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Naming Characters that are not of this Earth

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Old 01-10-2011, 01:55 PM
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Default Naming Characters that are not of this Earth


Ok, so here is the problem I am having. I am writing a sci-fi novel that has multiple alien races. I am having problems naming alien characters. One of the problems that I am having is, I might name two different characters that are two different races yet the names I come up with, while different, sound like they come from the same culture. For instance, you have two people named Julio and Manuel. The names are obviously very different yet it is obvious they are both Hispanic.

I want for each races names to have a distinctive sound or style to them so that they don't sound alike.

Any help or or advice would be greatly appreciated.


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Old 01-10-2011, 02:01 PM
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Have a look at names from different languages, in their native language and observe the sounds and letter combination used. Take Greek, Latin, Cyrillic and Celtic as examples.

Other then that I would just play around with sounds until you have something you like. Then play around with a different set and combination of sounds. I know this does not really answer your question, but I hope it helps.
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:57 AM
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Yeah, like Tau said, just reorder letters or something. For one race, use lots of vowels, for another, use lots of earthy sounding d's and g's etc to make it sound different. For another use lots of T's and S's. Hope that helps
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Old 01-12-2011, 07:03 AM
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Ok, I have been trying what was suggested above and I think I have a naming scheme for the most important of my alien races. But this changing letters thing leads me to another question and problem. I am trying to write a scientifically accurate novel. Every technology and theory used in my story is is real or based on a real concept. I am going for accuracy here and yet trying to tell a great story. So, if we humans do encounter an alien one day, the odds are their language is going to be totally bizarre to us maybe even beyond our comprehenstion, purhaps even using sounds we find it impossible or hard to make. So for the purposes of the story, is there a such thing as a name too bizarre? Would it turn you off if you were reading a story and found it difficult to pronounce a name. For instance if there was an alien named Zmxxmr. I just used that as an example but obviously that would be hard to pronounce. Would that be turn off to you as a reader? Should I make an accuracy compromise and make sure I Earth up the names a bit?

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Old 01-12-2011, 07:26 AM
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If you named your character Zxrrrm or whatever I would not read your book. I think you should spell the names how the english speaking reader would pronounce them. For example, my book has Arabic names in it. Arabic has many letters that english does not have, so you just use the nearest equivalent letter. The reader may not pronounce the word correctly like for example, 98% of americans mispronounce the world Muslim anyway (even though all the letters are right and it is correctly pronounced mus-lim, they still say Muzlem or Mozlem). but the point is, at least the word is transliterated coherently.
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Old 01-12-2011, 08:31 AM
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I don't know. It really depends on the book itself. I would like them to be readable because during English we've had to read countless things out loud where the name has been completely unpronounceable.
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Old 01-13-2011, 03:57 AM
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Yeah, I was trying to look at it as if I were the reader and not the writer and I was afraid an unreadable name would make character hard to relate too and like. I suppose what I could do is when the character is first introduced, tell his bizarre real name but then the human character finds it impossible to say so he gives him an earth nickname that the alien is referred to for the rest of the story. It has been done but at least I will feel better from a accuracy stand point.
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Old 01-13-2011, 04:24 AM
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Another thing you could do is, at some point, sneak in a little pronunciation lesson. Maybe the human character tries to pronounce the name by sounding it out- that way the reader can see how it is supposed to said and retain that throughout the book.
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Old 01-14-2011, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Tau View Post
Have a look at names from different languages, in their native language and observe the sounds and letter combination used. Take Greek, Latin, Cyrillic and Celtic as examples.

Other then that I would just play around with sounds until you have something you like. Then play around with a different set and combination of sounds. I know this does not really answer your question, but I hope it helps.

Sounds like a good suggestion. I'd follow it if I were you
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Old 01-15-2011, 06:52 AM
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Ok guys, I think I have it now. Thank a lot for the recommendations.
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Old 01-15-2011, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Morechoiriel View Post
Another thing you could do is, at some point, sneak in a little pronunciation lesson. Maybe the human character tries to pronounce the name by sounding it out- that way the reader can see how it is supposed to said and retain that throughout the book.

J.K. Rowling did that for Hermione after like 3 or 4 books, because people asked her how to pronounce it so often. She brought in someone who spoke another language and needed help learning her name.
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:02 PM
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With the written word it can often be more important for a name to look different rather than to sound different. Take an ordinary (but nonetheless heroic) name like my own and add some apostrophes or accents to it. Add spaces and capitals too. Jason become J'Ason or J'aso N. Add or drop one or two letters as necessary so it doesn't look too obvious: J'son or J'so Nha. Once you have the basic structure then stick with it for your other characters from this world.

Jason - J'so Nha
Peter - P'ta Rho
James - J'ma Eso

Assuming that Earth based people interact with these aliens then you can throw in misunderstandings and mispronunciations as a guide. For example in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (in this case the "not of this Earth" in London Below) the character Richard Mayhew introduces himself as "Richard, Richard Mayhew, Dick" and Door then calls him "Richardrichardmayhewdick". In the Alien nation film the alien names are unpronounceable so they are given "human" names and the alien cop is called "Sam Fransisco" and later renamed as "George". The human cop's name is Sykes which amused the aliens because it sounds like "ss'ai k'ss" which means "excrement" and "cranium" in their tongue.
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Old 01-16-2011, 04:37 PM
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I had this same question for my story that has an alien race. I came up with two solutions. One was the create my own names based off the language I created. The language I created has a lot of stressed sounds, so my names were similar. What hoverfrog suggested about the name looking different is one option I used. The MC's name sounds like Sabin, but I spell it Seibyn. Then there is Parix.

