The Name Game

What’s in a name?

A pain in the ass, that’s what.

I feel like I’ve never been good at naming characters. Names hold a lot of meaning in fiction, more than in real life. When I name a character, I’m giving them an identity. As such, I’ve always had trouble naming characters. Though, it comes in certain degrees.

I have several policies of character naming:

1)      The “I would name my kid this” policy—Essentially, these names are chosen because they’re names I legitimately like. I’d honestly consider giving any kids I might have names like Amelia, Dorian, Lenore, Sebastian, or Isadora. Granted, maybe not after getting published. That might make me seem weird.

2)      The “I like this name, but probably would name a kid this” policy—Same deal as above, except I wouldn’t name my kid Basil, Hershel, or Gertrude. They’re a bit old fashioned, and work better for some my characters.

3)      The “Yes, these sound good” policy—This usually applies to last names as well. It also generally involves me finding a first name I like and a last name I like and slapping them together to see how they sound. A lot of my characters—Meredith Sawyer, Dorian Everett, Mabel Midworth—have their names as a result of that.

4)      The “I put actual effort into this one” policy—When I consciously pick names based on meanings or cultural significance. I’ve named a new character—a sorcerer thief who can control a swarm of magical rats that devour anything in its path—Malekulfar, which is Arabic, and roughly translates to King of Rats, according to an Arabic-speaking friend of mine. Granted, it’s one of the more obvious name meanings, but it sounds like an evil overlord name, so I like it.

5)      The “Dear god why did I include non-humans with weird names in this” policy—Whether it be goblins, aliens, elves, demons, or your own made-up species, unusual names can be difficult. Half the time, my names for goblins aren’t thought out at all. I throw a bunch of letters together, ask myself if this random gibberish sounds like it could be a name, and if I say yes, this goblin has a name.

Needless to say, I praise the creation of name generators.

What about you, readers? Do you have tricks for character naming, or are you just naturally good at it?

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Categories: On Writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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