Character of the Week: South England Names

I can guess why this writer never replied.

The Writer Describes the Character

Thanks for doing this, it could be useful 🙂

Female, born around 1982
Born in a posh area in Southern England. Parents were rich and posh; so far they’re called Andrew and Harriet.
Siblings names: Sapphire, Henry.
Love interest: Harry (clear distinction from other’s name)
Friends: Madeline and Brooklyn, fun, hyperactive young girls around 17/18
She is shy, humble, gentle and caring.
Romance

I usually delete the “pre-Thanks” that people put into their requests, for a variety of reasons, but between this being Thanksgiving week and that tacked on “it could be useful” I thought you should see it this week. While that tack could be sarcastic, meaning that the writer was certain it would be useful, it could also be an indication that the writer didn’t care for any opinions beyond his or her own.

I think the second is even more likely given the writer stating that Harry is a “clear distinction from other’s name”. Even if the characters are clearly distinct, the names are NOT. In fact Harry is both a nickname for Henry and for Harriet, a fact that any Brit or Britophile would be aware of given that Prince Harry is truly named Prince Henry.

I suggested some beautiful names used in England for this character, but only after giving my real opinion.

My Reply to the Writer

Harriet, Henry and Harry are way too close in sound and style for any story to handle. You have to kill two of those names. I’m going to suggest (practically beg) you to change Harriet, because it is so old fashioned that it would be more appropriate for the grandmother than for the mother. I offer Fiona or Pauline as replacements. Then change either the boyfriend’s name or the brother’s name, because you don’t want readers mixing them up.

  • Imogen
  • Gemma
  • Sian
  • Clover
  • Jemima

I stand by my advice that you NEVER want readers to confuse your main character’s brother with her love interest or vice versa. Even if one name wasn’t the well-known and oft used nickname of the other, a fast reader is likely to read the two names as the same.

Please readers, this week especially be thankful for the advice you receive from others because they can often see what you don’t see.

Name Theory: Vamping for Names

Vampires aren’t as big as they used to be.

For a while werewolves were making a run for the money, but that went to the dogs. Then came zombies, and they are still rambling along. Angels were big for about a moment, but then they flew away. Aliens were tried, but never really landed. Fairies are still trying to take off.

Still vampires creep around in the darkness. They are not favorites of agents and publishers, but they still hold some of the market. And they are very much alive and well in self-publishing.

Readers are still enthralled with paranormal. Readers of romance especially have always been looking for a bit of fantasy mixed with their real-life aspirations, so these larger than life paranormal characters still attract those readers. And, you must remember, romance readers can be voracious.

Some may believe paranormal is trite, but as long as vampires sell I will name them. Send me your blood-drinkers, your demons, and fiends. They are much more exciting to name than every Tom, Dick, or Harry.

Character of the Week: Enlightenment Vampire Names

Short and to the point.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, born in the mid-1700s England
Parents are from either Holland or England.
Names of other characters are: Francis, Noelle, and Victor.
Professional stalker, vampire, likes mind games.
Horror

Not a ton to go on here, but the birth era of the character is an inspiration. I found some interesting choices for this mind game playing-vampire. I looked for less popular yet not rare, cool-sounding choices that give a sense of age.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Piers
  • Rowland
  • Mathias
  • Cuthbert
  • Valentine

The writer replied: After much deliberation, I have decided to use Valentine as the Character’s name.

The vampire Valentine. I like it.

Name Theory: It Matters What You Feel

It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what you feel.

Sometimes I have to repeat it to myself.

It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what you feel.

I say this to myself when a writer I know makes choices that I don’t agree with or understand.

Sometimes it’s easy for me to say, because I trust the writer or because there is much about the plot that I don’t know and can’t judge. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to say, because I think the writer is being blind to problems or ignoring readers (I know one writer who “doesn’t care” if her dialect writing is unreadable or if her descriptions make no sense).

Sometimes, I know it doesn’t matter to me but it matters to them.

Would I have chosen the names Jasmine, Winster, and Isabel? No, not at all. Does it matter to me? Not really, I can see them working. Does it matter to the writer? Yes; they are the writer’s babies.

It doesn’t matter that I think Princess Jasmine is too fraught with associations to be used as this character’s name, it matters that the writer feels this is the best name for the character. And, I don’t know, but the name could have meaning within the story, or the character could be called a nickname that will negate the association, or the character could be so different that readers won’t think about the Disney princess at all.

As a writer, you have to judge the criticism you get from others. Does it matter what they think, or does it matter what you feel? Sometimes, you have to give in (especially if multiple people say they can’t understand your description!), but most often you will have to go with your gut and trust in your choices.

Write the story you love. Edit the story as much as it needs, but no more. Keep true to your vision, and you will find readers who love it as much as you do.

