Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's in a name?

Selecting a name for a character in a story can be one of the most challenging things; something I've touched on before. Sometimes I call them one thing and halfway through the story, flip it to try out something else. It's important for me to come across a name that fits their personality, but also may have some meaning behind it. I do as much research as I can and have a few sites bookmarked, not to mention I have perused the census lists for different centuries.

There's no magic in the process. Sometimes a name just clicks, while other times you continue to test out new names during the story to see what fits. The one thing I try not to do is come up with obscure made-up names. I may select uncommon names, but you won't see anyone going by Zhishvulraut in my books. First, no one will know how to pronounce it. Secondly, weird names do not stick in people's heads. At least, they don't stick in mine. Not unless they're short, and even then, you risk your readers pronouncing it incorrectly from your version.

Here's a few tidbits about the character names in the Mageri Series.

ZOE WINTER MERRICK:  Zoe means life. Winter represents the end, and Merrick has a number of meanings, including: power & fame. The name was only to be temporary, so I decided to have fun creating a name that had a little meaning behind it.

SILVER: It was about an impulsive moment where Samil takes the last bit of who she is away from her and gives her a new name, based on a single observation of her eyes. I didn't give much thought to finding a cool kickass Urban Fantasy name. This was supposed to be about an innocent human who lost every scrap of her identity and previous life. There is no special meaning behind her name which only adds insult to injury. But she's been told to own her name and make it hers. I think she's doing a good job.

ADAM RAZOR - Adam means man. Ain't he, though? Adam feels like a solid name for a guy, and the last name I didn't select for any special meaning. I liked the idea of something tough, unique, and that his military buddies could call him.

JUSTUS DE GRADI: (Almost called Dominic or Nigel). Lots of research involved, and his name was the one above all that I toiled with the MOST. His name had to mean something as well as fit within his age. Also had to come up with an Italian last name, but was careful at selecting names that existed in specific time periods. I actually wrote down his qualities, and that helped me come up with his first name. Latin origin, name means "Just".

LOGAN CROSS - Logan was always Logan. It just fit his character. Cross was a bit more difficult. It had to be one-syllable and also a name that had an alternate meaning, or represented something. (ie: Black, Wood, etc). Don't ask me why; I get stuff like this in my head and the search begins. Logan's brothers were actually more difficult, because based on the Chitah tradition, they all had to start with an L. The eldest brother was immediate, because Leo means lion and that's a strong name. The eldest brother usually holds the most power among siblings in regards to strength and position within their culture.

SIMON HUNT: Also required research to ensure the name existed during his birth, and the surname just a bit prior. A Mage takes on the surname of their Creator, so it doesn't have to originate from their nationality. It wasn't about giving him a masculine, cool-guy first name, because it was more important to look at the names popular during that time period. And OMG there were a LOT of Charles, John's, etc that were so plain. I think in his own right, Simon has earned his name and made it sexy.

SUNSHINE/SUNNY - Chosen for her bright personality and always being a ray of hope in Silver's life. Yes, I chose it for that reason.

KNOX - What readers may not know is that Knox is his surname. Often in the military, men are referred to by rank or last name basis. I've even seen this among sports teams - I guess it's a guy thing. Will we ever find out what is first name is? Who knows. There's no special meaning surrounding his name; I just thought that it sounded perfect for his personality. His name had to have one-syllable.

NERO - Nero, ancient Roman emperor. Fabled to have "fiddled" while Rome burned.

SAMIL - Wanted an exotic, uncommon name. This is Arabic in origin.

FINNEGAN - I actually like this name. My sister-in-law's sister named her little boy Finn and it's just a great name that feels innocent and youthful.

NOVIS - I love this name as well. Novis is old, and I wanted to pick a name that had a little mystery behind it, one that you wouldn't easily place the origin or date on. It's an existing surname, but not a common one. However, this is his first name, so it's something I could imagine an ancient being called. It may not necessarily be his true name, either. That's what's so intriguing about a Mage- their Creator's retain the right to give them a new name if they desire to.

MAX: The cat. My best friend's cat is named Max. Nuff said. I don't dwell on pet names. :-)

Some names I choose for their meaning, and maybe you can look them up to see if they fit the characters.

But sometimes the characters just name themselves.

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