Character of the Week: German Demon Names

To me, Horror seems to be about juxtaposing the “normal” with the “terrifying”. If I wrote Horror, I wouldn’t want to give away too much with the character’s names.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 72 (born 4 years before WWII)

Born in the country side of Germany in a village with no contact outside of the village (this is in a world that demons and monsters do exist but hide from humans). Spent the first 4 years of his life living in the village; after that he lived by himself off in the wilds of Germany and crossed into a few other countries until a British unit caught him for only a few months before heading off on his own again. After the war ended he was captured and was sold into fighting underground matches, body guarding, hitman. Has little real friendly interaction.

Father was a village leader; he lived during the WWI and managed to keep his village safe. Mother had no special rank; lived and survived WWI. Both parents were killed in WWII. The father was first; he died to protect the village and his family. The mother sacrificed herself; after hiding her children in a barn she was killed by the troops when she tried to lead them away.

Father: Falk; Mother: Ina; Older Brother: Shen; British Soldier (Medic): William Hawkworth (drags him back to base to get fixed up/ out of the war zone); Owners: Richard, Ciel, Lady Mongu, Holand, Monty, Charles (Cash).

Moral lifter (back with Medic William Hawkworth), underground fighter (was given drugs), hitman (after some brainwashing), body guard. He only takes orders in and understands German (his native village tongue has been lost) and understands a few words of English. He does not age the same way humans do. After being owned by Charles (Cash) he was freed and returned to Germany where he currently lives far away from humans. Has a number of scars and wounds; he’s a tired yet lost person and he is a type of German demon.

Horror

While this story is a Paranormal Horror, the world is one in which humans do not know about the demons around them. Even if he was born a demon (which is not clear from this description), his people probably would have hidden that fact and given the children “normal” names.

I chose strong sounding names of German origin that I felt could fit a demon/killer such as this character, but which also sounded “average” and “normal” thereby making his actions less expected and more disturbing. I also chose names that were used during that era in time.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Bastian Eberhardt
  • Rolf Eberhardt
  • Ernst Eberhardt
  • Kurt Eberhardt
  • Dieter Eberhardt

The writer replied: Thank you for giving me some names and allowing me to use them. I’ll be using Dieter Eberhardt.

There is a difference in naming characters for a Paranormal Horror vs. ones for a Paranormal Fantasy. Fantasy may have aspects of Horror, and Horror can be Fantastic, but readers of these genres are looking for different things from their stories.

Character of the Week: Alternate Universe French Names

This will be a long post because the writer asked me for four names. (Watch how “three” names will get the writer started, but a fourth request is snuck in later.)

The Writer Describes the Character

I need a few names, but three will get me started, if you don’t mind.

Male, 21
Born in an Alternate Universe France, called Kryta, basically an amalgamation of all European nations, Eastern and Western. Medieval with a modernized spin, i.e. swords are still used but guns and explosives are also used.
Parents: I don’t have names for them. Nobles, advisers to the Queen of Kryta. Vampires.
Siblings: Three younger siblings, one older. Younger are Sorin Markov, Sylvanas Markov, and Aliera Markov, (m,f,f, respectively) older sister unknown.
Interacts with: Jenara Tirel, Elspeth Tirel, noble families
Career: Noble
Characteristics: Arrogant, pompous, dark, intelligent, devious
Fantasy

Female, 23
Siblings: Sorin Markov, Sylvanas Markov, Aliera Markov, and the aforementioned character.
Career: Noble’s daughter, heir to the Markov family
Characteristics: Dark, confident, sly, mysterious, subtle, dangerous, rarely loses control of her emotions, violent, domineering.
Fantasy

Male, 20
Born in Japan, now lives with Markov family in Kryta. Markov family brought him in at age 19.
Siblings by birth: Synthia Chatagi, Liliana Chatagi, Huntre Chatagi, all younger (f,f,m respectively).
Love interest: Nameless female character above
Career: Main antagonist. Practices witchcraft, blood magic.
Characteristics: Controlling, angry, dark, pompous, arrogant, egocentric, vengeful
Fantasy

For this last guy, if at all possible, I would like two names, his birth name in the Chatagi family, and his name under the Markov family.

