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Writing Tip — Names

blogging-1168076_1280I am posting today instead of Thursday because I am guest blogging on Tessa Emily Hall’s site, Christ is Write. My post combines several ways to generate names for characters. If you like developing names as much as I do, click here to visit the site.

Writing Tip — Character Names

hellow-1502386_1280I love finding just the write names for my characters, and if I need unusual names, myths can offer a gold mine of potential. Below are list of more obscure names from several different mythologies.

But  keep in mind the cardinal rule of character names: Names Must Be Pronounceable. If a name is too difficult to sound out, readers will substitute something familiar or simply bleep over it. I like the name “Koschei”, a villain in a Slavic myth, but have no idea how to pronounce it correctly. If I used it, I would have to adapt it for English readers. Maybe “Koschay”?

Greek and Roman Names
  • Atalanta
  • Meander
  • Dido
  • Alecto
  • Evander
  • Nisus
  • Marsyas
  • Thetis
  • Arion
  • Leander
  • Cadmus
  • Maia
  • Nysa
Norse Names
  • Sif
  • Idun
  • Galar
  • Brokk
  • Alvis
  • Gerd
  • Thiazi
  • Skadi
Celtic Names
  • Balor
  • Bran
  • Branwen
  • Bres
  • Dagda
  • Morrigan
  • Caradoc
  • Finntan
  • Korrigan
  • Mael Duin
  • Nemed
  • Nuada
  • Veleda
Central and Eastern Europe
  • Sadko
  • Morevna
  • Perun
  • Mati Syra
  • Kurent

If you need to create original names for characters, where do you find inspiration?

 

Writing Tip — Fantastic Names

robot-2256814_1280If you have been following my blog long, you know I love creating names for characters.  I did a series of posts earlier in the year about what I’ve learned about this kind of writing. If you haven’t read them, here are the links for Post #1, Post #2, and Post #3 on naming characters.

I don’t write science fiction or fantasy, and those genres have their own unique rules for creating names.  This post at Almost An Author covers this topic.  Ms. Zimmerman’s first idea of looking at the root of words reminded me of how unfamiliar Latin words can make original names.

My husband likes birds, and we have bird identifiction books.  As I was perusing one of them, I began reading the Latin names.  The name for a barn owl is “Tyto alba”.  I think that’s a great name for a fantasy hero.  It sounds strong and noble. If it’s a heroine, you could flip it,”Alba Tyto.”  It’s unusual but easy to pronounce, which is critical for your readers.

Other Latin words with name potential are “Strix”, “Asio”, “Surnia Ulula” — a northern hawk-owl — “Athene,” “Nyctea”, “Saya”, and “Sasin”.

If you write in either science fiction or fantasy and need to create names, where do you get your inspiration?

Writing Tips

hello-1502386_1280Naming of My Names

My novel and future novels are set in a fictional West Virginia county where several generations of the same family live.  I created family trees to build naming patterns.  For example, a teen character might have an old-fashioned name because he is named after his grandfather.  I also try to use different naming patterns to distinguish between families.

The Stowecroft family is the leading family in the county.  I decided that each generation would use the most popular names at that time.  So a ten-year-old might be named Jacob and his father, Jason.  Using popular names keeps the Stowecrofts distinct from the other more eccentrically named families.  It also makes the reader think they are bound to popular opinions and maybe even bland or unimaginative.

I have had the most fun creating the names for the Kimmels, a vast family of crooks.  I got the idea to use nature and weather for their names from my grandfather.  He told me that when he was a boy in West Virginia in the 1910’s, his grandparents had neighbors who were named after the weather – Winter, Rain, Jack Frost.

Using nature for the names of the Kimmels brands them as different from the rest of the characters in the county. The family has five main branches, which I may have to prune, but to help my readers keep the characters straight, I have each branch use its own unique naming pattern. The Kimmels are named after the weather.  Three brothers are named Cy, Cane, and Tor, short for Cyclone, Hurricane, and Tornado.  The Sims are named after jewels and elements, and the Pratts have months for names.  I had such a good time coming up with whacky names that I realized I had too many characters and had to whack off an entire branch.

When naming, I keep in mind something I read about J.R.R. Tolkien.  He said that he worked very hard making his invented languages and the names that came from them as much like real languages as he could.  He thought that their consistency would  aid in making Middle Earth seem like a real place.

As fiction writers, we want readers to be able to dive into our imaginary worlds and take them as real.  Creating appropriate names for our characters can help in making the unreal real.

Writing Tip

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.

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