What’s in a Name?

printable-name-tags-r0zxxuni.jpgWith possibly the most cliched title ever, this post will discuss one of my favorite things about writing–naming characters.

A character’s name can speak volumes about who they are, or it can say nothing. Sometimes the fact that the name says nothing, says everything. But that’s getting too philosophical for a Thursday.

I believe there are two general types of names: ones that someone else made up years and years ago, or ones that you make up.

There’s also my case: a name that you thought you invented only to discover that the main character in one of your favorite books is called that. Yeah, I did think that I made up the name ‘Aza’. I was understandably disappointed to discover that it was the name of the girl in Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.

Anyway, in either case, I normally prefer rare names. As much as I love names like ‘Will’, the multitude of male protagonists embodied by those four letters does occasionally bother me. It gets hard to keep them apart. Another slightly irritating thing for me is when any character in a book shares the name of someone I know. Sometimes it’s cool, but other times it’s just disturbing. All in all, I guess it’s not really something that can be avoided.

Some of the actual names I love and have recently given to characters are Tavis, Conlan, and Ethelbert. I found them all in a baby name book, which is an extremely useful tool; if you call yourself a writer, buy a baby name book. But don’t blame me when the cashier gives you a funny look.

As much as I love searching out cool names, a lot of the time I prefer inventing my own. Or at least misspelling actual names to make them seem ‘unique’. Most of the characters in Aza’s world have wacky names I’ve come up with: Marsip, Rayalla, Purlifear, Eral, Rellia, Sesp. Ordinary words that I’ve used as names are common in the Forest of Silence too: Thorn, Ferrel, Rent, Ray.

When I’m making up names I normally pick the letter I want it to start with (certain characters sometimes give me a ‘feeling’ in the form of a letter), and then I just combine sounds together until I get something that I like. Occasionally, the names just appear on accident: my mom once mistyped the word ‘download’ and ended up with ‘donlown’, which I completely fell in love with. I gave it to a centaur in my hibernating WIP, Terra (the sequel to Marsip, I think).

In summary, I love names. You can’t really go wrong with them, especially since most characters let you know what their name is when you find it. Unlike punctuation (one day I will figure out the enigma we call commas…), I’ve found characters to often be helpful. Although, I have had a few square pegs that I ended up shoving into some round name holes, but they put up with me rather well.

Happy naming!

 

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One thought on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I like naming my characters too. I try to go for uncommon but heard usually(Genie, Selah, Leilani, Naya, Tyriek) because I write contemporary. Though my next story plots I really want to throw in my personal naming style with characters(unique and eclectic). But yeah I wish more authors dug deeper into their repertoire of names. Tired of Sam, Jake, Danny, Logan etc, and yet I have a character named Kyle(lame) but his parents are doctors and probably weren’t thinking too hard, plus he was adopted so maybe his birth mom gave him the name?

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