My style is simple. How to name a character in an alternate France? Use French names. By this way you show the connection to France every time a character is mentioned without having to use any forced description or narrative.

I did allow myself more flair in naming the “Japanese” character, as his siblings did not have Japanese names. The alternate spelling of two of the siblings’ names inspired me to come up with creative names for that character.

I am very proud of the “fourth” name, the French name for the Japanese character. He might have gotten to choose his “given” name, so I looked at name meanings for the first names. I am, however, happier with my choice to offer an alternate to the last name. While the character is part of the family, he is only recently “brought in” and not really one of them, so he only gets to be “of” the Markov family.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Rhone
  • Thibaut
  • Aramis
  • Berenger
  • Talbot
  • Oriana
  • Vienna
  • Anais
  • Raissa
  • Tempest
  • Kanyen Chatagi
  • Gallett Chatagi
  • Tannre Chatagi
  • Taniel Chatagi
  • Rogan Chatagi
  • Lyle DeMarkov: Island
  • Maurice DeMarkov: Dark
  • Sumner DeMarkov: Summoner
  • Travers DeMarkov: At the crossing
  • Delmar DeMarkov: Of the sea

The writer replied: Thank you so much, you just made my life a lot easier. I decided to go with Aramis, Raissa, Kanyen, and Maurice.

I didn’t mind when writers, like this one, asked me to name more than one character—it gave me the opportunity to use complimentary names that “fit” into a naming style—however, I sometimes felt like they should have let my suggestions for one character inspire them to name the rest. It’s like they robbed themselves of the chance to learn from my process and then practice it for themselves.

Interesting Rare Name Choices

Today I want to feature some of the rare names of our college students. (Some of these may not be rare in the country or culture that the student comes from, but they are rare in the US.)

I wouldn’t suggest you use names this rare in every story you write, unless you write Sci-fi or Fantasy. In fact a few of these seem particularly suited to those genres. Specifically, I believe Lilu probably inspired the name of the character Leeloo in The Fifth Elelment.

(Note: I unfortunately cannot post my favorite of the rare names, since when I searched for the name on the Internet this student was mentioned in every listing. It’s a shame I can’t share it, because it is such a great name and a truly unique moniker.)

 

Interesting Rare Choices

Amika (f): Latin name meaning Loved Friend

Andro (m)

Basit (m): Arabic name meaning One Who Enlarges

Ceren (f): Turkish name meaning Young Gazelle

Cerise (f): French name meaning Cherry

Derya (u): Turkish name meaning Ocean

Divya (f): Indian name meaning Devine

Eliad (m): Hebrew name meaning My God is Forever

Germaine (u): Most likely meaning From Germany

Giorgi (m): Version of George meaning Farmer

Hiley (f): English place name

Isle (f)

Jamilla (f): Arabic name meaning Beautiful or Graceful

Jesella (f)

Jia (f): Chinese name meaning Outstanding Person

Jiada (f): Alternate spelling of Giada which is an Italian name meaning Jade

Joakim (m)

Junious (m)

Kerrin (f): Danish version of Katherine

Kriti (f): Hindu name meaning Work of Art

Lilu (f)

Lucio (m): Spanish name meaning Light

Montez (m): Spanish name meaning Dweller in the Mountains

Nikolina (f)

Olesia (f): Polish diminutive of Aleksandra

Patricio (m): Latin name meaning Nobleman

Philina (f)

Prim (f)

Rommia (f)

Vivek (m): Indian name meaning Distinction

Volkan (m): Turkish name meaning Volcano

Zeenia (f): Varriant of Xenia which is a Greek name meaning Guest or Stranger

 

Less Common Name Choices that Sound Fresh

The college student population that I work with includes many foreign nationals, which is one reason why many of the students sport interesting names that aren’t very popular in the US.

Today I thought I would offer you a list of some of the more interesting and yet wearable names of these students. I’ve heard all of these names before, and similar names are popular in the US, so these less common choices are a great option for your characters. A character with one of these names will sound special but not weird, different but not outrageous.

