Creating characters and worlds is a necessity for fiction writers. It can be so easy to see them, hear them, and even imagine them in action. But naming them?
Stop right there.
You are either a name-junkie, or you avoid it like the plague... like you'd rather cut off your left ear or run naked through the mall.
I'll confess, I'm not only a name-junkie, I am a super-name-junkie. Creating names for my characters is one of my favorite things to do! I'm thinking of offering a service creating character names for people. I love it! But what makes naming characters difficult for people? If you are a plague-namer, read on! I have some ideas.
Does this sound right?
art by Flex Dreams
"I have a character who is gun-slinging, cyborg nun from Pluto. I was thinking of naming her Mariposa Exeldorf. Grunnepas - a blend of Spanish, German and Norwegian. Does that seem like a good fit?"
Don't get me wrong - I think I'd love a story about at gun-slinging, cyborg nun from Pluto (quickly scribbles this into my "need to write this" notebook), but keeping names memorable helps a reader connect with the story. Another idea is to use that cumbersome monster of a name, but find a way to use an acronym or a nickname you can tie to it. That way, Mariposa Exeldorf Grunnepas becomes M.E.G. - sooo simple and easy to remember (and kind of clever, too!). I'm all for unique, but consider that if your reader needs to continuously refer to a pronunciation chart, their connection with the story might become fragmented. However, if they only need the pronunciation guide the first time they encounter the new name, fantastic! This means your story's language rules are easy to follow and remember.
Way to go, Worldbuilder!
How did you come up with that?
I'll confess. I really love my characters' names. But did I snatch them from some unbelievably deep wellspring of creativity within my mind?
Actually.... I am a HUGE fan of the website Fantasy Name Generator. They have a name bank for mountain ranges, monsters. cities and even tribes of elves. I don't use the names I find on the site as-is, rather I do a sort of onomatological surgery, combining a syllable or two from different names until it feels right. Basically, I'm the idiot sitting in the coffee shop with my headphones on, repeating a bizarre name over and over until I find just the right sound. Look for me in a Starbucks post-Covid, 2021!
Creating and developing memorable characters is one of the beautiful things about being a writer. It is an honor to bring these amazing people to life. But there's a fine line between a unique, memorable name and a unique cumbersome mouthful. Mariposa Exeldorf Grunnepas may be a gun-toting, cyborg nun from Pluto, but M.E.G. is a bad-ass, Plutonian warrior with a conscience. We all want to read about her!
Art by SKenson