but in both instances it’s obvious and could ruin the character since people would just think of those people. It struck me that I didn’t have to limit myself to just asian names. I put down the Dynasty Warriors character names, put away the manga artists names and started looking up other names.
I ended up reminding myself of a TV show back in the seventies. And so, Carradine was born with a name at last, long after his actual creation.
So you can see that sources can come from obvious places with a little looking, but then they can come after a little digging and you’re laughing. Then again, names don’t always have to come with such degrees of work.
There are times when you look up names and a character jumps out at you. I recall a character for one of my wargaming armies; I was looking through a German dictionary and found the word “slachten” – slaughter. It came to be that Slachten became my leader of vicious Khorne berzerkers. Some people will know what I’m talking about there.
It’s all very well to turn around and call your character Michael or Jules. That’s fine. Naming your child any name is fine (that’s up for debate). Still, I love referencing. I love the idea that a character is called something because of something in their background or of their character is hinted at by their name. A character named Zarathustra might hold some of the major themes of Friedrich Nietzsche (happy birthday to him, by the way) in his character somewhere. A character whom I’ve named, say, Slachten, as above, would be linked somewhere to slaughter. Being a thrall to a god of blood, it works and isn’t entirely obvious that it means slaughter.
These are just examples. I’m sure that many of you out there have done similar things for characters of your own creation. For me it’s a fun way of giving nods to some moment in history, or to favoured characters and concepts.
I honestly think that anybody who finds a fun way to name characters will enjoy naming them, not just beyond the final relief of actually finding a name for one!