Character of the Week: A Humorous Name with Derring-Do

My husband asked me to help him with a name. He enjoys drawing and needed a name for a “headline” in his latest.

He described the character thusly: “He’s an adventurer, the kind who might go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, mid-30s in 1890 or so.”

So I jumped to the task. I looked up names on the Social Security Baby Names List, cut out those that sounded too “average Joe”, or nerdy, or “cowboy”. I sought a name that had derring-do, a name with some charm and some humor (his drawings are almost always humorous), and a name with three parts. My husband specifically wanted a full name.

I cut down the list of names to 11 names that I liked for the man, after looking at name meanings and saying the names out loud, and then I tried putting them together in my head. While the names were all used as given names in the late 1800s, some are also family names and I used them alternatingly as first, middle, or last in my examples.

You try. The names list was:

  • Oscar
  • Willie
  • Rufus
  • Roscoe
  • Mose
  • Fletcher
  • Volney
  • Esau
  • Fleming
  • Hudson
  • Judd

I tried a few name combinations out. I didn’t want to confuse him by offering him the whole list to choose from, or giving him a list of examples. I just decided to toss out a few of the names that stood out to me.

The first name combo stuck.

Rufus Fletcher Fleming

My husband loved how amusing the combo of Fletcher Fleming was, and he said he’d considered Rufus already. He didn’t even want to hear any more of the names I’d selected, because my first choice was “perfect”.

While I obviously know my husband and his tastes, that did not come into play in this naming. It was the characteristics of the character—the birth period, the derring-do, the requisite humor—that helped me discover the name that he felt was perfect. And it is the characteristics of your characters that will help you discover their perfect names as well.

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Character of the Week: Latin Lover Names

This is Valentine’s week, and it is also my anniversary—my blog’s anniversary. In honor of this I chose a Latin Lover for my character of the week.

Male, early 20s (in 1714)
He lives in the Caribbean and is Spanish.
He’s the lover of my MC Guinevere.
He’s a fire-eater and travels around with some other acrobats and artists. He’s very kind and gentle, and I try to make him funny. He loves to draw but isn’t very good at that.
Historical Romance

The only name this writer mentions is a Welsh one, which I believe was chosen in part to depict a sense of time. I too looked for a sense of time when I chose names for the main character’s lover. I searched the names of Spanish explorers for inspiration of names in use at that time, and chose names that would sound appropriate to modern readers.

A note: I wouldn’t always suggest Inigo, as it is very strongly associated with one specific character, but I felt it was appropriate for this character and had just the right blend of sexy and artistic.

  • Inigo
  • Leon
  • Cristobal
  • Gonzalo
  • Luis

The writer did not reply to me, so I don’t know what name was chosen for this character. As I sit here saying each name out loud (Inn-ee-go, Lee-own, Cris-toh-baal, Gohn-zah-loh, Loo-ees), they each still read as I hoped they would: Romantic, Spanish names in use at that time, which make the wearer sound intriguing.

Name Theory: Now Staring Your Imagination

Imagination is the greatest tool for writers, and for all creative people. Creative people need to be able to envision things others will never dream of, from names to descriptions to whole worlds!

You may notice in my character namings that I often will describe how I see the character I’ve been asked to name, such as in this week’s naming when I said that “I imagine [she] goes from silent to screaming when provoked.” The description that a writer gives me of a character is a starting off point for me to envision that character—just as it will be for a reader—and I use my imagination to grow that character into someone I can “see” well enough to name.

Today I have to do this for myself.

A week or so ago I finally got around to seeing The Hobbit—or, at least, I saw some of it. During the movie I was completely distracted by my own imagination. For years I’ve wondered if I would ever write a Fantasy novel, and I’ve usually leaned towards no, but as I watched Bilbo start his adventure of a lifetime I suddenly got an idea for how I would write my own Fantasy.

I have little interest in adult Fantasy, so my story is more in the league of a Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure but with Young Adult protagonists and with a Young Adult perspective. It stars a regular teen from our world who is transported into another world.

For him I will need an unremarkable sort of name for a teen boy, a David sort of name but with less of a classic quality. Nothing trendy for this boy, and nothing that sounds cool or hot.

For him I’ll be studying the Social Security Administration’s list of Baby Names to find the right fit.

However, for the other main characters I will need another sort of inspiration. After reading a post a few weeks ago on the Western bias of most Fantasy, including the predominant use of Western names or made-up names that mimic Western names, I have decided that I will try to use names from a less familiar Eastern culture. I’m considering using Thai names, as they seem to have the right sound for me while not being as recognizable as Chinese or Indian names would be to the Western ear.

Also, using Eastern names will help my imagination to create characters that are less stereotype—Princess, Overlord, Page—and more realistic and rounded. It will also be more fun.

Because that’s what writing is—fun. And that’s what the imagination does—it says let’s pretend, let’s go on an adventure with these characters and see what happens to them, let’s transcend what’s already been created and discover a new world to share with others.

