Monday, 25 February 2013

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

As well as polishing Water and redrafting Air, I am currently brainstorming ideas for a new project. I've got character descriptions, locations and plot, but I'm stalling slightly on names. The two main characters' names came to me instantly and have a very Ancient-Greek theme (despite the fact that it's more of a dystopian/sci-fi story, but anyway…) but I'm not which direction to take for the secondary characters.

For Elements of Power, Roxy's name was settled very early on; it just fitted her personality perfectly. Her surname, LeMarc, is an (on purpose!) misspelling of Lamarque, as a very subtle nod to one of my favourite stories: Les Miserables (this is also why Roxy's dad is a General…)

Jasmine, on the other hand, was called Lily throughout my planning stages and a couple of early draft chapters. As much as I love the name Lily, it didn't seem to fit Jazz right, so I eventually changed it.

Brae was actually taken from one of my favourite TV shows as a kid (The Tribe - incidentally, this series is probably why I'm obsessed with teen-focused worlds, where adults take a back-seat and it's the kids that are in control). I just changed the spelling to another variation I had seen. 

Cinaer was a remnant from another story I had begun and never gotten anywhere with - the name was just too good to lose. I believe I made it up entirely, although I could have sub-consciously picked it up from elsewhere! However the name was never fixed: Cin didn't even existed in my early drafts, although that will take a lot of explaining and is probably best left to its own blog post (check back next week if you're intrigued!)

For the secondary characters, I spent hours collecting names that I thought would work for each of the four Realms, which came mainly from baby-name website and forums. My favourite was unfortunately changed and is no longer quite a good, but still exists here . Some of the names I found on it were so crazy, yet seemed to fit perfectly into the world I was trying to create; there was an entire discussion board devoted to unique and unusual names. Nameberry is also awesome. 

I ended up with a Spreadsheet full of names, with Realms and genders ascribed to each.  Devon, Aurelia, Seraphina, Emmerich, Nolan, Euphrasia and Lorelei all came from doing this. It also meant that whenever I introduced a new character, I just had to check my list of names to find one that fitted. Occasionally, if I was creating a new major character, I would source a new name just for them (such as the two new male characters you'll meet in Water).

This time, it seems like I'm trying to do it the other way round: I have my characters, now I just need to name them in order for the story to progress. As a starting point, I think I'm going to end up spending a few evenings on Wiki, looking through mythological figures for names that fit.

What do you think about the names in Fire? Which are your favourite character names in general? I love the names in the HP series, because there's usually a deeper meaning behind them (I can't look up at the star Sirius without smiling). And if you're a writer, how do you come up with your characters' names? Post in the comments below - I'm looking forward to hearing from you. 

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