Friday, November 17, 2017

How I Name Characters, Part 1: What First Initials Say to Me


I used to suck at creating names. That's kind of a problem when you want to write fantasy and don't want to rip off Tolkien or have names as scintillating as “John,” “Bob,” or “Henry.” (No joke, I actually used “Henry” for a big bad once. Ouch.)

Making up names seems easy. Slap some letters together and throw in a few extra vowels if necessary. Bam. New name. Right?

Ohhh, it's so much more difficult than that.

Your new name has to look and sound like it fits in your world. I wouldn't name a purple satyr “Bob” (unless I'm being cheeky). I wouldn't name a modern-day teenager “Thoracius Femblecrumb” either, unless I really wanted his life to be a living nightmare.

Making up names for fantasy can be particularly hard, but I often start with something as simple as one letter: the first letter, actually.

To me, a first initial says a lot about the character: it can elicit anything from their personality to their morals to how prominent a place they have in the story. I have some pretty strange and specific associations with certain initials. Note that this is only for fictional characters, not real people! I'm not going to judge you based on what letter your first name starts with. ;)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002 New Line Cinema
A – This character is an all-around good guy and a person of noble character; probably a main character. See Aragorn, Arathorn, Aulë, and about a million other LotR characters.
B – This is a down-to-earth, probably burly, no-nonsense kind of character.
D – This character is probably a dude. I dunno why, I just associate the letter D with masculinity.
E – There's something unusual about this character. They aren't cut from the same cloth as the rest.
F – Probably a bad guy.
G – A rough or tough character of some kind. Probably masculine. Think Gilgamesh.
I – This character is refined, with more of a thin build. Can be downright feminine or is straight-up a female.
J – Generally the same as A; just a little less commonly used and a little less common of a person.
K – Probably a bad guy.
Q – How many names actually start with Q? This character's an unusual one for sure. Might be an all-out oddball.
R – A letter of strength. A strong-willed character for sure. Probably a good guy.
S – Much like R, a letter of strength and probably a person of noble character.
T – Even more powerful than R or S. May even have legendary stories written about them.
U – Not normally used. This initial gives me a sense that this character is large—either a large personality or a large body.
V – Almost absolutely a bad guy. If not a bad guy, then someone who tends to shake up the status quo.
W – Much like B, a very down-to-earth letter. Think your Wills and Williams.
X – Probably someone very mysterious, as in Xander or Professor Xavier from X-Men. Could be a cover name or code name.
Y – Someone unusual and mysterious. A smooth operator to reflect how the soft “y” sound flows off the tongue.
Z – Someone worthy of notice who may or may not be connected to fairies.

Any that tickled your funny bone? Do you have “first initial impressions” and if so, what are they? Are there certain characters you know of that fit my impressions or your own? Let me know in the comments below!

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Aragorn, Arathorn, Aulë, The Lord of the Rings, and all related terms are the property of Middle Earth Enterprises. Professor X and related terms property of Marvel Entertainment, LLC (The Walt Disney Company). And I am not affiliated with any of them.
From Him, To Him

3 comments:

  1. That was a hilarious list. I never thought about someone's first initial saying a lot. What about names that start with C? Hee hee hee...

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    1. Hmm! Conspicuously absent from this list!

      "C" names in fiction can tend to be kind of a mixed bag for me, which is why I ultimately opted not to put it in. They can be anything from akin to "A's": the noble protagonist, to villains to young and innocent characters. They can be protagonists or very small background characters. Much like how a "C" can be pronounced hard or soft, in a "ch" or a "tch" or "cht," "C" is a relatively versatile initial in my opinion.

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    2. Makes sense. I can see that letter being used as both heroic or villainous.

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