And Your Name Is… ?

I’ve finally completed the first round of revisions on Balfor’s Salvation and the manuscript is off to my beta readers, which leaves me some free time, YAY! Of course, I’ll have to get back to work on the sequel, tentatively titled Jessabelle’s Beast, but for the moment I’m just taking a deep breath of relaxation, ahhhhh….

I thought I’d use this writing break constructively (rather than letting Elder Scrolls Online consume my life 😉 ) and write a blog since it’s been a while… as WordPress keeps reminding me, every time I log in. Sheesh.

This blog is about names, as the title might suggest. 😉

name tags

I’ve been thinking about names a lot lately, in particular because of the name of the main heroine in Balfor’s Salvation. Stacia was never meant to be more than a side character. Initially, I had her married off at the end of Lilith’s Fall. Her story was done, so her name didn’t have any particular meaning or significance. Too bad she had plans of her own. This left me with a dilemma. Should I change her name, even though I’d thought of her as Stacia so much that she’d become “Stacia?” Should I choose a more meaningful name than one I pulled out of the air in the midst of writing the rough draft because I liked the way it sounded? Ultimately, I decided against making the change and left her name as it was, though I could have probably found a hundred different names that better suited the type of character I wanted her to be, not to mention the general theme of the series.

The thing is: I’m terrible at picking names. I agonize over choosing a name for my pets, my video game avatars, and most importantly, my main characters. Side characters often get little attention in the name department. I pick something out that doesn’t sound too crazy, contrived, or anachronistic and throw it into the story as a place holder until revisions. If it doesn’t stick out too much, I leave it in. That’s how characters like Rodrick (The Light of the Dragon), Stacia (Lilith’s Fall), and Derek (The Princess’s Dragon) ended up with their names. At the time that I made up their characters, none of them were going to have stories of their own, and yet all of them eventually made their way to starring in sequels.

Why does it matter what I choose to name my characters? Maybe to some, a name is just a label. Something to call you to get your attention, but to me, names have a certain power. They evoke an image of a person completely independent of that actual character. A name can say a great deal about a character before I describe them. I can then proceed to make that character fit the image the name evokes, or be the exact opposite of what the reader expects based on the name. In both cases, I’m playing off of the power of that name. Don’t believe me? Then consider this example: A dragon named Bob. Nothing wrong with the name Bob. It’s a great name and lots of folks have it. But it doesn’t exactly evoke the image of a fire-breathing dragon. However, IF I named my dragon Bob, it would be so unexpected that it would perhaps catch the reader off-guard, and maybe make Bob the fire-breathing dragon much more interesting. (Because fire-breathing dragons aren’t interesting on their own, right. 😉 )

dragon drawing

Beware of Bob!

A well-chosen name can also help in establishing the setting and world-building. If you travel around the world you will encounter many different names that elicit images of exotic places and cultures. Perhaps to the people from those cultures, the names sound as commonplace as Susan does to me. 😉 Names are tied to language, and often have meanings beyond a simple moniker. Over time, that meaning may be lost, but the beauty of that unusual name still evokes images of the culture it came from.

I knew what I would name my child seven years before I welcomed her into this world. Unlike my side characters, her name had to mean something. I wanted it to represent the person she would hopefully become. Of course, she hates it and wishes she had a different name. 😀 That’s okay; it took me a long time to appreciate my name too. 😉 In the end, we are—of course—much more than our names, but we can’t deny that they do have some influence on how others perceive us. A rose by any other name may still smell as sweet, but how many people would bend down to sniff a stinkblossom or rancidflower or rotpetal?

What’s your opinion on names? Do you think they’re important, or are they nothing more than sounds to get our attention? Do the names of characters in books help you imagine what kind of person they are?

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