 

Less Common Name Choices that Sound Fresh

Allegra (f)

Alyx (f)

Anjelika (f)

Anushka (f)

Athena (f)

Callen (m)

Clara (f)

Dirk (m)

Elsa (f)

Etienne (m)

Ila (f): Indian name meaning Earth or Speech; or French name meaning From the Island

Jameson (m)

Kai (m)

Leila (f)

Lizeta (f)

Mara (f)

Marcela (f)

Moriah (f)

Noemi (f)

Nolan (m)

Odin (m)

Rena (f)

Rodrigo (m)

Samara (f)

Sarina (f): Alternate spelling of Serena

 

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!

Character of the Week: All-American Names

Sometimes the greatest thing you can do is to make each of your characters distinct.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 170s (in a future when the average life expectancy for human men is around 230)
He was born in the middle of the Mors Epidemic/Virus; hundreds upon thousands were killed. Grew up alone, father died from the Mors when he was ten, mother died in his thirties. (Father was a scientist that was trying to replicate and improve modern technology, mother worked in medical supplies.)
Other characters are named: Cainnech McLeod; Anchel Indari; Bailshar Parandeh; Caden E. Chastain; Whitney Ashmore (Criminal investigator).
He works in large technologies like ships/cars/satellites.
Sci-Fi Thriller

I actually need this character to have a full name!

My first step when naming characters for other writers is to look up the origin and meaning of the names that writer has already chosen for characters. In this way I discover the writer’s naming style. This writer gave each character a very ethnically distinct first/last name combo.

My Reply to the Writer

You didn’t say what ethnicity/country the character was from, and I see that all of the other characters have strong identities, so I chose a very all-American sounding name.

  • Willie Hughes
  • Mike Hughes
  • Ronnie Hughes
  • Alan Hughes
  • Jimmy Hughes

Since this writer didn’t reply I don’t know if any of these names were used. I sort of assume that the writer wanted a name that was more culturally distinct (something Asian or African, perhaps).

I think this is an interesting naming convention for a futuristic society. From what I imagine, each character interacts with a diverse population but they give their children names that are tied to their historical past. This helps to keep each character distinct in the minds of readers.

Name Theory: How to Name Your Aliens

There seem to be only a few ways writers create alien names.

  1. Throw some letters together.
  2. Take a word/name and add an ending.
  3. Be inspired by mythology and folklore.
  4. Choose a noun.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of these processes.

Number 1:

  • Pros: This method comes up with names and terms that are the least likely to sound “human” or “from Earth”. You can literally create anything.
  • Cons: You could unknowingly re-create a name or word that exists, thereby either “stealing” another writer’s creation or using a word that means something to others and could possibly be humorous (in a bad way) or offensive. The names you create could be difficult or impossible to pronounce, which may anger your readers. This can take a long time.

The lowdown is that this could be a good way to go if you are gifted with language and you are willing to search every name/term you create to see if there are any potential problems. This is not a method I would prefer if I were naming more than a handful of alien characters/concepts.

Number 2:

  • Pros: Most likely readable, but with some “other” quality. You can use a combination of names chosen by meaning and names chosen at random and make them flow together.
  • Cons: You could still re-create a real name/term, and that could be problematic. It could come off as gimmicky.

The lowdown is that this could be a good method especially if you are writing for a younger audience. This method is less likely to be successful for hard sci-fi, but if you are creative it could help you to consistently name a culture of people.

Number 3:

  • Pros: There is meaning in this method for readers who “get” what you’re doing. The words are most-likely readable, and this follows the method originally used in Greco-Roman history to name planets and stars.
  • Cons: This can be done to the death of your story, especially when readers have already read that term used for another group of aliens. Readers who don’t “get it” may not understand your other references.

The lowdown is that this is a good method when you are letting a whole culture inspire your work, rather than just taking terms here and there from other cultures. In Stargate SG1 they had an alien culture named based on Norse mythology, and it was obvious that the correlation was that these aliens had inspired the mythology; this was interesting for viewers and gave the writers an easy inspiration for naming aliens from that culture. I would challenge you, though, to look outside of European myths and lore to inspire your story, as these have been used excessively (and are still being used excessively).

