Monday, June 26, 2017

to name something is to own it...

~ Thomas L. Friedman

Arielle's splendid post on names--both of them, actually--made me think of names, and how I go about naming characters, and when I said...you just made me want to write a character naming post...she replied, Please DO

So, here I am, doing. XD 

I am a pantser, and in my younger years, not a very thoughtful one. So, ignoring some of my earlier books, I'm going to focus on a few of my more recent stories, and how I got the names I did. Mostly for fun, though if you need a look into the mind of a very distracted writer, you might learn something... XD

I'll be pulling from the following stories:

My Time Travel series {sci-fi/dystopian fantasy/something like that...}
Contract to Time Travel, Rebel Queen/Queen of Time, This Present Time


Rule the Whirlwind {somewhere between alternative history and historical fantasy, I haven't decided; kinda on hiatus, though probably my go-to if I pause in Rebel Queen}


Fairy Tale/Myth/Etc Retellings
{Phantom of the Opera, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, and Medusa, remember. Sci-fi on semi-hiatus, but still brainstorming XD}

Haunted {modern YA; currently on hiatus}



I literally titled the document Turquoise Trauma
Haunted is still in its infancy, with many characters requiring names, and that alone is stalling me. Maybe you can take your child home from the hospital with Baby Boy on the birth certificate, but I get stuck in the doorway and panic until my child is named. I change very few names, and the changes are always semi-traumatic, with character personality morphing with the name change--hence, I don't want to go too far with characters unless their name seems right. Of those who have been named...

Madison Comstock got her name because her mother called her Maddie, and I needed a modern middle-class name for a girl fighting cancer with a mother who'd married a math professor.

Emerson St. George got her name because I wanted the MC, her current foster child, to call her dragon-slayer. She will fight for what she loves, and St. George fits her like nothing else. Somehow, with that, Em simply was her first name. It might be a bit odd, being named after her father in place of the son they thought they were getting, but she doesn't mind it. 

Destiny, Xavier, Lexi, Elisha, and Miss Lear are all going to fit in somehow...for a ridiculously full story about foster care and WWII vets and drug abuse and abortion and families and expectations and love and belonging. 


My retellings are also in that tenuous place of sorting...Philippa Thakur-Lee is Prince Phillip - the University on the Moon has students from all over the world, and his name reflects his heritage as the child of the Bengali ambassador and a Korean diplomat. His first name, of course, is tribute to Prince Phillip, but also to his Bengali parental factor and the fact that Philippa being, in fact, a masculine name made me laugh. {We'll see if he appreciates it.} 

His best friend is Kieren McKay--his heritage isn't terribly hard to guess, and he just kind of showed up and announced his name. {Characters often do that in my books.}

CenSci Labs sprang into being with similar ease, but their scientific and business rival, Fashioning all Relevant Innovative Enterprises Incorporated, or FaRIE Inc, took a bit more planning. {We'll see if I let them keep that...} 

Sun Ren-Qing, my POTO Raoul, is very definitely Chinese, but his choice to change his name to Rakshan Sun reflects his manipulative decision to honor his adoptive father's Indian heritage. Madam Galiaskarov is my Russian ex-nun version of Madame Giry--I wanted to keep the G and the phrasing, but she did not want to be French. {She is a little bit opinionated.}

Meanwhile, my gender-swapped Little Mermaid is currently going by Aridai Seung-ki Macnamara. The first is a nod to the Disney Mermaid and a reflection of the futuristic setting of the story, the second is a nod to his Korean birth parents, and his last name comes from his Irish adoptive parents and weirdly Irish personality. {Unlike the others, he is not on the Moon because of his brilliance, but because his grandfather sent him there on his first police assignment to discourage his interest in space travel.}

{Clearly the moon is thick with Irish and Koreans, but don't worry, other countries will definitely have their mark on the stories. XD}

Rule the Whirlwind is...different...as alternative history should be. XD Chaos, as an abandoned Gypsy child, tells people she is nameless, but when everyone calls her Chaos, technicalities are a little false, aren't they? Her sister-self, Maranatha Sidori, or Mara, went through a few name changes, including Marionette, before firmly settling on her current name, without much regard for anything other than her personality and how the name fit the story.