Character of the Week: Renegade Names

Last week I touched on appreciation—and how I appreciated receiving some. This writer showed me some.

Nothing I can come up with or find feels right for this character’s first name, and I could really use a fresh perspective. His last name is tentatively Langer.

Male, 18-19
Genre/Setting: Adventure/Fantasy with mostly European influences, roughly equivalent to the 15th century in terms of technology and advancement. In particular he grew up in a city in the middle of a large island (half a day’s travel from the coast) with a warm, temperate climate.
Family: He was named and raised by a single mother (as yet unnamed) who worked as a maid and had high hopes for her child. They lived comfortably enough to feel secure, but had barely more than was needed to get by. He is a particularly devoted and protective son, and has no siblings.
Characteristics: Light-skinned, dark hair, sharp features, tall, narrow build. He is independent, intelligent, arrogant, manipulative, opportunistic, and jaded. He is both a traditionalist and an idealist.
Occupation: He is a low-ranking member of a large organization that controls/enforces trade laws and he deeply believes in the purity of that purpose, but he also realizes that this organization is full of corruption and there is realistically very little he can do to change that. Reacting to his private disappointment, he maintains a double life making extra cash as a smuggler working within an equally large, rather infamous criminal ring. Filled with frustration and self-loathing, he keeps most people at a distance by being liberally rude and sarcastic.
Significant other characters (thus far): Eriande Harthorn (love interest; opposite pairing), Stylianos and Adilet Valenoir (these two characters are of an uncommon ethnicity for the setting), Carmine Kildarion (authority figure), Vincent Falkenrath (infamous figure)

If you’re feeling especially whimsical, I wouldn’t mind suggestions for his mother’s name, either, although that’s not necessary. She doesn’t have much of a character build yet.

My thanks in advance.

When looking for names for this renegade, and his mother, I looked at the etymology for the other characters’ names and also the fact that he was referred to as “light-skinned” which is usually a euphemism for not-quite-white.

Next I looked at the character’s qualities. He’s not a swashbuckler like Han Solo, but I’m assuming a character like this would be very self-assured (on the outside at least) and macho. I looked for names for him that would be self-assured and macho, without being loud or overly fantastic.

You seem to like vaguely Italian/Greek names, so I’ve chosen similar ones.

  • Marcello Langer
  • Andro Langer
  • Anton Langer
  • Teodor Langer
  • Dion Langer
  • Enna
  • Sofie
  • Rhebekka
  • Maryam
  • Carmel

The writer replied: You hit the nail on the head with Maryam. I think I’ll try out Marcello for a while and see how it feels in context. Thanks again, your help is very much appreciated.

Although this writer didn’t promise to use one of my names for this character (only to try it out) I wasn’t disappointed, because this writer did appreciated my work and did think about using the names I offered. Also, the writer was going to use Maryam, a name I’ve love for some time but which never suits any of my own characters. I’m so glad Maryam finally has a home.

Character of the Week: Zombie Apocalypse Names

I recently read my first zombie novel. It was a zombie romance, not a horror. Horror will never be my thing, but the zombie romance was surprisingly good. The best part was that the zombie boyfriend changed for the girl, rather than her having to change for him. Feminism in the post-apocalyptic era.

That read inspired my choice for this week’s post.

Female, early- to mid-40s, Contemporary
Born in Canada to English parents. She is conservative. Her mother was a housewife, and her father was a banker.
Other characters include her daughter Emma, a girl named Olivia, a boy named Logan and his as yet unnamed teenaged sister.
She is a nurse with a very take charge personality, and she also channels this through a need to mother other younger characters.
Adventure

Female, early teen (born in the late nineties), Contemporary
Raised in Canada. She is fairly liberal. Her mother was a chef and her father was a doctor. She is the sister to Logan.
Student/Spunky, brave and loyal.
Adventure

I wish I knew where in Canada these characters were from, since it could have helped me get a better selection of names. As it is the names I found for the mother character were typical names in the USA at the same time.

For the teen I looked for names that could work with Logan, but I was also open to more creative choices since their mother was a Chef.

  • Heather
  • Joanne (Jo)
  • Melinda
  • Tara
  • Susan
  • Pepper
  • Scout
  • Lucy
  • Alexa
  • Zoe

The writer replied: Thanks! This was really helpful. I think I’ll use Susan and Zoe.

I would have liked to have chosen more interesting names for these characters—as an adventure story invites dynamic names—but it was obvious that this writer preferred popular names. I still think a chef’s daughter named Pepper would be a fun choice.

 

NOTE: The writer’s original information referred both to this being in the modern day (which I edited to say Contemporary) and to it being a “Zombie Apocalypse” story. I assume she meant for the story to be set in the near future. I have tagged this post as both Contemporary (since the names are contemporary choices for the characters’ ages) and Dystopian (assuming any apocalypse would lead to the opposite of a utopia).