Number 4:

  • Pros: You can say something without having to say it when you name your characters Mace and Valise, while your readers may assume that these are the “English” translations from the alien language. This can be as easy as going through a dictionary and highlighting potential names to name a whole culture.
  • Cons: This can also be gimmicky. Some nouns are used so much that they are silly sounding, like Maverick. Many nouns are already being used as names, and readers who know people with these names may be taken out of their suspension of disbelief when reminded of the brat down the street.

The lowdown is that this method sounds better and better to me, as long as writers are careful about what nouns they choose.

Every method I’ve mentioned (and those I haven’t) have their place and time. It is up to the writer to make sure that the method they chose is the right one both for the writer and for the story. Just focus on creating names that are readable and that have the right sound-feeling for your characters, and listen to your Beta readers if they have problems with your creations.

Name Theory: Mythology, Terminology, and the Rise of the Sidhe Peoples

I have often capitulated to the fact that in the Fantasy genre in particular, readers will expect (and perhaps even desire) names with meaning; however, as I stated on Monday, I think this may be leading to a plethora of like-named characters.

I’ve pointed this out with my posts on werewolf naming and the names Luna and Remus in particular, but I want to spread the warning.

Fantasy writers like to read history, mythology, fairy tales, and folklore, and they often infuse these into their stories. This can be good and interesting and add a certain depth to the writing. The problem is, writers are all studying the same root material.

So a folklore story is read and enjoyed, and the writer decides to let it inspire their next work. To make the inspiration clear, or to add meaning, the writer uses names and terms from the folklore and infuses them into their work.

This is all great. This is interesting. This is like when writers in other genres use the Bible or Shakespeare for inspiration.

However, names from the Bible and Shakespeare are often more widely used, and less specific to character. So, although there can be problems with too many writers using certain names (for Heaven’s sake, do not use Adam or Eve or any derivation for the first of any type of person in writing ever again!), usually the names are not too overused in writing.

Fantasy writers are having this problem more and more often, though. While their inspiration can run from any folklore or fairy tale, they generally tend to follow “taste” and take inspiration from a relatively few sources.

This is why in the last few months I’ve read two stories that referred to Sidhe peoples. This is a term that I never heard before, in part because I have not read Irish mythology, but as Irish mythology has become “a thing” I expect to see this name more and more.

Granted, these stories use the term for different sorts of characters. And, granted, one of the stories only used the term and did not seem to use other related details. Still, just the very use of this very unusual term (which I had in the first instance assumed was “invented”) was enough to distract me while I am reading the second story (which is heavily influenced by Irish mythology).

I don’t know if I can get to the point in reading this story that the term, Sidhe, will not confound me in some way (even in just a minor twinge). I strongly associate it with the first book in which I read the term and I “see” those characters when I read it. This is not fair to the second book, but it is the truth.

It is a truth I hope you will learn from. I think using mythology is wonderful for inspiration, and I think it can afford opportunities for the writer to infuse the story with Easter eggs for those readers “in the know.” Still, I think writers need to be judicious in their use of names and terms from popular mythologies—for the sake of the readers and for the sake of the writing.

Review: The Last Year Book Series by Trisha Leigh

I downloaded Whispers in Autumn by Trisha Leigh several months ago when it was free on Amazon. I began to read it almost immediately, which is saying something. It is exactly the kind of book I normally enjoy: Young Adult, first person, female narrator, lite Science-Fiction, with Romance.

I was predisposed to like this novel (and the series), but there have been other books that should have fit the bill but didn’t. Whispers in Autumn surpassed my meager expectations, and the series (The Last Year) has become one of my favorites.

Some of the things I loved about this book, and the whole series:

  • Those covers! (It had to be said.)
  • Each novel was complete, while leading directly into the next in the series.
  • The consequences of the characters’ choices increased as the story continued.
  • The characters had to deal with realistic losses.
  • The ending was happy, but tempered by the characters’ reality.
  • While there was a love triangle, it wasn’t the most important thing in any of the characters’ lives.
  • There is a gay character who struggles to understand his feelings in a world where differences and emotions have been severely limited. His being gay is not that big of a deal to our heroine (his friend).
  • The series was serious without being dark, so I can see myself re-reading it in its entirety.
  • I liked the names.

