Character of the Week: ET Friend Names

This illustrates a problem with naming characters for other writers.

Female, 20s or 30s
The story is set in the late 21st century, somewhere in the Western world—an English speaking country.
Raised by a single mother with a low paying job who was not interested in politics. I really don’t know [her family member’s names]. They all die, anyway.
She interacts with extra-terrestrials.
She was a student, but ends up unemployed. Intelligent, inquisitive, impulsive.

I didn’t get firm answers to any of the questions I ask of writers in need of character names. I don’t know how old the character is (20-39 is a wide range, and I would choose different sounding names for a 20 year old vs. a 39 year old), or where she was raised, or anything specific about her family, or anything about the plot, or anything about her character arc.

The most I’ve got here is that the character is “intelligent, inquisitive, impulsive” (although that pretty much describes the protagonists of most Sci-fi stories), and that she interacts with aliens (also par for the Sci-fi course).

The most important thing that this writer failed to give me, though, is any of the names that are being used for any of the other characters. I could use that information to avoid names that sound similar or which begin with the same letter (and I do), but I mainly use the other names to get a sense of what kind of names the writer likes or is comfortable with (classic vs. trendy vs. rare) and how the writer is naming different types of characters. Here, for instance, it would help to know if the aliens use “Earth” names or if the humans have taken on alien names, or if the humans just use either typical or rarely used names.

Lacking most of the information I usually use for character naming, I made the choice that in this future the people would be using names that are currently use in the US but are rare now (although they could be popular then).

Not much to go on, but here you go.

  • Vesta
  • Ione
  • Avis
  • Lavinia
  • Delia

This writer never replied to me, so I do not know if any of these names hit the spot for this character. I hope so, but I’ll never know.

I’ll also never know why the writer didn’t give me much information, including other characters’ names. I assume in this instance that the writer just wasn’t far enough along in the plotting process, and possibly didn’t understand what I was asking for (I think I was clear, but sometimes people answer what they think you are asking rather than the specific question you did ask).

In other cases like this one, however, I believe that the writers may have been “holding out” on me by not telling me their character names to avoid me or others on the forum from stealing them. I’ll riff more on this topic on Wednesday.


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