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Discussing: Naming OCs

Naming OCs

Moriel asked this in the thread on titles and it seemed like it deserved a thread of its own:

That brings up another question...how do you name OCs?

I have two usual methods. Mostly I write stories dealing with Elves or Men (Men of Gondor, specifically), rather than Hobbits, Dwarves, or others. If I'm trying to find a name for an OC who's a Man (or woman), I'll usually first look through the index of the Silmarillion to see if there's a name there I can reuse. If I'm trying to find a name for an Elf, I don't want to reuse names (because the original holder of the name might still be living, for one thing), so then I'll look at the language lists in the Sil or in HoMe 5, and piece together a name from the word stems, trying to be consistent in using only Sindarin or only Quenya. Once or twice I've taken an extant name and altered one or two letters, e.g. Baran instead of Beren.

If I'm creating a name from word stems, I'll often try to make its meaning relevant to the character, although that doesn't always work. But it's kind of fun to play around and try to do that.

The various Elvish name generators out there all seem to produce 4- and 5-syllable names, and the actual Elvish names used by Tolkien aren't nearly that long and elaborate most of the time, so they seem pretty inauthentic and Mary-Sue-ish to me. Thus I avoid the generators.

Celandine

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I've been known to agonise for days over this one. The one thing not to do is settle on a place-holder name with the intent to change it later, as you simply won't be able to. Far too much of the character becomes invested in the name to be able to ditch it, and the rhythms of the sentences will go awry if you change the syllables or stress patterns.

Tavia

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I did - once - begin a story that included characters "sister one" and "sister two," but had to stop and figure out names for them before I had two pages written. It was just too irritating. But I never thought of using a "place-holder name," probably subconsciously for that very reason you point out, Tavia.

I really should go back and work on that story... it's still less than half-written and it's only meant to be a short one-chapter jobbie anyhow! Eek.

Cel

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I once wrote a story with names like character 1 etc, and then found names that fitted the personalities. So the opposite to Tavia, in a way. But then I could at least use english names which helped, given the number of babies names books out there.

Hobbits aren't quite so hard to name because there are plenty of them listed in the family trees, and you just need one similar. I've got one story I'm writing I did have to stop and name my elf character, although I'm still not happy with the one he's got.

Like Cel, I don't like re-using elf names, human ones I do though. I was needing some of those recently, and I spent time looking at the list at Encylcopedia of Arda and picked a few, modifying the odd letter occasionally.

For some reason, I always have an idea of what letter I want to start with, or how many syllables I want. So if I can't find something to fit it, I'm just not happy with it.

I don't usually worry about what the names mean though. I have no idea what the names of people I know mean so it seems slightly pointless to know what my character's names mean.

There are of course exceptions to every rule. I think I've probably done something different every time. Perhaps because I haven't found any one method that works well for me yet.


Nic

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I once wrote a story with names like character 1 etc, and then found names that fitted the personalities. So the opposite to Tavia, in a way. But then I could at least use english names which helped, given the number of babies names books out there.

I have an OC that is a Ranger that I could just not think of a name for, this was when I first started writing. So someone started calling him Bob for lack of a better name and it stuck. Was able to blame his younger sister for it later, she couldn't say brother. Thank goodness for small children who can twist the simplest name into unrecognizable shapes and sounds. *snork*
One place I have discovered is on this link
http://family.msn.com/tool/tools.aspx?name=namer&dept=baby&sdept=bpc

Parc, this probably won't show up as a link if I don't tag it right, will it? Oh well, more html lessons required I think. Anyway, the name generator has names that are grouped by origin: African, Aramaic, Celtic, Gaelic, Sanskrit and Welsh. Just to name a few. It's easy to lose a lot of time playing with it.

Anoriath

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I use the indexes of the Sil, HoME, LotR as well. But I try to keep the names as simple as possible - fancy names just end up lame and annoying.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

fancy names just end up lame and annoying

Not to mention hard to say. It's really difficult to think about characters whose names you can't pronounce.


Nic

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

That brings up another question...how do you name OCs?
(Answering my own question...)
I really have no method for finding names, except asking whoever is around for suggestions, as I did for the original story I wrote (which lost one contest, and was rejected from another for being to long), along with several others.
I am currently writing a story for the Anything but Ordinary challenge, with three children of Rohan. For those names I searched on various Anglo-Saxon name sites which I found from links on the site.
And as for the member name, I looked on a site that had English names broken apart into their meaning, and got the elvish from from that.
The one thing not to do is settle on a place-holder name with the intent to change it later.
I've never done exactly that, but I have gone through whole stories with "(name)" in place of the character's name and then gone through in the end and inserted the names (which was a bit of a pain).

And thanks for setting this up,Celandine Brandybuck! It has brough up many good points! (I'm still a bit too shy here to set up many discussions!)

~Moriel

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I think with names, my usual philosophy is "close enough to deceive is good enough for me." I'll mimic rather than get a "real" Sindarin name, because "real" names that are attested inevitably have connotations for *someone* out there who (for whatever reason) has latched onto that particular character. OE names are more likely to be taken from name lists, but even so, "Breca" is made up after the pattern of short, -a names for men. Unlike Cel, my usual means of coming up with names is to change vowels, consonants, and put together parts of different names, mutating them slightly as I think is called for. Remember: even the names of some major charcters (Aragorn and Imrahil, for example) don't have a translation; others are dialectical variation (Legolas) and we don't have enough information on the dialect to even begin to trace the way the names change. There's a lot of wriggle room in naming your Elvish or Dúnadan OCs, depending on what Age you're in, and the likelihood of undocumented dialectical variations that you can plausibly invoke. Of course, the key is to avoid having to invoke that excuse...

