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Monday, February 17, 2014

Signs I may be losing it: Character Names

I hate naming characters. It is like naming your children except instead of having to name two of them and having nine months to pick (more if you are like me and were stuck on  a name since middle school) you are naming them as you write and there might be dozens of them and every time you introduce a new one, no matter how minor, you are like "And then Main Character met a minor character named Sir. . . Somethingham." And you  look at the name and you think, "Somethingham? Seriously?" So you scan the room for inspiration. Sir Chair, Sir Door, Sir Ireallyshoulddust, Sir, ah! I'll name him after my dog!

But eventually you run out of pets.

Now for a fantasy novel it is worse. Some fantasy novels have "real" names. Some have "made up" names. If you are using real names you can just open up a "baby name book" (I always keep one handy even though we are done having kids, if only to freak out relatives when they come over and see it on my table) and pick anything that sounds right for the era or location.

However, to me at least, a "real" name brings with it a sense of history. If your character's name is Peter, you have to assume he lives in a world that has at one point had the Greek language, maybe has Saint Peter. So is it basically "our world?"

My last few stories have been written in what I consider "alternate" real worlds. I don't use actual history or place names, but I set them in sort of a generic fairy tale kingdom with real names and familiar conventions like monks and Christmas, because it is my book and I can do that.

Now, if you are working from scratch, and your characters are in a different world, be it through a Wardrobe or on a different planet, they will probably have names like Gandalf and Aslan, names you made up off the top of your head, and in all honesty, I SUCK at that.

There are very few names I've ever come up with, for people or locations (my city and country names suck too) that I like.

Which is why I'm seriously considering having a "name my character" contest for my next story. I'd lay out some ground rules, of course. No silly meanings (No Sir Butts or whatnot), but it might be good publicity. Of course, this story is still in a very early stage.

Right now her name is Kynel Weaver.

I started out having her name Kyndle. When I was younger I thought Kindle was an awesome word. It meant a litter of cats AND to light things on fire (or a litter of cats who can light things on fire with their MINDS!). I mean, that is double awesome. Then Amazon had to go and make a book gadget and name it that. So, yeah, I decided Kyndle wouldn't work and shortened/rearranged it to "Kynel," but I'm not crazy about it, and it feels like I should be crazy about it if I'm going to write about her.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes. 

8 comments:

  1. That is so funny, because it's true. We also keep a baby name book close by. I think Samantha (my 13 year-old) would be interested in helping you come up with names. By the way, Aslan is Turkish for "lion." I read that somewhere once and just confirmed it via Wikipedia.

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    1. I really ought to do the contest. The book is still a ways out, though. I'm somewhere around ten thousand words, so a long ways to go.

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  2. I LOVE making up names :P hehe. but I suck at the story writing.... :P

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    1. Everyone sucks at writing for at least the first four or five drafts.

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  3. I had done a post with the list of favorite names- for kids (here: http://majesticgoldenrose.weebly.com/1/post/2014/01/my-favorite-names.html)
    and people just dont get ti when I say that I would never name both a character and a child the same name.....

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    1. totally because then if the child didn't end up being like the character it would just be confusing. However, other people's fictional characters, I'd name my kids after just to see if I can give them the magic powers associated with those names.
      My husband completely vetoed "Strider" as a boy's middle name, but we ended up having girls anyway, so it worked out.

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  4. I totally hear you! Naming characters....argh. I do NOT envy the pressure parents must go through. It's crazy, really. Either a character comes to me with a name, or else it takes AGES to find it. I guess I totally fail with the backstory thing. I'll have an unrelated-to-ours-fantasy-world but still use Greek derived names and such. I really should work on that....

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    1. Those are just my personal rules for when I can use "real" names and when I force myself to make them up.

      Honestly, I had a pretty good idea what to name both my girls, but I had a lot more time to think about it. It is hard to write a story around an unnamed character.

      Though in one of my books an important character was named Edwin through several early drafts. Thank God for find and replace because when I decided he should be Edmond instead it only took a few minutes to fix.

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