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Author Topic: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)  (Read 246 times)

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Offline suuper-san

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Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« on: November 20, 2019, 12:12:28 PM »
After musing on Lego's topic, I wondered what everyone's thoughts were on how characters and places get their names.

When reading manga, the last page on the chapter often contains translator's notes or author's notes of how they came up with the names, often straight out copying mythology, existing place names or people.

I'm not referring to creating a story based on real locations, people, or even myths, but reusing those names and aspects in completely different stories. Such as the Fate franchise, which uses characters such as Alexander the Great and King Arthur, but uses the characters as-is, although embellishing them for the story as they see fit.

I always notice that authors almost never get names straight from their own imagination. For example, almost all the magic used in Magi, is Arabic words that pretty much describe the spell like "explosion hot hot" in Arabic is "Har Har Ainfijar" or something. And a lot of Fairy Tail has Spanish names for stuff like "Oracion Seis" and so on.

here's another good one
Quote from: Wikepedia
The name James Bond came from that of the American ornithologist James Bond, a Caribbean bird expert and author of the definitive field guide Birds of the West Indies. Fleming, a keen birdwatcher himself, had a copy of Bond's guide and he later explained to the ornithologist's wife that "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born".

Obviously that's not cheating, but how do you guys feel about that sort of use, getting words from other languages or places etc rather than making up your whole magic spells or characters/place names from scratch.

I very much like working from scratch when designing things, so I'm wondering is it just an easy route to get words from places that already exist, and am I just being stubborn, or it it my style to work in this manner. Am I chasing after the impossible, am I just trying to create new words that don't exist?

Like even FF has Cloud Strife as a character - that's just (random?) English words?
Can I just roll the dice, so to speak, and see what words come up that I like?

I mean parents when naming children pretty much flip through a book or google lists until they find names that they like, or use words that they fancy to make a new name, so should an author do anything different? did that just answer my own question?

I very much like the way things are named in anime and manga, so it's not that I'm against the name itself, but it's origin. Am I just trying to reinvent the wheel here?

How do you all come up with names or characters and places?

Some thoughts and ideas would be appreciated!

Sorry for the repetition but I can't quite form the right question haha
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 02:39:28 PM by suuper-san »
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Offline Coryn

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2019, 09:47:07 PM »
Well, I think it's sort of a combination of things. Unless your a Tolkein-esc figure who has a masters degree in linguistics, then you really run the risk of just making a bunch of gobblety gook. Languages all have internal consistency, so unless you can pull that off naturally, it won't work. Not to mention that learning completely made up names isn't easy for the reader. You can make things much easier on them by giving them something to couch their understanding in.

Taking names from certain mythologies whatever comes with ready made consistency. Plus you can use those origins to inform your reader what you want them to feel. It's shorthand, sure, but that doesn't mean it's lazy. Shorthand exists for a reason. Trying to do everything from scratch isn't admirable in this case, it just seems like you're inventing work for yourself. It's not the difference between buying a microwaveable dinner and cooking one from scratch. It's the difference between buying a lemonade and squeezing the lemons yourself.

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Offline suuper-san

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2019, 12:11:08 AM »
That makes a lot of sense, yeah I think because I've been so focused on my art I haven't had the chance to think about how to go about the writing aspect of my stories.

I can't quite fully balance the idea of being "original" with using pre-existing aspects of language.

If I compare it to art then it's easy to see that if I design a house or a room, I will invariably pull up pieces of structure that I have seen before, such as windows, doors, AC units, and so on. which is totally normal of course. I don't want to create a completely original living structure in this instance.

But I can't quite make the jump in logic to writing elements haha.

I remember we had a chat on a similar thing about learning from other artists/writers, and copying how they do things because that is part of the fundamentals, but sometimes it feels that we are just "stealing ideas" when that's totally not the case. So I'm probably having a revival of that feeling, that I don't want to feel that I am copying things (in other words, "stealing") by using other parts of a language or existing names. It's a weird feeling.

I suppose I'm also trying to find a reliable method for coming up with names and ideas, rather than just waiting for the right name to hit me. I do write down spontaneous ideas when I have them, but ideally I'd like to be writing and when I need a place name I can do XYZ or be inspired by ABC and come up with a name then and there.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2019, 01:57:03 AM by suuper-san »
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Offline legomaestro

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2019, 06:34:52 AM »
That's a totally understandeable issue to run in. Heck, I've done down-right randomization before to come up with character names. I can even do it now

Sdhfoaidhfoaskjgla jbl


From there I have the names  Sfoa, Fosk and Jab

From there I can think up a number of different things and work with them, so randomization is a way to find some sort of 'unique' perspective.


