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Author Topic: Developing Characters by using their Names  (Read 2534 times)

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Offline IronQuill

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Developing Characters by using their Names
« on: October 31, 2013, 01:50:35 AM »
This is a method that I developed over time, its served me well perhaps it can help some of you. You will need a Name for this to work, I may make another tutorial on how to create a name later.

Firstly perhaps you have noticed the way manga character names can sometimes be relevant to the characters looks or psychological makeup. If you have not realized this… here are a couple of examples from two popular shonen “Naruto” and “One Piece”.

SAKURA from the manga Naruto

Sakura is the cherry blossom tree in Japan.  It blooms with pink flowers. There are deeper meanings associated to the cherry blossom tree though the most obvious characteristic in relation to this character is her pink hair color.

NAMI from One Piece

Namis name means mandarin, her hair color is orange, again there is a deeper meaning associated as the mandarin is a symbol for wealth and Nami is obsessed with money.

Here we see the name of characters associated with the visual and sometimes psychological attributes of the character.  This shows the role of a name can be more than what you simply address someone as.  The name itself can help develop the actual looks and mentality of the character. You may think that all very  well for the japanese, but westernized names also have very beautiful and sometimes interesting origins as well.

Ok, let’s just say I want to create a story around a young girl going to magic school. So you will choose a simple name just for the purposes of this exercise “Betty Sue”

First Step: Google her name
Enter your character name into Google search like so “Betty name meaning ” or “Sue name meaning”.  There are a lot of sites that come up though the one I enjoy using  is “She knows it” so I will look for that site on the search results, it’s always been on the first page so far. This is the result



O.K I didn’t really expect those results who knew the name Betty would mean the oath of God or the satisfaction of God or My God is plentiful, lol. Now lets Look at our second name Sue “the Graceful Lily”.

Looking at the new information,  let’s take the name “Betty” (oath of God or the satisfaction of God or My God is plentiful) and use its meanings to help develop her character. Since my fictional character “Betty Sue” is in magic school, perhaps she has a religious background and magic is seen as blasphemous. Perhaps she has a strong faith in magic and treats it as a religion. The point is… your thought process can be more focused as now you have a focal point.

Now you may have noticed the two extra categories under the names and meanings, Soul Urge and Expression numbers. This is probably one of the main reasons I use this site. Maybe you are like me skeptical though I must say when I typed in my own name some of it was spookily accurate. Why not try it yourself just for fun… again just Google “[your name here] name meaning” and look for “she knows it” in search results.

Now what is good about Soul Urge numbers and the Expression numbers?  The most obvious thing is you could actually just use this information as the base of your character saving you a lot of time or like the name meaning  just use it as a focal point to build around.  On reflection I probably should’ve just used one name, though Sue actually has some good material as well.    

Let’s use the name Sue meaning “Graceful lily” to help develop our character, we could make her hair white like the lily, maybe her clothes are white, maybe we could look at the symbolism for the lily and add some of those attributes or perhaps she has flower hair clips, maybe her main magical ability has something to do with flowers just get creative. The point is you have some relevant info to build on instead of having to invent everything.


So now Im going to compile some of the info and form a basic profile for Betty Sue

Name: Betty Sue
Age: 13
Hair: White, shoulder length
Clothes: Magic School uniform
Abilities: Flower Magic

Soul Urge # 5   
Has a deep inner desire for travel and adventure, and want to set their own pace in life without being governed by tradition.

Likes: travel  and adventure
Dislikes: stuffy traditions

Expression # 9
Tend to be passionate, compassionate, intuitive, romantic, and to have magnetic personalities. They are usually humanitarian, broadminded and generous, and tend to follow professions where they can serve humanity. Because they are so affectionate and giving, they may be imposed on. They are romantic and easily fall in love, but may be easily hurt and are sometimes quick-tempered

Personality: very social, hopeless romantic, very accommodating though Sometimes can be easily annoyed.

That’s just a quick way of getting the basics down. Now overtime I have realized you can also use the Soul Urge and Expression number explanations to expand the character by making them go against their true nature, which can yield some interesting results, hope this helps someone, see ya around :D

Offline legomaestro

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2013, 05:46:14 PM »
This will be useful sometimes. I go with character first name later, but I'd like to try this out too.

Nisioisin is a professional at making meaningful names. Wordplay is his thing after all.

Offline Lumaria

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2013, 03:23:11 AM »
THis is more helpful when using a less modern name, or a name that hasn't lost its meaning.

