Name Theory: Tonality

Sometimes character naming can come down to “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

Sometimes it needs something a little less tangible.

While re-reading this week’s character naming I felt like I was missing something. The writer had given me the information I asked for, but not anything more. I don’t know anything about the plot, anything about the world, or even enough of the writer’s naming style to fake it.

There is something about this writer’s book that I especially could have used when I attempted to name this character—the novel’s tone.

How does this writer plan to pursue this novel? Who are the target readers? How does this writer hope to get across the theme of this novel?

Is this going to be a dark paranormal romance, or a coming-of-age story couched in fantasy clothing, or a fantastical adventure story?

Is this story going to be humorous, or have elements of horror? Is this a “normal” world with fantasy elements, or is this a fantasy world hidden among us?

What did the character and/or her mother know of the fantasy elements before the story begins?

Any and all of this information would have given me a better understanding of what types of names would be most appropriate to the story. If her mother, for instance, was naming a girl who she knew would be a white tigers then the name Bianca would have been a way of trait naming. There are many “if”s that all relate back to the novel’s tone. Without it I was left to offer a range of options that may have been perfect and may have been off mark. With the tone I could have narrowed my search and came up with a better set of names that would give readers a feeling for the story, the character, and her arc.

If you are stuck on naming a character, think about your novel’s tone. Consider how different types of names might feel to your target readers and aim to choose a name that will resonate with your tone.

Character of the Week: White Tiger Names

We had a cat-tastrophe in my house this morning, hence the lateness of this post. Also, hence the inspiration.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 14-15, probably a winter birthday, present day
She was raised in an average town in an average state, maybe NY. Her mom turns out to be evil (name like Veronica or some such), and is not at home much. They have a fairly distant relationship.
Her best friends are Aoife and Vivianne.
No career yet, besides student. Darkish auburn hair, dark grey eyes, average height. Can turn into white tiger. Exceptional endurance and fighting skills, fairly quick temper, very knowledgeable.
Fantasy

Don’t you love how the writer just slips in there that the character can turn into a white tiger? Now I’d really like to know more of the plot.

I do like how she has made the “white tiger” a girl who has dark/redish hair and dark eyes, rather than having her with platinum hair and yellow almond-shaped eyes. Still I thought I might give one name that means “white”, along with a variety of choices that each have their own feel.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Bianca
  • Teagan
  • Wendy
  • Kali
  • Lia

This writer never replied to me, so I don’t know what name this white tiger ended up with. I do wonder about her still. So many possibilities, if only I’d known a bit of the plot so I could have refined my choices.

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.

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.