Thursday, April 3

Naming Characters

Okay, so I'm stealing post ideas from LibraryThing, because the writer-readers group is full of people asking good questions.

For the most part, I try and give characters ordinairy names, often old friends or people I went to school with. No one I know too well, in case they ask questions! Preferably names belonging to multiple people I know. Sometimes, I repeat names of minor characters, especially common names, because that's how real life works. Honestly, it gets a little creepy when there are over a hundred named characters in a series and not one repetition of either fore or surname.

I only have a few charactes with made up names, despite being a fantasy writer; Laina and Vaughniter Fale. 'Vaughniter Fale', as a name, came to me in a dream, which mostly proves that dreams are a bad source of names. 'Laina', despite a change in naming philosophy since I named the character, is going to stay, but the rest of the family will have equally unusual (bu real) names. Consistency in naming, I feel, is important.

I deliberately avoid giving characters 'meaningful' names; I want my readers to decide based on my writing, not my naming, whether characters have certain traits. Much as I love latin, and etmology in general, name meanings are hard to do tactfully enough not to annoy bright readers; if Dolores is depressed, I'm going to be annoyed with the author for showing off. The same goes for names with certain connotations, especially historical names. Is Alexander a bit of a conquerer? A redhaired, left handed, bisexual conquerer? Do I want to slap some subtlty into you?

Having said this, I have stuck myself with a family in which all of the characters have 'virtue' names. It's actually an improvement on Arthurian names (in the above paragraph, I am very much speaking from experience), which were chosen based on Bernard Cornwell's characterisation in his Arthurian series. I changed this, but it was important to me to choose a series of names with consistency; it's a family to which lineage is very important. That I chose virtues was almost artibtrary; an ancestor of the family was called Trust, and it seemed like a good place to start. The difficulty was in choosing names that neither reflected nor rejected their personalities; I've gone for fairly generic traits. It turns out, masculine virtue names are hard to come by in English speaking countries, and once I'd used Earnest and Valiant (thank you Oscar Wilde and terrible 80s Arthurian cartoons) I had to make up another for my main character.

It was Diligent, in the end. Positive, but not predictive.

I've also been naming characters in another project after fantasy heroines. I started out with traditional and literary characters, but that's overused, so any fantasy film in the last twenty years is being explored. Badly. I'm probably going to change my mind about this (as I have done every time I've started a new draft of this story - two different sisters have been named Lucy and I can no longer remember which I'm refering to without the story to refer to).

In my pulpy projecy I made a point of giving the characters fairly cheesy names, to suit the tone of the story. Honey Smith and Dirk Miles; the names make me happy. They aren't going to get changed, not unless there's a real Honey Smith or Dirk Miles who've done something massively famous that I've managed to miss. That has happened to me before; it's always worth googling names, just in case.

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