Thursday, February 16, 2012

Naming those Pesky Characters!

Since I consider characters to be one of the most important things about stories, I think deciding what to name your characters is very, very important. After all, its what they'll be known as forever.

Some short tips on naming...
  1. Make sure its pronounceable. A known fact is that sometimes things sound right in our heads but when we actually try to say them outloud...we can't. So say your characters' names outloud. 
  2. Don't pick something something super long. Like Quetzalxochitl (Seriously, I have NO idea how to pronounce that.) or Anunciacion (I could try...aa-nun-cee-un....yeah, I don't know.) Besides not being able to pronounce that, your readers will get very annoyed if that they to read that ever other sentence. 
  3. Be sensible: Please, whatever you do, don't be like a celebrity and name your character something really weird. Like Pilot Inspecktor (Jason Lee's kid) Or Audio Science (Shannyn Sossamon's kid) (unless you have a REALLY good, valid reason for naming your character this. Another thing: Hero/Hiro. Why must your protagonist be named this (yes, I've seen it)? (And please, don't do something like this- La-La. I heard that one woman named her child that. It looks like it should be pronounced "la la" but she says the dash is pronounced...La-dash-la. I pronounce it "la-dash-ee-a for some reason).
  4. Be careful in how you name characters will similar names: I've seen readers who have gotten to of my K names confused because they both start with K, have a similar word length, and apparently are spelled similarly. If your characters have similar names, make sure your readers can tell them apart!
Naming tips I disagree with but you shouldn't dismiss. 
  1. What's with the Ss? This isn't really me saying "don't do this" because I think its kinda silly. I've seen several naming tip sites where they advise you to not name your characters with names ending in Ss. Apparently their reasoning that it will get very confusing when your character is in the possessive form. (For example, one of my names in The Cursing is Chloris. While I agree typing Chloris' looks weird, I love her name to too much to change it just because of the S. )
  2. Be careful with  Androgynous names: If your heroine has a guy's name (like Sam) or your hero has a girly name, your readers may have trouble remembering what gender that character is. In The Sayari, my heroine has a guy's name, Jaylen, and my hero has a girl's name, Iris. Some of my readers on Inkpop, have gotten confused at their genders. But I'm too stubborn to change them. The names fit  them. 
  3. Names with "cute" spellings: While I agree that sometimes its annoying when people spell common names differently, I also don't mind it all that much. In The Prophecy, Aaron's sister is named Krystal (think Crystal). I think the different spelling fits her too well. 
How to Pick a Name...
  1. By place: Its time to take out your maps! Find a town or several town names. Then, splice one name into half or a part and do the same with the other. Then mash them together! (For example, Siran and Kose from Turkey. Sir- (Sir-an) + -ose (k-ose) = Sirose)
  2. By Meaning: Sometimes its cool to have character names that have something to do with the story. Character names with meanings can be based off their personalities, their roles in the stories, or have something to do with their profession (if they have a job or whatever). (For example: In The Prophecy, Anastasisa's name means ressurection. It relates to the story in the fact that she "resurrects" her powers . Or something like that. When I chose that name I actually didn't know its meaning until I looked it up several years later. I had chosen it because I really liked it...which brings us to our next point...).
  3. By your favorite names: Say you really like a name, like...Marie...then you could go ahead and name your character that! That's what I do for some of mine. 
  4. By Origin: If your character lives in a certain country or in a place that's based off a place, you may want to go with names that go with that area. (For example. In The Cursing, Tatiana's culture is based off of Aztec, Inca, and India cultures [although there's some celtic and norse mixed in too]. So I used names from the Aztec, Inca, and Indian languages to help name by characters.) Although a word of caution, some naming sites (if you're using websites) may not have the correction translation of what the name actually means. 
  5. Top Name Lists: Looking at the charts for the top 100 or 50 names can be a good place to look for names. (For example. In 2011/20112, in the USA, the top girl's name was Isabella and the top boy's name was Jacob. Hm...I wonder why...could it be because of a certain book series?)
  6. Make your own list: I keep an excel list of all my favorite names. Even if I'm not using the name or if I may use it, I stick it in there. That why I have a list of all the names I like. I also list the names with if they're for girls or boy (or both in some cases), their origin, their meanings, where I found them (books, websites, or if I made them up), what story they belong in, if its a place or a title or last name, and some other things. 
  7. Books, Internet, Yearbooks, etc: I'm always on the lookout for names. Last year I browsed through my school's collection of all the yearbooks since the school was founded for names. I've found some in books, games, movies, etc. They're all over the place!
  8. Random: Pick a random name and name your character that.
  9. Your Friends & Family: Get their opinion. What names do they like? Or even yet, name your character after them if you'd like (although I'd avoid giving your character the same personality as them.).
  10. Names with history: When we see the name Adolf Hitler, we all know that a crazy guy with an overgrown mustache comes to mind. And with that name may come fear or anger. What names in your story may impact them (like if people with the name Ran usually end up murdered, people may not name a child that. Or if someone with a certain name did something bad and now no one ever names their kid that [I was told that I should never name a girl Jezebel because she was an evil queen in the Old Testament]. And so on, so forth.  
  11. Family Names: Think about it. You probably know someone, or even yourself, who's been named after someone. I was named after both my grandmas (they both had the same name. Although one had it as her first name and the other had it as her middle name) and all the guys in my family are named usually after their grandpa. Maybe there's a name that's been passed on for generations, like every girl is named Pam or something?
  12. Famous People: Maybe you want your character to be named after a famous person or someone you admire? Maybe its cause they did something important or something that you want to honor them for (maybe they donated 1 million dollars to your favorite animal shelter)?
  13. Values or Traits: Names like, Honor, Chasity, Faith, Grace...I could go on. People tend to name their kids this not only cause their pretty (in my opinion) but because they may want their kids to grow up with that particular trait or value. (and when they do the opposite, their name smacks them in the face with guilt. Ultimate payback.)
  14. Nicknames: Nicknames are often a good way to name a character. Especially if they have a longer name or a name they don't like. (Example: Tatiana's nickname from The Cursing is Tati. Anastasia's from The Prophecy is Ana.) You can shorten their names or nickname them after something they did or look like. Elizabeth is a popular nickname name (Eliza, Liz, Beth, Lisa, etc.).
  15. Name Generators: There is thousands of these out there on the magical world of the Internet. But I love them, most of them come up with weird names so I use them for my fantasy and science fiction books. 

Generators/Naming Sites
Behind the Name (Highly Recommended)



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