What's in a Name?

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

**As a side note, I now have 52 followers! Yay! Thank you so much for all your comments and for following. I'm glad to know my insanity has not scared that many people away! I don't have anything to give away to celebrate, but I will definately have something when there are 100!**

Giving your characters the perfect name can be a daunting task. I bought a baby name book with over 100,000 names in it! It is very handy. It comes with the meaning and origin of the name which helps me to select common themes (like all siblings have Greek names perhaps) or certain meanings to fit the character's personality. I highly recommend getting one as the phone book merely has names, not meanings and origins!

How do you decide what to name your characters? A few instances, my characters showed up and told me what their names were, but most of the time I have to figure it out myself.

For the faeries and elves in "The Faery's Tale" I literally put some letters together to create their names. It was pretty interesting to do it that way. I wanted something completely not-human so I made them up myself. It was hard to do and I don't really recommend it unless you have a lot of paitence to try out a ton of different letter combinations til you find the right one.

Mostly, I try to find names that match (or for humor, don't match) the character's personality. For example, I recently named a character "Safiya". It's Arabic and means "pure, serene; best friend" I chose it for the "pure" part. The actual character is far from pure, so it is a bit funny. Especially when I think of it as her parents named her to represent something but she didn't live up to it.

No, I don't always pick names to match personalitites, but it is fun to do sometimes. Other times I go with names I like or when scrolling through the baby name book, one of them pops out at me.

Names that Don't Fit.

I have had this happen once. When I first started writing "The Faery's Tale" the character all had Victorian era names. But it just didn't fit. It took me a long time to fix them to where they are now.

How did I know they didn't fit? Well my characters told me for one and for two, I had a review tell me that they couldn't really see the characters as faeries. The names were too "common" as they said. I had to agree. So I went about the painful process of making them up to truly be original.

If you have a reviewer or critique buddy tell you they think a name doesn't fit, find out why. They may have some insight that you can't see being so close to the character. They might even be able to suggest the perfect replacement.

Cliche Names.

Okay, I hate to say it. But I am tired of demons or evil guys with the name of "Damien" or some variation of it. I'm to the point where I would love to see a demon named "Joe". Seriously. I'm also not a fan of "Christopher" for protector types, or "Chastity" for the pure girl, etc.

But didn't you just say to match personalities to names?

There is a line that I think should not be crossed. This is where research and reading a lot can really help writers. To avoid the cliches one needs to know what they are. Even names need to be unique and not overused.

It is hard to say where the line is with this as there are so many characters out there that need names! It mostly comes down to how the writer feels about it. Obviously, for me, I would never name a demon or a villain Damien. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily bad for other writers to use it. It does fit and readers will immediately pick up on the resonnance of that name.

In the end, no matter what, it really is up to the writer and the character to decide on their name. But there are resources out there for you. Pick up a baby name book and I know there are generators online. Fantasy and Sci-fi names can be odd and literally out of this world and there are even generators to help you make up those odd sounding names.

It just takes a bit of research and a little patience but in the end, it's well worth it to have the perfect name for your character.

16 Responses to "What's in a Name?"

Anonymous Says :
April 8, 2010 at 3:38 AM

I bought a 100,000 baby name book, too! And I LOVE picking names! Its definitely one of my favorite parts of writing. This was a great topic!

Dawn Embers Says :
April 8, 2010 at 4:17 AM

I've used baby naming web sites in the past and sometimes I'll go to seventh sanctum for a quick, general character name. For me, it depends on the book. Some of the names just come to me, like Noah, Sebastian and Dominic. I still like his name. For Ephram, I actually had a poll on WDC as to what name would be good and it's actually still going though the name chose is in second place. Silver Delacroix, on the other hand, came from a name generator.

For my angels and demons, I've done research. I have looked up actual demon and angel names to use within the book.

There are times when I'm unsure about a name and some of them might change in rewrites. Isaac is one I'm a bit on the fence right now. We'll see how the rewrite goes.

Great blog post and congrats on making it to 50+ followers.

sarahjayne smythe Says :
April 8, 2010 at 5:41 AM

Great post and congrats on your followers. :) I have multiple baby name books and I slog through the online baby name sites. I am beyond ridiculous in search of the perfect name. But I do love finding out about origins and meaning because I really want the names I pick to mean something.

