Friday, February 7, 2014

What's in a Name?

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Oh, man, the weekend is right around the corner. I know you can smell it. Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful Saturday and Sunday! Today, I'm going to talk with you a little about naming your characters and why any old name won't (and shouldn't) do. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

When naming characters, there are a few things you should always be mindful of:
  • Is the name difficult to say/read?
  • Does the name have more than two syllables?
  • What does the name mean?
  • Do any of the names sound too similar?
  • How many of the names begin with the same letter?
  • What does the last name say about the heritage of the character?
A lot of authors make a name swipe list for minor characters that run from A-Z. Time is spent gathering names that sound different from one another and those are organized in alphabetical order. When the author needs a new name, they simply pull out the list, choose one of the names, and mark it off. That way, they're guaranteed not to have too many characters whose names sound alike. This is a great plan! Do it! However...

In my humble opinion, you should also look into what every one of them means and write it next to the name in your swipe file. For example, the meaning of the name Trixie (MC in I, Zombie) is "bringer of joy," Bronya (Mystic, book one) means "strength," and Stormy (MC in The Bird) means "impetuous nature." Those names fit the personalities of my characters because I took the time to do the research. Guess what? It didn't take me long at all.

How did I discover that information and think to use those names in my books?

Well, there's a super secret website that I'm gonna share with you in a moment where you can search by name, meaning, number of syllables, gender, or first letter.

Yes! I'm actually telling you someone took the time to help authors out and give us a place where we can find hundreds of thousands of names at the click of a mouse.

What is it? BabyNames.com

Click on advanced search and get your happy on.

I know, you all just groaned inwardly. But this is one of the best resources I've found for character names. I wouldn't want a meek, confused girl to be named Bronya or Stormy. Just like I wouldn't want either of those characters to have a name like Naomi, which means "gentle."

Yes, readers will pick up on that. Even if they don't know it right away, they'll feel something is off if they're reading about Naomi kicking butt and shooting bad guys.

Thought I'd share!

Did any of you know about this site before today? Did you use it? What gems did you find?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

9 comments:

  1. I used to struggle significantly with names. I know the baby names approach is a common one, but after a bad experience with one such site I often opt for checking hockey and volleyball teams on Wikipedia.

    I also steal names from history (in my two 'serious' books Fritigern and Athanaric are named after real people from around the 4th century AD).

    The worst thing someone can do is go for an 'original' name and make it horrendously difficult. Doesn't seem to happen too much, thankfully, but it really puts me off.

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    1. I loved your names! They fit the story wonderfully!

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    2. Thanks :)

      Colin the Adventurer was the hardest one to come up with. It had to be an actual, credible name, but jar horribly with fantasy/heroism. [Apologies to anyone called Colin. The jarring of the name and the annoying nature of the character are entirely separate, I have nothing against the Colins of this world].

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    3. I agree about the original to horrendously difficult. I don't like names I can't pronounce in my head and end up giving those characters names I can remember/say. Like Inciblathidaous becomes Inky. LOL! I had no choice with my Historical Fiction novel, but most of those were surprisingly easy to pronounce. Odd, since they were Mongolian :) Thanks for the comment, Thaddeus :)

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  2. I love this site! It's one of my favorites since they have such a huge database. I actually used it when we were coming up with names for our sons, too! :)

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    1. Heck yeah, Beth!! It's the one site I've found where I can look up the name by meaning. :) Thanks for the comment, hon!!

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  3. That site has tons of crazy names! I had visited it some time ago when I was entertaining the idea of writing an urban fantasy book.

    What are your thoughts on odd spellings? Such as Rachael being spelled Raychill. That might be a dramatic example, but I did read a book once that did something nearly as ridiculous. It threw me right out of the story and annoyed me from the beginning to the end.

    However, in fantasy I enjoy made up names. I'd never want to see, say...Tiffany in a sword/sorcery type novel. It gives it the wrong feel.

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    1. I completely agree! I've read books with characters that had oddly spelled names and I found it so distracting.

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    2. I don't like odd spellings of names. When I see them, I tend to groan inwardly. LOL I lose interest in a story when the names are weird and the tale doesn't hold my attention.

      Tiffany the dragon riding queen. Queen Tiffany? *snorts coffee out of nose*

      Thanks for the laugh, L. K.! :)

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