For example:

John may be useless to use. but a name like "Lina" might still hold meaning. or maybe this can apply to what part of the world they are, names such as "Sebastian" and "ricardio" maybe spanish, so it can set in spain.

this works best with side characters more than main characters i believe

i don't believe names should have any meaning specifically other than mere references, but i dont think its a good idea to mold a personality just by a name.

unless you planned ahead that those names would take form of a character some time in your story. in which case its more about looking for the name to fit the personality you already had in mind, rather than finding a random name and using it.
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Offline addg22

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2013, 09:22:36 AM »
I have done the same in my story i have looked up names with meanings either for their personality or the type of powers they are born with. Im glad you posted this since mostly alot of animes have their names meaning something. I believe correct me if im wrong ichigo means strawberrys but if seperated ichi means first and go means protector. Last names have meanings too when they decide last names its usually the backround of the character or the family. What i mean is that in manga the writer doesnt randomly put names. If they are main characters they pick a name that means something. Maybe like a traditional thing. 
Read my story below tell me what you think! I need pointers !
Example: you need to add more detail in this scence i cant imagine it.! Thanks guys for reading !

http://forums.mangaraiders.com/index.php/topic,8760.0.html

Offline IronQuill

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2013, 09:50:59 PM »
yer Ichigo is strawberry and i think the power to protect or something like that.

Offline Lumaria

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2013, 10:01:43 PM »
Ichigo has two or three different ways. first off its pronounced like strawberry. but it uses the kanji meaning 1 and gaurdian. also written as 15. 1=ichi. go=5
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Offline addg22

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2013, 10:43:17 PM »
does this sound about right? Gengi means two beginnings. my character had a past life and now has lived a new live a different way. Crashing memories from his past life have interfered the way he makes decisions in his new life. Should i use this name?
Read my story below tell me what you think! I need pointers !
Example: you need to add more detail in this scence i cant imagine it.! Thanks guys for reading !

http://forums.mangaraiders.com/index.php/topic,8760.0.html

Offline Lumaria

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2013, 11:21:59 AM »
I dont think so....the idea of using names is to mold the personality, not their lives.

Nami and Sakura can get away with it because they have hair matching their name, so its more of a lineage thing.

there are real names out there that do the same. for example: a redhead could be named rosso. something like that.

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Offline Nairbons

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2013, 02:23:28 PM »
I don't know man. It's certainly possible for the root words that a name comes from lend some weight to a character, but you also really have to look at the environment a person lives in to see if the title fits. When I heard the name "Betty Sue," I immediately assumed that she came from the deep-woods portion of Alabama where cousins are eligible dating prospects. There's also more than a little connection to the cliched character archetype that's called a "Mary Sue."

(http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue)

I guess what I'm saying is that, rather than focusing on a deeper meaning behind a name, make sure the name makes sense. Make sure a name takes on it's own meaning instead of giving it a preexisting one.

My favorite story of a character being named naturally came from the old British TV series "The Avengers." The writers only knew that the wanted the main female  lead to be attractive to their male audience, so they shortened the placeholder name to "M. Appeal," with the M. standing for "male." After weeks of sticking with M. Appeal, nobody could think of a better name, and the character was left as "Emma Peal." There's some subtle wordplay at work there, but it's not enough to make the character sound ridiculous (although your intention might BE to make a ridiculous name).

Offline IronQuill

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2013, 05:42:14 PM »
guys this is just one method of building a character in a long list of methods i use, but this is the most simple. ill probably update when i have time

Offline Lumaria

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2013, 06:48:10 PM »
I don't know man. It's certainly possible for the root words that a name comes from lend some weight to a character, but you also really have to look at the environment a person lives in to see if the title fits. When I heard the name "Betty Sue," I immediately assumed that she came from the deep-woods portion of Alabama where cousins are eligible dating prospects. There's also more than a little connection to the cliched character archetype that's called a "Mary Sue."

(http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue)

I guess what I'm saying is that, rather than focusing on a deeper meaning behind a name, make sure the name makes sense. Make sure a name takes on it's own meaning instead of giving it a preexisting one.

My favorite story of a character being named naturally came from the old British TV series "The Avengers." The writers only knew that the wanted the main female  lead to be attractive to their male audience, so they shortened the placeholder name to "M. Appeal," with the M. standing for "male." After weeks of sticking with M. Appeal, nobody could think of a better name, and the character was left as "Emma Peal." There's some subtle wordplay at work there, but it's not enough to make the character sound ridiculous (although your intention might BE to make a ridiculous name).

which is most likely used for other names. such as common western names that lost their meaning.

it might be another story with japanese names because certain characters have multiple meanings
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Offline Demonfyre

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Re: Developing Characters by using their Names
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2013, 06:16:49 PM »
This was an interesting read, plenty for me to further read into :)