Tara Says :
April 8, 2010 at 9:52 AM This comment has been removed by the author.
Tara Says :
April 8, 2010 at 9:53 AM

My character names sort of just appear as I'm writing them in. I've struggled with one in a new WiP I'm working on, but he's a minor characther, so for now he's just [P] for partner.

I tend to gravitate toward C/K names for women and J names for boys. No idea why. I changed 2 names in my current WiP because I had 6 K characters.

Congrats on 50+!

Ann Elle Altman Says :
April 8, 2010 at 10:28 AM

I hate coming up with names. Whenever I need a name, I ask my husband to come up with one. I would say 90% of the names comes from him. My secret is out.


KarenG Says :
April 8, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Congratulations on getting over 50 followers! And thanks for following my blog :) Naming characters is huge. Yes, so tired of the Damien tripe, that's been done to death. I think it's something an author has got to take their time with. And not be afraid to change the characters names a dozen different times if necessary to get the right one.

Charity Bradford Says :
April 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Names are so important! I played around with writing my current WIP for years and couldn't make it work. I finally changed the MC's name and made her 10 years older and *zing* it worked. I finally knew who she was and what she was capable of.

You can also look names up online. I did that when I was looking for baby names. :)

Zoe C. Courtman Says :
April 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM

LOVE a demon named Joe! Great post :)

Raquel Byrnes Says :
April 8, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Mentioned your upcoming Gestures blog in my post...hope it all goes well. I'm excited. http://nitewriter6.blogspot.com/

Harley D. Palmer Says :
April 8, 2010 at 8:13 PM

Lilah - I love it too!

Dawn - I use that site also when I really need something unique, but I generally use it for locations instead of characters.

Sarah - Me too. I spent a few hours picking out that Safiya named I mentioned.

Tara - That's amazing that you can continue without a name. I can't! The story totally stops for me if I can't come up with a name!

Ann - That's awesome! My husband doesn't help much - he's too sarcastic and gives me names like "Bubba" for an elf lord!

Karen - You're welcome and I'm glad someone feels the same as I do about that name!

Charity - Yes, age can make a different too. I made a note to blog about that later! Thanks for the inspiration!

Zoe - Thanks for stoppping by!

Raquel - Thanks so much for the mention! I really appreciate that!

Did I miss anyone!?!? LOL I try to respond to all your comments guys, I just got a little behind today!

Angelica Weatherby Says :
April 9, 2010 at 12:18 AM

Same with Dawn. Hmm maybe I'll try going for that. I definitely love your posts and will continue to read even if I have unwritten essays! Keep up the great work!

Roland D. Yeomans Says :
April 9, 2010 at 1:15 AM

Names are hard. And you're right - Victorian names for faes who've lived longer than most modern countries is silly.

I picked Samuel for my protagonist's name for three reasons : In Hebrew it means "Heard of God." And as man driven to defend the helpless, he is often the answer to prayer from them. The second reason is ironic : the tragedy he has seen others endure has made him agnostic. He is literally an answer to prayer that does not believe in the One to whom they are directed. And third, his lifelong enemy is a being who claims to be Lucifer. I thought it to be the height of irony to have an agnostic be pitted against a being believing himself to be Lucifer.

Come check out my blog : WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS : www.rolandyeomans.blogspot.com.

I love your profile picture. Roland

Harley D. Palmer Says :
April 9, 2010 at 7:20 AM

Angelica - No! You should write your essasys first then as a reward read my blog! LOL

Roland - Thanks for stopping by! I love your reasons for choosing the name Samuel - it's great to see you had more than one reason!

Dawn Embers Says :
April 10, 2010 at 5:21 AM

I know this topic is a bit old now, with other posts coming but something came to mind.

It's interesting what names can mean and how a small change makes a big difference.

Samuel may mean "Heard of God" but Samael is a demon angel of death.

I use Samael "Sam" for a minor demon character in the beginning of my book. He helps Lucas with his transition through death and into demonhood (yeah, I made that word up probably, lol).

Name meanings can be very interesting and useful.

Harley D. Palmer Says :
April 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM

That is very true Dawn! It is interesting how slight differences can change the entire meaning.

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