The other solution was to use Earthling names as well. Since the races have mixed for at least 100 years before the start of the story, mixing is expected. So I have characters named Rosalind and Nikolas. All of the names I just said are characters who are of the alien race.

Maybe my solutions can help you.
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Old 01-16-2011, 04:53 PM
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hoverfrong and secrete,

I really like this suggestion. In the Universe my story takes place in, there are several alien races but really only two (besides Humans of course) are important in this story and will actually have characters with names. One of my races is a very brutish race. So I wanted to make their names sort of Brutish. I found a website which lists Orc names. I am not sure where the person who compiled the list got these names but they really seems to work for this race and if I change them ever so lightly.... then they are perfect. The other race in my story is more technologically advanced and refined race. I think hover frogs suggestion would be perfect for them.

Thanks guys.

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Old 01-16-2011, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Grey_Alien View Post
Yeah, I was trying to look at it as if I were the reader and not the writer and I was afraid an unreadable name would make character hard to relate too and like. I suppose what I could do is when the character is first introduced, tell his bizarre real name but then the human character finds it impossible to say so he gives him an earth nickname that the alien is referred to for the rest of the story. It has been done but at least I will feel better from a accuracy stand point.
Why would it make the character hard to likeÉ In terms of accuracy, how can you be accurate about something that hasnèt happenedÉ Youèll be using technology that doesnèt exist, even if you can find scientific theories that support the plausability of them. Despite what you say about alien languages, you donèt know for sure what non human intelligent races will sound like, so you might as well make up names that sound fun and are readable.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:57 PM
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As a rule of thumb a brutish people could be characterised by short names, probably single syllables. Gor, Pok, Yon, etc. You could add descriptions as well like Yon the Grot Slayer or Pok the Mighty that are both obvious and informative.

A more sophisticated and advanced race might do away with such descriptions in favour of family, House or clan names, include more syllables and have less obviously meaningful names.

Who cares if that isn't reflected in our own history?
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:13 PM
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I won't read a book if I can't find a suitable pronunciation for the character's names. Even if I know it's probably not right, I can't be stumbling over the same name throughout the book.

Also, as hoverfrog started to touch on, take the general characteristics of each particular race into account. Their relative intelligence, what kind of society they live in (technical, industrial, agricultural, militant, etc.) After all, they named themselves, right?
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Old 01-17-2011, 06:27 AM
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Yes midwestamp,

I agree and that was what I was trying to say in my initial post. One of the big things I have noticed when it comes to big name sci-fi works is that all aliens names within a work sound as if they come from the same language even though there may be named characters representing several races. Star Trek is an example of this. So I am trying to make sure each name matches each race. In this story, only two of the races actually have characters with names. One of them is very hostile and militaristic. But they are also not very technologically advance, most of the technology they have was given to them by this other race in exchange for Military and Pirating service. So for them, I am taking that list of Orc names I found on the internet and am changing them slightly, that way they all sound like they came from the same language. Then for this other race... They are technologically advanced at least compared to the other one. However, they are also kind of a rouge nation whose government secretly (yet not really) and illegally sponsors privateers and raiders to disrupt trade and colonizing efforts of other Nations. Also, there one part in the story that is for a bit of comic relief. Some human males find the females of this more advanced race attractive.... and I think that scheme used by hoverfrog has a bit of a sexy feel to it. There is a funny conversation in my story where the main character is talking with another human character about how he is going to get him one of these alien women. I am very proud of this dialogue, it is very funny. So I agree with you and that is what I am trying to do exactly. Thanks.
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Old 01-17-2011, 06:48 AM
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In response to Zmxxmr, it would not put me off, as I would just recognise that word as the name without sounding it out, as long as there are no similar names. But this acceptance of recognising sympols or series of letters instead of sounding out a name is soemthing I got into doing when I was still learning a language and was not always sure how to pronounce things but did not want to get boggled down on the issue, as has been said, most people would not like to have unpronouncable names. If you must have them have a alternative to be used after it has been introduced.


You could always in the course of translation between human language and alien language have the alien pick a human name for ease of communication. In today’s world when some people learn another language, especially when on some course, select a name from that language for practise conversation with fellow students on that course, to help them get into the language.
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:24 AM
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I would suggest you use letter combinations that are common in words in English but necessarily in names. This will inevitably give names that sound like they come from some area of the world but other than that you would just be putting random letters together.

eg: Sv is a combination not found in English names so I have characters called Svetlan and Svallen but these names do of course sound Scandinavian. Thats life!
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Old 01-21-2011, 03:18 PM
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Check out this video and see if it gives you any ideas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaTEQWkG5XY

It's from a television station that got audio-jacked back in '77. It's almost definitely fake, but it's funny.

Also, name a character Dr. Grey, Just for kicks.

http://www.abduct-anon.com/alien%20types.htm
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