I have been heralded by writer friends of mine as a Master of Naming. I love names, there is power in names. I am a firm believer that a name can make or break a person, but even more so for a fictional character. I enjoy etymology immensely and I’ve studied the origin of words as well as the origin of names. Many names have different interpretations my name, for instance, David James can mean many things, Surrogate Friend, Beloved Replacement, Friend Supplanter.
My parent’s philosophy for a name came from two places. My parents wanted to give us names that flowed well and meant something to them. I am named for my uncle and my grandfather on my father’s side. Being the eldest of my siblings I think that is a traditional sort of thing. My brother and my sister both have biblical names as well. However, our names had to flow well, because no one wants to yell from the porch “JOHN JACOB JOSEPH JINGLEHEIMERSCHMIDT GET YOUR ASS IN HERE!” as impressive as that yell would be, it is too much of a mouthful.
David James Morand is a fairly simple thing to yell, trust me on that. Famous names in a film also fit characters well, think of it can you imagine Jebediah Skywalker, or Princess Natasha Organa, no. Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa have a particular ring to them. Even Han Solo and Boba Fett have a specific ring to them that suggests their roguish intention. Names are so important I will not even begin to write a short story or a novel without at least knowing the main characters name. So here is my approach:
- First Name 1 syllable, Last Name 2 syllables – Han Solo
- First Name 2 syllables, Last Name 1 syllable – Lockwood North
- First Name 2 syllables, No Last Name – Caeliss (Kay-Liss)
- First Name 1 syllable, Last Name 3 syllables – Lars Daggerswell
- First Name 2 syllables, Last Name 3 syllables – Rocky Balboa
- Titled Name – Princess Leia
- Three Part Name – Argus Von Tor, Zye Von Solva (note the alternating syllables here as well, AR GUS Von Tor, Zye Von SOL VA)
- Does the name exist? How can you change it? Parcival Djinn (Percival)
- Familial names – Cortis Forland Aman-Dexar (usually I throw in a middle name for this, Aman-Dexar is likely following a long line of Cortis Aman-Dexar family members, the middle name distinguishes the difference).
Any name I choose generally falls into one of these categories, Lockwood North, Maeren Frell, Bastion Frell, Jessa Poe, Vessen Marr, Caeliss, Argus Von Tor, Zye Von Solva, King Talmin, Cortland Dex, Cortis Forlan Aman-Dexar, etc. Think about some famous characters in movies. Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Kirk, Spock, King Arthur, Gandalf the Grey, Don Vito Corleone, Sweeney Todd, Forrest Gump, Rocky Balboa, Michael Corleone, Edward Scissorhands, Jack Torrence, Danny Torrence, the list goes on.
There is something about the way a name flows that is important to a character. I like to take two words and form a new word, when coming up with Maeren’s name for my novel The Last Bladesinger, I put together two words May and Ren, may for the general warmth the month has and the warmth I wanted the character to have and Ren from the Confucianist definition of the good feeling brought on by altruism. The name, when pronounced, sounds more like Mayer In than May Ren, but that is for flow. I chose Lockwood from the words Lock and Wood and because it was already an existing name. I wanted his name to convey a feeling of stubbornness and unlocked power. Lockwood North gained his last name much the same way that people in Westeros gained their non-familial names, Lockwood is an orphan and he was found in the North.
The choice of a character’s name is the most important step for me. I have a character in my science fiction universe by the name of Castor Doyle. He is a bounty hunter and while his name is somewhat mundane, it is the kind of name that can strike fear if said with the right connotation. I chose the name Castor after the flower, namely the flow used in the production of castor oil. The castor bean also had ricin in it, a highly toxic poison. The character is both useful, like castor oil, and a poison like ricin. Doyle just sounded like Goyle from the Harry Potter franchise and I thought it fit well with the name Castor.
Long story short; choose your names wisely. Whether it be for your pet, your child, or your next main character. Names have power, and names shape the being they’re given to. Until next time folks.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,