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Naming Characters

Giving a name to a character is an important part of writing a good story.  Novelists often spends years writing and revising a book, so they’d better at least enjoy the names they pick!  My novels are fantasies, so I wanted the names to be unusual.  The names I selected came from the Internet, from existing names, and from my imagination.

When I first started Wings, Waves, and Wisteria, my main characters were a boy and a girl, twins.  I named them Steve and Steph so that their names echoed the twin relationship.  Later, I decided I wanted more unusual names to make the world seem more like fantasy.  I searched the Internet for unusual baby names and came up with Sabarain and Sabrielle.  I still love those names, but both kid were nicknamed Sab and that was confusing.  I changed Sabrielle’s nickname to Bree, but still had complaints about the similarity of the names.  Finally, I changed Sabrielle’s name to Ayareli (named for a former student).

That brings me to my second category of names, collected from life.  I pay attention to names of my students, street names, actors on TV, etc.  Rachaella was named for a street near my home.  Tarq was named for an actor on a TV series.  I just really liked those names!  I never create characters that are similar to those they are named for–it is just the name I borrow.

Finally, I make up names.  Jol, Eliv, and Daav are all from my imagination.  Sometimes I change the spelling of a common name (Cary) to make it unusual, or change a letter (Olyvia).

Naming characters is all about finding a name that fits who you want the character to be.  It should be pronouncible, although some of my horse names are pretty hard (they are all based on cool ancient Welsh names).  Sometimes, your mind will surprise you.  I didn’t realize until I was into the third draft of Wings, Waves, and Wisteria that my antagonist’s name, Eliv, was an acronym for both EVIL and VILE.  Now that’s good character naming!

Post your comments:  What are some of your favorite book characters’ names?  Why do you like the name?

On my Kindle:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins   (Okay, it’s not available on Kindle, drat it.  I borrowed it from a student–thank you, Kate!)

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