Character of the Week: Princess J Names

This naming was a three for one.

The Writer Describes the Character

Princess J (name needs to start with a J) was a spoiled princess. Then she met this preacher and fell in love. And when she told her mother, the Queen, it sort of ticked her off. J was thrown in the dungeon.

Female, 18
Raised in the palace of Sordonia Kingdom in Medieval times. The King was a saint who adored his youngest daughter. The Queen was heartbroken after her husband’s death and basically handed over the responsibility of raising her children.
Siblings: Caleb, Vincent, William, Elliot, and Elena.
Love Interest: Trevor.

The name I’ve gone with is Jasmine, but everyone (including me) keeps thinking of Aladdin’s princess Jasmine.

I agree with this writer and her friends that Princess Jasmine is tainted by the Aladdin association. You never want readers to constantly be comparing your character to another one, especially if those comparisons turn out to not be favorable.

This was one of the earlier namings I did, and since I was limited by the beginning letter I was inspired to give more choices than the usual five (limits often inspire me).

My Reply to the Writer

I stayed with primarily British or British-sounding names to go with those you gave.

  • Princess Juniper: Nature name
  • Princess Jerrica: Real name of cartoon character Jem (very few people will remember this)
  • Princess Jamila: Like Camilla meets Gemma
  • Princess Josephina: Very formal, regal
  • Princess Jaclyn: Reminds me of Jackie Kennedy
  • Princess Jilliana: A frilliana name
  • Princess Jocelyn: Mature
  • Princess Juliana: A current sounding name

The writer replied:  Still working on the Kingdom name. Suggestions for that or the Queen’s name would be awesome, too. Did I mention thank you?

Later on, when I could barely keep up with requests, I sometimes had to ignore replies like this (especially given the lack of information for me to go on). Here I went in search for “British” kingdom names since the characters had more British sounding names. I chose mostly “new classic” names for the mother.

My Second Reply to the Writer

  • Kingdom of Breteyne: Middle English for Britannia
  • Kingdom of Albion: Older name for Britain
  • Kingdom of Prittania: Ancient Greek version of Britannia
  • Kingdom of Visterianna
  • Kingdom of Wyntser
  • Queen Theadora
  • Queen Audrey
  • Queen Rosemarie
  • Queen Isabel
  • Queen Claire

The writer replied: I ended up sticking with Jasmine as my main character name after all. But, thanks to your suggestions, Wynster and Queen Isabel both have names.

This writer must have really loved Jasmine for her character, and I hope her characterization will help readers think past the association with that other character.

I’m also glad I was able to help naming the Kingdom and the Queen.

Name Theory: Name-Build Skill

Even through my protestation that I am not good a creating names, did you notice the name variation I stumbled upon in this week’s naming?

I didn’t notice it myself until I was writing the blog post.

Julious.

That’s not the name I meant to write. I meant to write Julius, and my twisted spelling happened to be a different pronunciation and thereby a variation on the name.

Accidentally.

On purpose it can be more difficult to create names that are easy to read, easily pronounceable, believable, consistent (with the other names used), and NOT already a real name somewhere.

This week’s writer had a bit of a gift for it.

Elaenine is pretty clearly a variation on Elaine, and a very pretty Fantasy variation it is.

Ennilfeth is probably a much less clear variation on Jennifer, but interesting nonetheless.

Mannurnon seems as though it is a cross between Mannur (a boy’s name of unknown meaning) and Manon (a girl’s name). It sounds male, and strong, and perfect for a Steampunk King.

As with many Fantasy names, these tend to be long and a bit complicated (still readable, though), as short and simple names sound less fantastical and tend to be more likely to already exist as names.

Creating names takes a bit of creativity, some style, and a lot of determination. You must use sounds from “real” names and put them together in a logical way that will sound believable to readers, but the name has to remain something hitherto unknown.

If you write Fantasy, if you world build, name creation is a skill that you ought to develop for yourself. No one else will be able to create just the right name for your world as you will. Certainly, the best I was able to do was recreate the variation Julious (one of my best name creations, I am sad to admit). I bet you could do better than that!

Character of the Week: Steampunk Prince Names

This writer was having namer’s block, and just needed a nudge of inspiration to get going again.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, late teens/early twenties
Born in a mountainous kingdom as royalty, but was raised on a tiny island far away, in a Steampunk world where magic is present but rare. It’d be just around the equivalent of the Industrial Revolution.
His parents rule fairly and are well liked by their subjects, but there’s a lot of tension between their kingdom and the neighbouring one as their son has been missing, presumed kidnapped, for many years.
Mum and Dad are Mannurnon and Elaenine respectively. His love interest is Ennilfeth. His best friends are Robin, Nemo, and Sabenna.
Loves to laugh, enjoys nothing more than skipping work and causing mischief but is always caught because he can’t keep a straight face to save his life. Stupidly courageous, quick to make friends and will defend them to the death. Betrayal and breaking promises makes him angry, especially when it’s serious. He was apprenticed to be a carpenter and was pretty good at it, but he can’t sit still long enough.
Fantasy
(Whatever help you can provide will be awesome. Thank you!)

