Friday, October 2, 2009

The Name Game

Half the fun of writing, if not all for me, is creating characters. I love that rush that comes when a character becomes more than just a mess of hair color, eyes and body structure. Giving them depth is like creating a symphony. Each has a unique timbre, tone, melody and harmony (Forgive the musical terms, but that's how I view the world) that mystifies, demands, lures, uplifts, conjures, elates and so on. Naming a character is like the cadence (the chords at the ends of musical phrases). Do you want it to sound finished, deep, thoughtful, whimsical? As different chord structures can evoke varying emotions, so too can names.

Hypothetically now. You're walking through the fantasy section of the bookstore and the cover of one of the books jumps out at you. You pick it up and start scanning and then immediately put it back on the shelf. Why? Because you can't pronounce the names of the characters. Oh I get the whole idea that an author wants to create a unique language for his unique world, but let's be realistic. If you have to stumble over every name written throughout the book, most people won't take the time to read it. Since I mainly write fantasy novels (I know... All 'almost, not quite two' of them. Haha), I'm going to give away my number one tip for creating names. Ready for my secret? It's earth-shatteringly simple. Take your favorite popular name and just change one letter or syllable. Really, that's it. I know. Brilliant right? So brilliant that I'm sure there's been a million other posts written on this. I just haven't seen one yet. Anyway, before you start thinking I'm an egomaniac (I swear I'm not!), let me give an example. Let's talk about Labyrinth. Remember that great movie starring David Bowie? (Who could forget!) His character's name was Jareth. Jared, Jareth. Simple as that. Now I'm not saying that's how they came up with the name. It was just a handy example.

Another simple tip when writing is to pick up a character naming book (or look online where it's free) and browse meanings and origins for what best fits your story, but remember to stick with names that aren't convoluted or ten syllables long... My two cents on fantasy names. May your musical masterpieces all have brilliant cadences. And on that cheesy note (no pun intended), I'll get back to writing my own.


  1. That's a good idea. I've also simply changed the spellings of common names to make them look different, like Sherrin (Sharon). I love coming up with character names!

  2. "Mathan"

    How do you like that one? He's the MC from a book a long ways back.

  3. Good idea, Angie! I think that would work in any genre, too! :)

    Big Plain V, I like it! Simple and strong. :)

  4. Amen! The simpler, the better. I love playing with names and seeing what I can come up with.

  5. Me too, Danyelle! Why is it so much fun? I'm such a nerd. lol!


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