hello-1502386_1280Still Naming Names

When developing names for characters, here are some general rules to keep in mind.

1. Names must be easy to read.

2. Names should be appropriate for the genre or historical period.

3. Names can not be ones that are overwhelmingly identified with one person or character.

my-name-is-1185862_12801. Names must be east to read.  This is true for every kind of writing, including science fiction and fantasy. If readers stumble over a name, they will not sit there and puzzle it out. They with either substitute something close to it or just “bleep” over it, which is what I tend to do.

In the middle-grade series Guardians of Ga’Hoole, the author had to create names for talking animals, mostly owls. The names needed to sound unusual, but easily understandable for kids. “Lyze” is an imaginative creation. It looks suitably foreign with the “y” and “z”, but it follows the well-known pattern of silent “e” making the vowel long. Other names used are “Thora”, “Gilda”, and “Felix”, human names but ones that aren’t used much any more.

2. Names should be appropriate for the genre or historical period. The best way to learn this is to read books in your genre and study how other authors have created names. For crafting historically accurate names, research into the appropriate time period is necessary.

The Social Security website has great pages for researching the most popular names from 1879 to the present.

If you can visit the location of your historical story, walk through local cemeteries.  Reading names on the markers will give you examples of the first and last names of different time periods.

3. Names can not be ones that are overwhelmingly identified with one person or character.

In my novel The Truth and Other Strangers, I had two sisters named “Joli”, short of “Jolene”, and “Angel”.  An agent told me I couldn’t use those names together.  They sounded too much like Angelina Jolie.  That really annoyed me.  Here I had thought up two great names, just to have some stranger steal them.  But when I thought it over, I realized that “Joli” wasn’t appropriate for the one character.  She is a hot-tempered redhead, and “Joli” sounds like to should be applied to a jolly, bubbly person.

In the Beyond series of baby names books, authors Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran provide lists of names that are already taken by famous real and non-real people.  Like, “Sherlock”, “Ebenezer”, “Oprah”, and “Madonna”.  You just can’t work against a name that is so closely identified with one individual.

That series has been the most helpful name books I have found.  With informative essays on style, class, and naming trends, as well as all kind of lists like “Western Cowboys”, “New England Names”, and “Royal Names”, you are overwhelmed with inspiration for character names. Beyond Ava and Aiden is one of their books that I have found helpful.