I bet you were waiting for that last part. Weren’t you?

I did like the names in this series. There was a nice balance between familiar but unusual, common, and rare names. I’ll touch on some of the categories of names.

  • The four dissidents were given names from their human parents’ cultures (if you read it, you’ll understand). Althea, our heroine, is an American-born girl with an unusual name which is not “out there”. Lucas, the boy she meets in the first book, had a French mother who gave him a popular name (which is especially popular as a character name). Pax, the boy she meets in the second book, had a mother from Brazil who gave him a rare name which probably came from her faith. Deshi, a boy with a Chinese mother, rounds out the quadrille with an interesting name for a conflicted character.
  • Their human friends have mostly familiar names, some common and some not so common. Leah, Brittany, and company have names that do a good job of making the world feel familiar and real.
  • The Others, the aliens who are the villains of the story, have an interesting naming convention. Those who are named seem to have names that are grown from common nicknames with a –j ending. So we have Zakej, Natej, and Kendaja. I love the simple way the author gave the aliens names that kept them culturally similar, while not being difficult for readers to pronounce or connect with.

I really loved The Last Year series, and I hope that if you like this type of story that you will give this series a chance. When I started reading self-published novels I found on Amazon I wasn’t sure if they could compare to the level of quality of published novels. They can. This series did.

I think that part of the reason why I enjoyed this series so much is that Trisha Leigh was a professional. She hired a development editor and a copy editor, and she hired a book cover artist. I would consider hiring all of them. As a writer, especially as a “poor” writer, I do not say this lightly. I have read other self-published novels that were “professionally” edited which did not compare to this series on any level.

Trisha Leigh hired good people, and she obviously took their advice. I look forward to reading her up-coming series and following her career.

Name Theory: The Trouble with C Names

When I wrote on Monday that I have some trouble with the pet peeve of characters’ names starting with the same letter, I didn’t mean that it was a pet peeve of mine. I really meant I’m having some trouble with it.

You see, in my primary WIP (the one that will make me rich and famous, or at least published, if I can ever work out the kinks) I made the choice to name the four children in one family with names beginning with the letter C. This was a choice, and I feel my reasons are just. It is based on the fact that my siblings and I all have the same initials, and that other families also use the same initials for their children for various reasons. Also, one child will only be mentioned once, another is only in a couple of scenes, and a third has a very distinctive name that would not be confused with the main character’s name.

I am content with my choice, and I feel it is not a problem because I am making sure in the writing that these four characters with C names are distinct. And since only two of them are in much of the book, that will limit any confusion.

My trouble comes with the main character’s love interest.

In the current draft he still has the first name I gave him: Angel. This name fits the feel of the character, and it is culturally appropriate for a young man born and raised in Puerto Rico (the pronunciation is close to Ahn-hel). The problem is he is not a nice guy, at all. And I don’t like to name characters something ironic. This character is meant to be a “real” person, not a cardboard cut-out and not a joke. So I need to rename him; this is where my trouble with the C names begins.

The thing is, the name I really, really, REALLY, want to name him, the name that is sexy, and mysterious, and bad boy, and culturally appropriate, is another C name. The name I want to give him is Cesar.

I keep trying to justify it to myself by saying that the name is not pronounced with the K sound. I want to justify it because the name is shorter than the other C names, and it does not share many letters with the other names, and it is too perfect not to use. I keep trying to give myself an excuse to do what I know will certainly be going too far.

The thing is, no matter what I want, I know that I must take the readers into account. Many readers have a pet peeve about characters with the same initials, and I respect readers and what they want and need. So while I have chosen to disregard this “rule” to name a family with a tradition that many families use, I cannot add to that another unrelated character with the same initial. That would be going too far, and I accept that.

So I have another name or two which I feel would suit him, somewhat. And I’m on the lookout for other names which may be as perfect as the two other choices I’ve had for him. I know it is my burden, and I know I must bear it for the sake of my readers and for the sake of my novel. So the “perfect” name must be laid to rest, because there are other things that are more important. This time.