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.

Character of the Week: “Being” Names

­Yesterday I was thinking about my name, what it means to me, how it has affected me—how being Marlo has made me who I am.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 18 (born October 1994; story set from November 2012 onwards)
Born/raised in England, some small town.
Older sister Charlotte (Charlie usually); Friend possibly called Dave or similar, friend’s little sister Sadie. Then much later, gets caught up with such people as Ithobaal and Hannibal and so on (possibly not their real names though).
Struggling at college, girl he has a crush on shows no interest, then finds himself technically an adult, never had a job or serious relationship. Then, finds himself developing strange magical powers, and much later gets slowly drawn into battle between good and evil. Supernatural/magic/good vs. evil and so on.
Paranormal

Also, I am rather hoping for a name that comes in different varieties, one that most people call him, a related nickname used only by close friends and a longer form for his parents/teachers when they are annoyed. Also, tentatively the book is titled “Being [whatever his name is]”, so something that fits that phrase would be ideal.

 

My Reply to the Writer

It’s very hard to find current British names that are long enough to have one or two nicknames. I did my best. If not for that I would like to go with a name with more bite, like Rhys.

  • Cameron (Cam)
  • Brandon (Brand)
  • Dominic (Dom and Nic)
  • Lucas (Luca and Luc)
  • Nathaniel (Nat and Nate)
  • Maxwell (Max)

This writer never replied to me, so I can only assume that none of these names was chosen. This was a difficult naming in that the writer had a list of qualities desired for the name beyond the character’s description. I also felt there was something nebulous and unsaid that the writer really wanted from the name.

I get it, though. Names have more meanings than letters. I’ll discuss mine on Wednesday.

Character of the Week: Dead Girl Names

Remember how I said that I belong to a Jane Austen book club.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, mid-20s
She was born and raised in a small town in the Northeastern portion of New York state.
Her father was an auto mechanic and overall a shady character. He abandoned their family when the FMC was around ten and hasn’t been heard from much since. Her mother is a photographer and dreamed of escaping her small town, but never did. She’s incredibly quiet and is an avid reader of romance novels. She was born in Texas, lived in Germany for a time, and ended up in the same town where the FMC was born when she was a teenager. Both parents are in their mid- to late-40s.
Father – Roger, Mother – Anne, Sister – Lydia
Nathaniel – the MMC that the story is centered around, close friends and romantic interest of FMC though he was not aware of the fact; Penelope – FMC’s very self-centered best friend; Scott – Penny’s husband
When she was alive (because she actually dies just prior to the events in the novel), she was an interior decorator (I think, though that might change) and also dabbled in photography like her mother. She was a very compassionate and caring individual, very nurturing. She was, despite outward appearances that claimed otherwise, a very sad and lonely girl.
Literary Fiction

When I’m naming contemporary characters, I take some influence from the character’s personality and background and mix it with my personal experience. Here I noted that the mother is an avid reader of Romances and that the sister is named Lydia. I decided to offer another Jane Austen name for this character, along with other names I felt could fit for this lonely and artistic young woman.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Katherine (Kitty or Kit): Pride and Prejudice reference
  • Naomi
  • Abigail (Abs)
  • Lizette
  • Monica

The writer replied: Thanks so much for this. I had actually considered Katherine before, but I think this just cemented the idea. I really appreciate the help.

Maybe this writer is also a Jane Austen fan, or maybe I just stumbled on a name that fit her sensibilities. I do find it interesting how names can resonate with people for different reasons.

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: 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.

Character of the Week: 1980s Preschooler Names

As my own preschooler is in his last two weeks before starting kindergarten, I thought I should write some of my thoughts on children’s names this week.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 4 at the beginning of the story (born in the early 1980s)

She was raised in a small, close suburban neighborhood in the Midwest. Not country, but not crime-riddled either.

Parents are very minor characters. Mostly uninterested, suburban parents. They think she’s more of a ‘strange child’ than anything else.

The parents will probably remain unnamed. Only child. 

Named characters so far: Mallory and Melody, twins that are her best friends as a child. 

She’s brown haired and brown eyed. Blind. Able to see things beyond what is actually there. Possibly a “Firestarter” type of girl, who may be able to make things happen just by wishing they would. Loner, but is not socially challenged. Her other senses are very heightened due to be being born without sight.

Genre: I’m going with Horror/Supernatural. But nothing modern.

When seeking names for this ‘80s child, I focused on names that were similar in style to the twins—that is, on names that were typically ‘80s. I did, as usual, seek a name that was less popular than her friends’ names.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Darci
  • Caryn
  • Lia
  • Lora
  • Alice

The writer replied: Thank you for coming up with these names for me. I really appreciate the time and effort. Unfortunately, I decided on the name Beth. I was leaning towards using Alice, but the more I thought about it, the more it smacked of weird little Goth girls. Not that it’s a bad name. Just didn’t want my character to be portrayed incorrectly. Thanks again and Happy Writing!

As I looked for less common names than those the writer chose for this character’s friends, I think the writer was looking for more common names. Since this is a paranormal/horror kind of story, it is natural that the writer would use a “normal” name to help ground the readers in reality.

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.