fiction

By Any Other Name

Looking back, I’m surprised I’ve never written a post about names especially considering how much time I spend picking out character names. Here we are, though, a guide to naming your character! Or at least, how I do it.

I am somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to names and I have very strong opinions about certain names, types of names, etc. For the most part, I stick to “traditional” names – it has always really bothered me, especially in fanfic, when authors use characters with names that make no sense at all or are really blatant like Verity or Hope. I realize there are probably people out there named Verity, but it’s not the most common name ever. Not that you should go around naming all your characters Ashley and Michael.

On my computer, I have a spreadsheet list of over 600 names for boys and girls, and when that list fails me, I take to the internet with its many baby-naming sites. I have named so many original characters by now that I sometimes can’t even remember if I’ve used a name before unless it was a main character in some story.

I suppose I stick to “traditional” names because the majority of my stories are set in basically real time, modern worlds. This year, however, I’m branching out for NaNo and writing my first vaguely-dystopian story. This means new names!

Normally, I hate names like these, names that are weird for no reason, but I loved The Hunger Games, and there are some pretty odd names in that one. So I’ve spent a good amount of time coming up with these character’s names.

This year, we will be meeting Sequoia (Quoia) Rush, Ren Canace, Azure Patia, Birch Sanobar, and Kenai Varsha. These names are all quite out of my normal comfort zone. Can you tell which are the girls? I’ll give you a hint: Sequoia, Birch, and Azure.

I decided to go with more “natural” sounding names (trees, animals, colors, etc) because of the story’s roots that come somewhat out of mythology. The novel is something of a mix between Greek mythological concepts, a bit of a social commentary on the institute of marriage as well as politics, and something simpler in life. I haven’t worked out all the details of the universe yet, as in careers and technology, but I’m thinking it’s more simple than life is now.

Most of the time, with my character names, I take a lot of time trying to picture them in my head and come up with the right name. I force my friend to give me a bunch of suggestions and then reject them all. The name makes all the difference, though. If I ever have a kid, I’m going to have a hell of a time narrowing it down.

The thing is that people (and animals for that matter) become their names. If you name a dog after a villain, the dog will become evil. I swear it should be a science. Nomenclature. I believe that people become their names as well. Certain names sound like certain kinds of people. The name Penelope conjures up an image of a very thin woman with long brown hair and a somewhat snooty nose in my mind, and that’s the kind of character she would be. Maybe I just read too much mythology.

The science of picking the perfect name is harder than it looks, and if you ever read something I’ve written, keep in mind that I probably agonized for hours over that character’s name.

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