I hasten to add that before taking liberties, I do go and read through appendicies, the Silm's stem glossary, OE name lists, Ardalambion and the like, since mimicry depends upon knowing something about the thing to be imitated, or it won't be convincing at all.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

My biggest problem has always been coming up with names for female OCs, especially human, and especially Gondorian. Cos while for men, you can often find something in the appendices or the Sil, there're far fewer female characters named. Rohirric names you can invent from Old-English word stems, but Gondorian...? If you were going to invent a Gondorian name, how would you go about it?
Also, with female characters there's the added fear of having something that's going to sound too much like a Mary Sue. I've actually been putting off writing a fic for quite some time for this reason.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

You're right, Adi, it is hard to find good names for Gondorian women. If you're talking noblewoman keep in mind that Gondorians often named their children in Sindarin. So you can come up with a noble name along that line, if you like. Per Mary Sues -- I think it's really important to avoid naming your OC after a well-known character, especially an Ainur. I was recently threatened with a personalised Mary Sue banner on another forum when I considered re-naming my title OFC "Mellawen" "Melian." If you'd like some spare OFC names I've gone through four on that girl, though I wouldn't necessarily classify them all as "good" Gondorian names. HTH, Marta

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

You're right, Adi, it is hard to find good names for Gondorian women. If you're talking noblewoman keep in mind that Gondorians often named their children in Sindarin.

With so many Gondorian men's names coming from earlier elvish names, why not do the same for the the women? Tolkien did with Finduilas, so how about Idril, Luthien, Aredhel etc?

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

Tolkien did with Finduilas, so how about Idril, Luthien, Aredhel etc?

Luthien's a bit much to live up to, but taking elvish names in general is a very good idea. Thanks.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

Tolkien did with Finduilas, so how about Idril, Luthien, Aredhel etc?

Luthien's a bit much to live up to, but taking elvish names in general is a very good idea. Thanks.


I meant to comment on this earlier. I agree using elvish names, especially for human of Numenorean descent, is not a bad idea. But I second the caution against using Luthien.It is too much to live up to for the character in question. It's also too well-known a name for the reader, and to me it screams Mary Sue because Luthien herself was so perfect. If I see a recognisable name I think that you're trying to say there's a connection there, that a character is more significant in some way because of their namesake.

But the Silm is full of good elf-names (and human names, for that matter, for your non-Numenoreans.) Just stay away from the major names.

Although, thinking about it, HASA is a VERY diverse group. What's recognisable to me may not be to someone else, and what's a common name to someone else may mean nothing to me. So I suppose "recognisable" is hard to judge.

Cheers,
Marta

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

Well, I have a basic rule when I'm coming up with a name: if it's more than three syllables long, forget the thing. Seriously. Anything longer begins to scream of Mar(t)y-S(t)ue. I also have very strict rules about my languages. If the story is in the First Age or revolves around the Noldor, I use Quenya. Otherwise, SIndarin, and I never mix languages. I rarely write non-Elves stories (or, if I do, they usually involve canon characters).

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I always find that I have a certain sound in mind for a character - for example in a non-Lord of the Rings story I agonised for months over a character I'd called Ursula. It was only when I changed her name to Aoife (which has a similar rhythm, and ends with the same sound) that I became comfortable with her. In my longest stories in Lord of the Rings the only OC of any importance was the woman Elfara, who became something of a mother figure to Éowyn. I have a suspicion that the name Elfara is completely unsuitable for one of the Rohirrim, but there was nothing to be done. She was Elfara from the moment she walked into my head.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

Hey, I'm new here, and new to writing in this world, so I'm so happy to find this forum! I mainly write stuff dealing with the Silmarillion, so if I need an OC, chances are he/she is an Elf. I did find this site called "Now we all have Elvish names" where you can click on different letters. You get a list of 'normal' names, which were then translated to their original meanings, then translated into one of the two major dialects used by the Elves. I found it helpful, especially if I'm trying to make a name fit a character.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

Hi Ria, and welcome to HASA. That sounds like a fun website! Maybe you could post a link? Hm...as far as naming the OCs goes, I guess I'd probably have to agree with Dwimordene's "close enough to deceive" philosophy. I try not to rely too much on the characters' names as tools to convey information, or have them "mean" too much. As long as they sound passable, they're okay by me. I have been thinking a lot about OC names recently because I am in the middle of a Gondor-fic which involves a whole slew of them. So far I have three names plucked from the appendices, one direct Sindarin translation, and two names cobbled together from slightly modified Sindarin root-words. I am writing it in the first person in part to avoid giving the main character a name, at all. I think that refusing to give a character, especially a female character, a special or distinctive sort of name automatically knocks off at least 10 potential Mary-Sue points-- so I'm just cheating that way.

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

Sure thing. This is the site with the name dictionary. There's a link in it to "Now We All Have Elvish Names" which is a short article that started it all. I love using it, even for minor characters. http://www.elvish.org/elm/names.html

 

 

Re: Naming OCs

I once wrote a story with names like character 1 etc, and then found names that fitted the personalities. For a story I'm currently working on, I had to invent some friends for Theoden. I started out with the names - cobbled together partly from Old English and partly from Rohirric names. The friends' personalities and appearances then developed from the names. One of the friends' names means Mad Wolf: therefore he became a skinny guy who's a little crazy. Part of the other friend's name means Bear: he turned out to be stockily built and a bit fat.

 

 

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