In my writing, my characters really make things easy on me. They write their dialogue themselves half the time, and they move the plot where they want it. All I have to do is find the right words to describe what they’re doing. But unfortunately, there’s one thing they can’t do. Name themselves.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Juliet said. Except, we remember Romeo and Juliet partially because of their names. If their tragic tale had been about Bob and Martha instead, I sincerely doubt it would have had the same impact. Would we jokingly refer to our playboy friends as Bob today? Probably not.
I have to make a confession here. I suck at naming characters, places, things. Hell, I debated on what to name my newest cat for two weeks. My characters waited even longer than that.
You see, when I create a new character, I know what they look like, how they act, what their role will be, and how they’ll grow over the course of the story, but I always get stuck on their names because it’s such an integral part of the way they are perceived. To combat this, I often use a temporary name until I can think of something more suitable, which has led to some pretty hilarious results when I look back at old documents and first drafts.
Some characters are easy. Thora has been Thora since her very first incarnation in my original attempt at fantasy when I was just ten years old. It just fit her so well. A brave, mischievous elven assassin named Thora. Others took multiple attempts. Vaekordus was originally Malignus. Gods, that would have been cheesy. Adrian originally had the equally lame name of Brandon. Can you imagine an unpredictable, incredibly powerful necromancer named Brandon? It almost makes the Enchanter Tim sound like an entirely rational and calculated decision in comparison.
Kirin took a little time and effort. Even though I can’t remember his very first name anymore, I remember the name he had in the first “real” attempt I made. Xenokis. I lucked out with Kirin, because I had described the character to my boyfriend and he thought for a moment before suggesting Kirin. I liked the sound of it, and of course, the Asian mythical creature origin was a bonus, because of Kirin’s mixed heritage.
I do employ several methods in naming characters; an absolute necessity when you’re as bad at naming as I am. First, I found a pretty nifty fantasy name generator online, so I have that bookmarked and play with it from time to time. I don’t use the names from there because a lot of them were already used in various video games and books, but it’s a good place to look for inspiration. The other method I use is a slight tweak to a word in another language that represents that character. Ex: Vaekordus. His name was based on a word in Greek (I think. I could be mistaken here.) that meant “madness.”
I’m going to wrap this up with doing something utterly embarrassing. I’m going to share the original character names from my writing. Keep in mind that many of these names were picked when I was a child, and were changed when I started writing seriously as an adult. I hope you laugh (and cringe) at these names as much as I do.
Raine was originally named Raven. (So cliché I want to die)
Kirin was Xenokis.
Adrian was Brandon.
Vaekordus was Malignus.
Eija was Sandra. (Really? For fuck’s sake.)
Alana was Monica originally, then Cassie, then Alessia, and Alyssa.
Part of the reason I wrote this blog was because I just introduced a new character into the first draft of the sequel and I’m stumped on his name. He’s royalty and a powerful mage, but no one is quite sure who’s side he’s on, or what he’s going to do. He’s indulgent, selfish, sarcastic, and can be quite mean toward the other men. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them, so just drop them in the comments.