This writer created names for the more important characters, but used somewhat rare names for others. By the time I took on this naming I knew I wasn’t strong at creating names, and that it could take a lot of time only for me to discover the names I “created” were real names in other languages.

I chose to search through Victorian names for interesting choices for this character.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Leander
  • Hosteen
  • Chalmers
  • Layton
  • Julious

The writer replied: Personally, I would have leaned towards Leander but I already have a character within the same story called Terpander, which is just too similar I feel. That said, I think your suggestions really helped get rid of the mental block I was having. I really like the idea of nicknaming him Lee, and his name starting with the ‘lay’ sound, even if I won’t use Layton because I keep thinking about a certain game character instead of my own. I’ll have to see what I can come up with, but thank you so much for your suggestions, they helped a lot.

I often edit out the “thanks for the help” messages that writers tacked on to their requests, since they are unnecessary for blog purposes (although, very nice). For this naming, I think the writer’s message was indicative.

Here the writer did not choose one of the names I suggested, though at least two of them were this writer’s style. Instead this writer chose to be inspired by my suggestions, and to let them help him get out of a naming block.

Name Theory: The Name of the Day is NaNoWriMo

The name of the day is NaNoWriMo.

This November I will be participating in my 4th NaNoWriMo. For those of you who are uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, an online challenge to write 50,000 words towards a new novel (rather than continuing a project).

Many people take NaNoWriMo as a word challenge, and write outlandish stories in their quest to conquer their daily/weekly/monthly word-count goal. Others take it as a first draft challenge, and try to write to plot and/or character. I’m in the later camp.

While I’m certainly not a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of her pants), I’m not entirely a plotter either. I know a few characters (all well-named), and I know some planned events, but the story mostly takes shape in the writing.

Really, NaNoWriMo is anything you make it. Rebellion is afoot amongst writers who chose to write memoir, finish a previously begun novel, write a series of short stories, or pound out that How To book they have a brilliant idea for.

The challenge is to write, to commit to your writing, to get out the story of your heart. I dare you to take the challenge yourself. Starting at midnight tomorrow with the very beginning of November, write your heart out. Put your words into the world and onto the page. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Character of the Week: Story Girl Names

In honor of the beginning of NaNoWriMo later this week, I’ve chosen this story-telling character.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 16
Born and raised in the medieval-ish fantasy capital city of Llin (Fantasy realm with no set time frame at the moment). She is part of a noble family.
Her parents are conservative and are politicians.
Family names: Mother: Imogen; Father: unnamed; Little sister: Maela; Love interest: Kaden
Other characters she interacts with: Rea Kelendor, Aeronwy Kelendor, Astrid, Gale, Claudia.
Career: Student (at that time) Characteristics: She is a very motherly and protective girl, extremely so to her little sister. She would tell stories to her sister, inadvertently leading her sister to running away from home to see the world. She is often in her own world and likes storms.
Genre: Fantasy

For this Fantasy girl, I focused on finding names that I felt went with those the writer had already chosen. I liked this writer’s names, I liked the sound of them and how they were mostly lesser used names that had a romantic yet not frilly feel to them. I wanted to honor that style of names while offering my suggestions for this motherly older sister.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Talitha
  • Freya
  • Taryn
  • Fern
  • Carys

The writer didn’t reply to me, so I don’t know what name she chose for this story-telling girl. I do hope the perfect name was found, and the perfect story told.

Name Theory: Names as Cultural Short-Hand

Some names seem sexy, or classy, or pert. Some names have a definite image attached to them, either by sound or by association.

But associations can be tarnished by experience.

Character namer:  Know thyself!

If you think Horace is the sexiest name in the world, because the one Horace you know is sexy, you are name biased.

If you think Tara is an exotic name for a sultry character, you may have a name prejudice that readers will not share.

If you think Aiden is a cool and interesting name that no one has heard about, you might have missed out on some cultural knowledge.

Maybe no one else would think Miryam is a cool/sexy/alternative name, as I do. Maybe it would be more generally considered nerdy/clunky/foreign by the general populace. Maybe I get it wrong, sometimes.

But that’s why I give options to writers; that’s why I give a list of choices. I know I have biases, and no matter how hard I try to think neutrally about names, I know sometimes my personal opinions will confuse my judgment.

Consider your readers, and their general associations of names. Don’t chose names only based on your experience of them, but on how they will most often be perceived by others. Remember that character names are a kind of linguistic short-hand that we use with our readers, and we need to make sure that our meaning is understood.