Jericho Chand, my darling dark wolf-child {as in character/personality, not fantasy kind, though that is of course an option...XD} was one of those who rather named himself...and he also simply mentioned his sisters, Selah and Amelia.

The Imp had his nickname long before anything else showed up, but when he was ready to enter the story, Rey Gabriele fit my bitter golden puppet-master like nothing else. There is very little angelic or sunlike about my crippled orphan, but that itself fits his cold sarcasm to perfection.

Emmett Kinring Kalliden comes from a long history of wanting a character named Kinring, Kalliden standing out to me during medical school, and my love for the name Emmett. Which also happens to fit with E and his father's penchant for naming each of his six boys something beginning with E--including Edmund Ethan, Ellis, Erastus, and Everard.

By now I have a growing list of names that feel like they "fit" the story, which I will continue to draw from as I write. Many are Biblical, which manages to fit the story's vaguely English roots without being too foreign. {Okay, so Shabbethai and Enrimmon might be pushing it, but they might end up as towns or last names. XD}


My Time Travel series also has a name-list going...but the names of the main characters were a little different. Ellian Roya I literally made up on the spot for a blog contest, and it somehow snowballed from there. I do not remember how Echo Fire and her twin Phoenix ended up with their names (other than that I liked them), but Tylar is Mirriam's fault {this is probably the first she's heard of it XD}, and Rui just picked his name off a name list. He's never told me why, and asking doesn't much help. {His name was originally Anton Beck, of all things and his personality changed just a bit when his name did. No wonder he talks more in the first chapter than in most of the book to follow...Also, I completely forgot that many characters, including Rui, changed names shortly after I started this particular book. I found the evidence in an old email after I started writing this post, and was properly shocked.}

The chimeras were a little more work. I had chosen Korean models for the characters and wanted to use Korean names for at least some of them, so I basically looked up Korean names and listed combinations and meanings that I liked and then ran through them repeatedly until they each picked one. Hae means grace and Jin means jewel of truth...and since I already had some idea of Hae-Jin's story arc, that was his name. {I didn't know about the thing that happens in the middle of the book...that came later.}

Kang-Dae basically means power and greatness, which he liked, and which I liked because it was possible for Ellian to mistake it for Ghandi while in the middle of being beat up by Kang-Dae and not paying much attention. XD  

Then Dante happened because I thought it was a cool name and I wanted to evoke Dante's Inferno and he glared at me and walked away with it. Hang Korean names, apparently. 

Petra is actually Dante's fault--he originally had a name that meant wise-energy, but the name was unwieldy and difficult to pronounce for most of my audience...the meaning fit him, but that name didn't, so he ended up following in Dante's footsteps for a non-Korean name. Also, he clearly did not care that Petra is occasionally a girl's name in today's world. {I remembered his name change and his alone, because it happened nearly at the end of the novel, unlike the others.}

Ja means attraction/magnetism and Il means superiority...it seemed to fit him as leader, but maybe I should have left the Ja off if I didn't want him taking over the story...yeah, so in retrospect I should have seen that coming. 

As the story-world began to build, I noticed a theme. Many of the characters had noun last names {Fire, Song, Day, Star, Sunn, Storm} and slightly different but not entirely unusual first names {Phoenix, Silver, Ara, Aksel, Thia}, with occasional odd names out, which fit my story of a islanded future, cut off from other countries, but with descendants of many countries and cultures remaining under Amon's dictatorship where only his rules apply. Some of the characters, like Echo Fire, I planned on being important characters and therefore gave a name that had intrigued me. Others, like Minato Star, I simply named for a side-character and then had to do a double-take as they moved forward with plans to invade my story.


Which gives you a pretty good overview of how my characters get their names. As in I dunno, but they all got names. XD {Except the MC of that Haunted story. He doesn't have a name yet. Which is why the story is on hiatus.}


How do the characters in your stories get their names? And have you ever forgotten you changed a character's name???? 


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