Posts Tagged ‘names’

Pi Day, What’s In a Name, and a ROW80 check-in

Happy Pi Day, squiders! As an ex-engineer, it is one of my favorite random math holidays. (I am also fond of Talk Like a Pirate day. Less math-related, though. But with more parrots.)

As you guys know, I’m working on the first draft of the third book of a high fantasy trilogy. I did most of my worldbuilding and planning a long time ago, and have the years have passed, it’s become apparent that some names will not work. Some character names are too similar to each other, and some worldbuilding elements will need to have their names changed as well.

The most apparent example of the latter are a type of tree I made up for the story, which I named Tinyurl trees. This was way before tiny URLs became a thing, but of course, now I run into trouble. I’m pretty sure every beta I’ve ever had has pointed it out at least once.

The thing is, I know these things are are issues. I’ve known for a long time. But I also know that if I stop now and change things, when I’m still technically in the middle of the story, that I will only confuse myself. I’ll either forget what I changed things to and change them multiple times, or I’ll change them and then forget and go back to the original, or an assortment of other combinations of issues.

So instead I’ve started a list. And on said list is every character whose name is too close to another’s, and every worldbuilding element whose name is confusing, and also every character that is missing a last name at the moment. (I have a couple characters that I didn’t originally think would be important enough to warrant last names, but alas, I was wrong.)

And when I finish this draft, I’ll go through and make changes in a nice, organized manner.

As for ROW80, I’m mostly caught up, finally. I have run into a bit of an issue where I need to do some major outlining before I go on–and probably outline until the end of the story. Hopefully that won’t take too long.

I’m a little lost about whether or not I should sign up for the next round of ROW80 or not. I’ll only have about 25K left in my story, which won’t take the whole time, and I’m worried that if I try to do multiple projects I won’t be able to keep track of what I’m doing on each in a manner that will allow me to judge my progress.

Nano has camp going in April, which might work better, though I don’t know if I can manage 25K in a month. In the old days, before I had children, sure, wouldn’t be a problem. But now? Who knows? Maybe I should do it anyway, just to see how it goes.

What are you up to, Squiders? Can you change names in the middle of a draft and not confuse yourself? (Do you remember to go back and fix things before you let people read it?) Any writing plans for April and beyond?

Naming Your Characters Names You Wouldn’t Name Your Children

Is there such a thing as too many barbeques? I think there must be. I am barbequed out.

Character naming is an interesting part of story creation. I know a lot of people who can’t write until they find the right name for a character, or the character’s name leads directly to their personality, and changing the name changes the character, often with disastrous (or, sometimes, fantastic, if your story was stuck) consequences.

With names being so important, it’s somewhat interesting to compare naming characters with naming children. Characters, even those we like, often get stuck with a name we’d never burden a child with. As a random example, I have a character named Raphael, but I’d never name a child that. It’s pretty much one of those “guaranteed to get you beat up on the playground” names. (Though, admittedly, with some of the boy names that are popular at the moment, it may not even rate on a bully’s radar.)

Kit, I can hear you saying, isn’t this kind of obvious? You do lots of other terrible things to your characters, so why not give them a bad name while you’re at it? It’s not worse than giving his girlfriend cancer and having him discover he has a ten-year old son he’s never heard of who has been kidnapped by an evil dragon who is threatening to eat him if he doesn’t destroy the heart of magic.

(Hm, I think I got my genres confused.)

While that is true, I would almost argue that you can get away with naming a character something you wouldn’t name a child BECAUSE they’re going to face worse things. Sure, you may be writing contemporary YA or MG where a character’s name is a plot point, but for the most part, a character’s name isn’t going to affect their world.

With a child, you have to worry about things like bullying and whether or not your child will be frustrated because none of their teachers ever pronounce their names right. With a character, it’s not going to matter much if he’s named Zebadiah when zombies are trying to eat his head.

(Of course, there are other circumstances too – if you’re writing historical, fantasy, or a certain culture, you’re probably not going to use character names that you would use for a child anyway, unless you are a time-traveler from the 1800s, a dimension-crossing elf, or Japanese.)

Do you have any character names that you would never, in a million years, give a child? What are your character-naming conventions?

What’s In a Name?

A lot, it turns out.

Like it or not, names are often our first impression, especially when dealing with the written word. They color how we see someone. Admittedly, depending on how a character is written, those impressions can be changed, but it is often an uphill struggle.

As a writer, I’ve found that I cannot even start until I’ve pinned down a good name. Others work differently; they can change a name after they’ve written a story, but, in general, I’ve found that a character’s name has a subtle influence on their personality, their actions, and how they interact with other characters.

Think about your favorite character. Would they lose something if they were named something other than what they were? Would Sherlock Holmes be as memorable as a Tom or a Will? Charlie has lovely alliteration with his chocolate factory, but the name itself leans towards something earnest. Would Heathcliff stick in your mind as much if he were a Dan or a Reggie?

Some characters – or historical figures – are so distinct in their names that they’ve pretty much ruined the name for the rest of us. Sherlock is an obvious example. Cain, Adolf, Judas. Even Harry’s a bit of a pitfall at the moment.

Names have associations. They vary from person to person, usually based on people they’ve known or characters they’ve been exposed to. When I choose a name, I weigh its associations for me, its meaning, and its ability to easily be confused with other people/characters. However, some of it is based on the name itself. If you don’t have any experience with a name, have never known someone with it, you tend to base your connotations off of its sound.

What characters can you think of where their name is a key part of who they are? What names appeal to you, and why?