Anyhow I have two suggestions for finding a 'unique as possible name.'


1. Automatic Writing/Free Writing/Randomization

- Basically what I did there. You know as well as anyone else that it's impossible to step out of your body, your environment, your linguistic habits so true originality may be impossible to achieve, but you can fake it well enough such that you come up with some great things. This is basically scribble art. What's worked for me is having an 'eternal notepad' on my computer where I do stream-of-consciousness writing and as you do - noting of things as they occur to me.

- Don't quote me but I think this search for that difference, that break free from style is exactly what the Surrealists were trying to do. It can unfortunately sound very 'posh posh modern art' like but I think it's such an honest and interesting idea to approach art, that anybody who feels like they're too restricted and copying other art styles can generate ideas and have fun with it.


In fact, I think that instead of creating more work for you, it can be a great way to train your muscles. The way I see it randomization can absolutely go hand in hand with structure

I'll give a concrete example of how that'd work.

a. You want to write a fantasy story. After finding a random name using the random type out method ("hduahdofha" in this case." You find the name Huad

b. Okay, your fantasy world is named Huad. Every fantasy needs a map: Cook a cup of coffee and carefully blot an A4 paper with it to make stains. Outline those stains and now you have a world map.

c. Divvy up those stains as you wish. See bodies of water, valleys and lake.


Voila, you have a fantasy world named Huad with a map. You can do this repeatedly for fun and scrap ideas, but you'll find if you practically (with rigid step-by-step methods) approach this you can maximize the great feeling of uniqueness from randomness. In fact, I'll make a step by step tutorial in this effect.



2. Deep Research

This is more Tolkiens' style. It's ironic, but the more you invest in knowing History, Geography of any topic that interests you, the better you can be at twisting things to make your own reality. Look at yourself doing regimens, suuper. No matter what singular topic you focus on you always come up with other regimen ideas or areas of interest to you. This is only possible because more is revealed to you.

The uniqueness that comes from deep research arises from a simple fun fact: No matter how accurate you are in using words to describe something let's say a room (call back to Urban Writing hehe) you will always focus on subjective things. Two soldiers who fought the same battle in WWII will have two different recollections even if they are side by side.

To but it radically: STEAL. Absolutely dissect a story or work of art or literature and actively copy and write down elements that you find exciting. You and everyone on the planet knows what plaigarism is so you won't do that. You know that you'll have some interesting twists to add to something.


Also: Copying reduces the mental load. The fear of reinventing the wheel can be a valid one, especially if your solution to finding unique ways to come up with names is more stressful than fun. If you absolutely must be unique, then I'd say randomization is your best bet. (And... er... super unethical but... There's a reason I enjoy writing more when drunk so yeah XD)




I suggested those two things just as possible solutions to your conundrum, but I understand it. I have a question though: When you hear music, do you have that ability to hum the next tune before it comes? If yes, that's the instinct that you should rely on. Heck, it's absolutely what I rely on 100% of the time when it comes to character ideas and drawing.

Some days are better than others, but when I come up with characters there's a little voice in my head that 'completes the tune' and I know exactly what character is doing what.

My weakness is that I rely on this so much that I have blank worlds without research and background or realistic details, and so my settings are quite flimsy as a result. I think you have an advantage on that front suuper, so I'd seriously support you doing something research heavy or even trying to reinvent the wheel (so long as it is productive for you.)


My two cents

Offline suuper-san

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2019, 08:37:13 AM »
That's some nice ideas.

Quote
you can fake it well enough such that you come up with some great things. This is basically scribble art.
Quote
Cook a cup of coffee and carefully blot an A4 paper with it to make stains. Outline those stains and now you have a world map.
Working with repeatable methods and randomization, as a programmer, appeals to me as I can programmatically create random base thoughts, from which I can get inspiration from (i.e. generating pseudo names after crunching a list of names from a certain language or something)

Actually, now that I think about it, it's something that's close to my heart already, which is "procedural generation", the creation of data that seems like human input but is really good guessing on a computers part. It's a kinda aspect of AI, and is very useful in games, but I hadn't quite thought that it could be applied to writing. well that's a sleight lie, as those random writing prompts you can get on writing websites use a similar idea, and I had wanted to create my own for a while. (I actually have a half finished random character generator sitting around haha what am I doing seriously XD)
You can then sift though the data yourself and eliminate poor entries to either improve the algorithm or to pick good ideas to put into your writing.

On similar theme for those who care, "Markov Chains" are good for generating real looking data because it generates a sequence of characters that is likely based on it's input, so it wont go vpajwvxpa but more ngensthrito haha

I think that's definitely an aspect that I will pursue

Quote
You can do this repeatedly for fun and scrap ideas, but you'll find if you practically (with rigid step-by-step methods) approach this you can maximize the great feeling of uniqueness from randomness. In fact, I'll make a step by step tutorial in this effect.
A tutorial would be fantastic, but I really like the idea for generating maps already.

