Name Theory: Not Quite Matchy-Matchy, Just Matchy

When you are naming a cast of characters you need to take into account the overall naming style of the group. I’m not saying that the names need to match, or that they necessarily need to come from the same culture (unless your characters are all from the same culture); I just mean that the names should fit well together. This is especially important in Sci-fi and Fantasy, where the author is creating the world (or worlds) in which their characters live.

In this week’s example I owned up to my failing to take this into account with one naming in particular. I didn’t notice that the two names the writer had already chosen could have derived from the same culture (Irish), and so I chose names that had a more British medieval bent. I loved the names I chose for the demon vampire character, but those names didn’t go with the other names the writer was using.

I didn’t do enough research and I didn’t follow my own rule: The names should help in world building by working together under a consistent naming style.

Learn from my mistake.

When you name your characters, take into account the time and place in which they live, and think of some rules that will help you create a consistent naming style.

Maybe your characters are from a wealthy area, and there are several juniors and the thirds in their group of friends; these characters could also go by interesting nicknames like Deuce and Trey.

Maybe your characters are from a world where the greatest hope parents have is that their children will be chosen to perform in “the games”; people there may be given wish-fulfillment names like Javelin and Runner.

Or maybe your characters are from an insulated religious group, and they primarily use word-names like Pestilence and Quivering to keep their population obedient.

Even simple naming rules, like deciding that your Western will be inhabited by people with fiercely independent names like Wesson and Libby, will give your writing world a sense of consistency and believability.

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