Character of the Week: Russian Names

This one lead to some back and forth with the writer.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 16
Born in Eastern Europe, probably in the western half of Russia. Has a single mother who worked as a secretary before the war. She is now out of work and dedicates her time to doing odd jobs in order to care for the MC and siblings.
Her older brother is named Petr, her younger sister is named Nadia. Her love interest is named Lena. The main protagonist goes by Malachai. She’ll run into characters that go by names from all over the place, but largely Eastern European—Karl, Jana, Dimitri, Petra—and some more typically Western names as well—Kyle, Brian, Max. She will go by Grigory at some point in an effort to disguise her identity, and she will interact at length with a Katherine and a Vanya.
She was raised in the military and trained to be a soldier from a young age. She ran away before her eleventh birthday and spent five years working on a farm. She will eventually return to the military in the hopes of finding Lena. She’s more of a leader than she thinks she is, very hot-headed, but she does have a lot of respect for authority.
YA Sci-Fi

By the time I named this character I was becoming more aware of the names of the other characters, since I was more aware of how confusing it could be to readers when there were multiple characters with the same first initial or with similar sounding names.

As I searched for names for this character, I felt limited in my choices for several reasons.

My Reply to the Writer

Having a character named Lena (a common ending in Russian names) and three names beginning with K limited my choices (and cut my two favorite names).

  • Valeriya
  • Milana
  • Anya
  • Sacha
  • Zoya

The writer replied to me asking what the other names I liked were.

My Second Reply to the Writer

If you didn’t have Lena I would have suggested Galina. Russian girls’ names are exotic and feminine, making many of them sound “sexy” and less than “strong”, but I think Galina sounds feminine and strong.

If you didn’t already have three names beginning with Ks I would have suggested Katyenka. The beginning, “Kat”, makes me think of something soft with a ferocious side waiting to strike; the “yen” is less than pretty, indicating a girl who can get dirty; and the “ka” is a strong yet feminine ending.

The writer replied a second time: Katyenka is a brilliant name for a character. I think I’ll change my names around a bit so that I can rename Lena that. It’s an absolutely gorgeous name and certainly better fits her personality. Serious kudos to you! You seem to be quite a genius [at naming characters].

I still don’t know what name the writer chose for this character, but I was glad that the writer liked the name I liked so well. I would now, however, tell the writer not to nickname the character Kat since I’ve seen that used for so many characters lately!

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