Quote
This is more Tolkiens' style. It's ironic, but the more you invest in knowing History, Geography of any topic that interests you, the better you can be at twisting things to make your own reality. Look at yourself doing regimens, suuper. No matter what singular topic you focus on you always come up with other regimen ideas or areas of interest to you. This is only possible because more is revealed to you.
I hadn't thought about it like that but I suppose if it is true for art then is must be true of other things as well. Man I'm such a noob haha. Looks like a 1000X writing regime is in order (spoilers - I've already got 4 slowly on the go!)
That is such a really useful thing. I can't believe I didn't make that jump in logic. Looks like I need to gain me some knowledge...

Quote
Absolutely dissect a story or work of art or literature and actively copy and write down elements that you find exciting.
yeah I figured that would come up at some point. Really I've got to put the effort in if I want to see results. I might have been underestimating writing a little, although I know I'm not a good writer by any means.

Quote
If you absolutely must be unique, then I'd say randomization is your best bet.
I am included to go 50/50 on this. Randomisation is a fantastic tool but I think it has it's limits, depending on how you use it. Knowing me, I can overthink anything and make a method from it XD
I'm not determined to be unique at the cost of sounding out of place, I would rather copy a name if it sounded natural. I think I just have to be a bit more proactive when it comes to writing.

That's a major problem that artists tend to have - they need a writer because they can't write, having spent their time learning art, not words. Learning a second skill will take a huge chunk of time and effort. I think I'm up for it though.

I think really the main points boil down to:
-look for good existing ideas/names/concepts/principles wherever you are (including what you read) (including what you know already)
-look for good ideas/names/concepts/principles in randomly generated material (including what exists already i.e. reading the letters of a book downwards)
-develop ideas to make them more unique rather than copying - improve aspects that are weak.

I often see images in carpet, well I look for them (and who doesn't see random stuff in clouds?), so I imagine it's the same thing but with words. And the better you get with vocabulary and knowledge, the more complex and useful imagery/concepts/ideas you can think of with a random input.

Quote
When you hear music, do you have that ability to hum the next tune before it comes? If yes, that's the instinct that you should rely on.
You mean like if I'm playing on an non-shuffled album? I used to know the order from memory, but I play on shuffle now so it's not like I can guess what will play next. I do randomly hum tunes when I stop listening to music so that might be the same thing. But I have no idea what you mean XD

That's definitely given me a lot to go on, and I've got a bit more of a direction. It really helps being able to talk out your problems. If I see a need to reinvent the wheel I might give it a chance, but I think I can safely stay away from that for now :P
And for some reason programming managed to make it's way into it. again.

Edit:
....wait a minute.....
I already have a random word generator as well lol, a super old one I made XD
Randomly generated words using a wikepedia article as a base
pubememilte zonurypalor oalofarther gsofoveypal loaryeacetr lllarengsun tede winthertouf inthepard matouterart oonucarinde ivistitagea torcangondo pederunseil  aindsituria ffilyesorme aderevindin reryeclldui arichelodut inditlwandi nderyidjuse ammouchese kndeindindd undisthofes uthiryestut thinthatshe maghechallm bedusinndes chitodsutor coustyithed isunintosof terofongeru orgeshostad alerctouton plaldalingi tsuithalyex
« Last Edit: November 21, 2019, 09:07:20 AM by suuper-san »
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Offline Coryn

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2019, 11:02:32 AM »
Damn do you two write a lot when you get together. A man on the clock barely has time to keep up! Whew!

Anyway, where was I?

Let me expand on my point some. The difference between inspiration and stealing is a lively discussion as always. But here's the thing to remember: nobody owns language. You can't steal it, in the same way you can't steal sunlight. It belongs to everyone and no one.

I'm also not here to advocate for the wholesale stealing of names for a fantasy universe. Nothing takes a reader right back into reality than a fantasy hero name "Hitachi". That's not what I'm trying to get across. More to say, if you take one step out of the generic high fantasy world and create a world inspired by say, ancient Greece, throw some "-ios"'s at the end of people's names. Don't just pull up a list of modern Greek names and run with it. Take the themes and use them, not the language whole cloth.

And remember that this whole thing of completely inventing everything goes out the window as soon as you cross into say, hard science fiction. If you're dealing with Earth but 500 years in the future, it's perfectly reasonable to use some existing names mixed with evolutions of other names. Remember that a lot of names ('Michael' or 'Joshua', for instance), have basically remained unchanged for thousands of years.

But if you get into aliens, then yeah, go wild. It wouldn't make sense to meet Bob the Martian except for comedic purposes.

Basically: names should always make sense for their environment. Don't invent things it doesn't make sense. Invent things if it does.

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Offline OhGodHelpMe

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2019, 01:43:02 PM »
I stick with Japanese settings and names specifically because the potential for wordplay and symbolism in the language is off the charts. Learning Japanese helped me realize that. Almost every single name for every character I've written was chosen for some purpose or another.

Yoko Akiyama - Written as Ocean Child/Autumn Mountain. Because she has blue eyes and reddish hair. Ocean. Autumn.

Tsukiakari Senkumo - Written as Moonlight/War Cloud. Tsukiakari's parents are the shinto gods Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, deities of the sun and moon respectively. Moonlight is what occurs when the sun's light bounces off of the moon and we see it from earth. Represents the union of Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi. War Cloud was an adopted name for the clan she was a part of during the Warring States

Shinju Miyakawa - Divine Tree/Shrine River. She's an exorcist with a divine lineage. There's also some inter-character wordplay going on here because the kanji used for Shinju name also refers to the Alianthus tree genus, which is often used by the alianthus silkmoth (and other moths) as homes. Shinju had a close friend named Himushi (deceased, unfortunately), which is written is Moth.

Omagatoki Gesshoku - This one is a little more convoluted. Omagatoki refers to the time of twilight in a supernatural connotation, but it has two different ways of writing it in kanji. Can either mean Hour of Great Calamity or Hour of the Congregation of Spirits. Omagatoki and her sister are responsible for maintaining the flow of time and managing meteorological/astronomical phenomena. In Japanese folklore, twilight was when spirits and ghosts would emerge into the mortal realm. Gesshoku means lunar eclipse, one of the events she helps regulate.

I could go on and on. The logographic nature of the Japanese language allows for so much information to be transferred to the reader without having to explain any of it, hence why shows like Monogatari constantly make puns with names and phrases.

I try not to borrow names from history or literature too much. One, it's just because I find the Japanese language to be the best way to make narrative use of a character's name. Two, because it tends to be a little too on the nose. I recently dropped a video game for this very reason. The game was building up to this big shocking twist, and one of the puzzles had you trying to figure out the password for a lockbox. The password itself was a reference to Jekyll and Hyde, and I could instantly tell what the twist was despite all of the mysterious buildup thus far. That was a case of it being way too obvious and ruining the plot, for me. I don't even remember what game it was. Some horror game.

Offline suuper-san

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2019, 06:36:33 AM »
@OhGodHelpMe

that's really useful to know. Japanese names are indeed great for throwing meaning in them, especially with the kanji as well you can practically craft the name. Although getting the name to sound like a natural Japanese name can be a bit tricky if you're not used to many Japanese names, as I tried a similar thing a while back and they just sounded like random hiragana combinations haha

and you learnt Japanese too?
subarashii

@coryn
haha well I think every sentence someone writes makes me think of two sentences in reply haha

Yes getting names to match the genre is an important aspect indeed, and good idea of working with the language or culture of your intended setting.

I think partly the issue is that I'm sitting on the fence for what genres I want to write, so it's probably being counter effective as one naming method that works for fantasy might not work for a Japanese settings. And yes as you say Aliens having English sounding names is equally strange.

Because obviously if your story is set in 1950 England with English characters, it's totally normal to have a John or a Stephen or an Elisabeth. So it's not the reusing of existing names that's the issue either.

That probably explains part of my confusion is that I was trying to combine names of different genres into a generic naming soup cloud, and the clash was making me realise that something was amiss, but I couldn't tell what. I think now I see that I have to settle on my genre first and then I'll know if the names sound out of place or not.

like how do you come up with Ainz Ooal Gown?
a google reveals that a lot of the character from Overlord are derived from mythology (no surprises there from what I've seen from other shows)
And the name "Ainz Ooal Gown" is an anagram/swap of "Nine's Own Goal", another entity in the story's universe. So using your own created names to inspire other created names. That appeals to me.

I think I'm starting to lose track of what my issue actually is now, it might have resolved itself.

I think as long as a name is good sounding and fits the genre, it doesn't really matter where it came from as long as it's not outright stealing another writer's incredibly original names. So I think the answer to my question "Where does one get a good name?" is "Everywhere and Anywhere that a good name can be found"
« Last Edit: November 22, 2019, 06:39:27 AM by suuper-san »
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Offline Coryn

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Re: Naming Inspiration (Place names, Characters, Magic etc)
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2019, 12:28:13 PM »
I think that's the best conclusion you could have drawn from all of this actually.

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