Character of the Week: Paranormal Horror Names

This was e-mailed to me this week.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 17, Contemporary

Born and raised in upstate New York (near the PA/NY border).

Mother is a housewife, ~45 yrs. old; Father owns computer business, ~49 yrs. old.

Parents have no names now; Brother: Louis (Loo-Eee), 15; Sister: Anne, 24.

Her friends are all currently unnamed: 3 guys (all her age-ish, are her closest friends), 3 girls, 1 other who is undecided in gender.

She is a senior in high school. Long brown hair, blue-grey eyes, wears glasses, average build/height. Bisexual (open to either gender). Quick to smile, quick to fight, die-hard loyal, is the person you’d go to for advice without a second thought, addictive personality, empathic (can basically read minds, very charming/convincing, see auras), stubborn, tough outside but is actually really sensitive/easily insulted/hurt, can’t handle problems alone (needs constant support—I guess you could call her “needy,” but she hates being that way and tries not to be).

Paranormal Horror

 Extra information about the plot: Basically, 8 teenagers go exploring in a house to learn about spirits, etc. The main 4 (main protagonist, 3 boys) are all empathic and have specific abilities. The house and whatever’s inside literally draws them in through visions/vibes. (It’s irresistible!) Inside, they face unimaginable horrors, torture of body and mind, and see their friends die at the hands of a gruesome shadow monster. Whether they escape the house in one piece is a mystery, even to me at this point.

Side note: I wanted to tell this writer that readers are likely to read Louis as Loo-iss, and if it matters to the story that he is a Loo-Eee she’ll need to have him pronounce it early on. Though even then readers will read it how they want. Then I looked into the name and learned that younger readers, mostly One Direction fans, may now think of this name as being pronounced in the French way. And yet, I still believe readers will read it how they want. If this writer cares that readers will read it differently, then I would suggest choosing a different name. (A lesson I try to keep in mind with my own name choices.)

When searching for this character’s name I had a few directions to go in. First, I looked at the names the writer had already chosen and the area where the character was born for inspiration; second, I looked at the character’s birth year on the SSA database for inspiration (less helpful than usual); third, I looked at the Baby Name Wizard for inspiration; and fourth, I looked at 20,000 Names for inspiration (searching for “female emotion names”).

Frankly, I looked in too many places because none of the sources gave me enough inspiration, but then I was left with more names than would be helpful. Cutting the list down was very hard.

My Reply to the Writer

I went in several directions when looking for this character’s name. I looked at names with “emotion” meanings, at names that were popularly used in the mid to late nineties, names that fit with the sibling names, and names that just felt right for the character. I’m offering you a cross-section of the names that stood out to me.

  • Rowena
  • Felice
  • Haley
  • Renee
  • Emily: Means Emulating

The writer replied: I’m going with Rowena; it’s not one I’ve heard very often, but it really seems to fit my writing. I never would have thought of this one. Thank you!

I’m glad this writer liked the name I liked the best, and glad that this character is named. There are so many wonderful names in the world, and I love how each one gives a character a slightly different personality.

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.

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.

Character of the Week: Teenage Witch Names

I’ve been watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately, so I felt like finding a paranormal teen to name.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 17-19 (born 50 years in the future)
Constantly traveling, never really has stayed in one place. Parents work for the government, and they strongly believe in their work. Uh, haven’t thought about any of this quite yet.
Her friends are Blair Summers, Trevor Felton, Char Jones, and Eden Russe.
Bounty Hunter/Witch

See there? Even this witch’s friend is named Blair Summers. So I had to look for a Willow Rosenberg-type name for her. Except, this one’s the heroine (instead of the friend).

My Reply to the Writer

  • Miryam Stuart
  • Alannah Stuart
  • Tabitha Stuart
  • Alexie Stuart
  • Rachelle Stuart

The writer never replied to me so I don’t know if any of these names were chosen. I do feel like these names fit the same feel as the other names this writer chose, but with a little more cool.

As I’m reading them now, however, I’m wondering about my first choice. Miryam is a name that I think of as cool/sexy/alternative—but that could be because I knew a girl who changed her name to Miryam who fit that description.

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: 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: Werewolf Girl Names

Last time I reviewed one of my first werewolf namings. This was one of my last werewolf namings.

Female, about 14
She lives in a forest. Her parents are dead and her love is gone (we don’t know where).
Other characters are named Victor, Avenly, Mac, Xari, and Nico.
Werewolf, shy but loud.

There isn’t a lot of information here, either about the character or about the story. The one thing I know is that this writer was not looking for names that mean wolf or moon, because the names already chosen come with a variety of meanings and a variety of cultural histories—though I could see parents in America today choosing any of these names.

For this naming I tried to look for female names that would go with the style of names already used.

You may notice that this writer chose names with a variety of last letters (for diversity, perhaps?), but that the two characters who I guess are females both had the ee sound at the end of their names. I gave one choice with that ending sound, another that has a different ending letter from the other characters’ names, and some with the popular –a ending. (It’s obvious that one sound stood out to me in particular, as three choices sound very similar.)

  • Samara
  • Amaya
  • Lilit
  • Inara
  • Vivi

This writer never replied to me about the name choice, so I do not know if any of my names were used. I do still think any of these choices would be a good fit with the other names and for this character, whom I imagines goes from silent to screaming when provoked.

Character of the Week: YA Werewolf Names

This was one of my earlier namings. I would probably make some changes if I was doing this one today, but the writer liked what I gave her so, there you go.

(Need first and last for first two)
Female, 16
Raised in a small town in Illinois.
Her parents are werewolves—her father from a line of Betas, her mother from a long line of powerful Omegas.
Other characters include Lucifer Hohn (boyfriend), Marilyn (older sister), Hollywood Hemmings (enemy), Brianna Jennings (best friend), Hannah Wilson (friend), Kenzie Johnson (‘friend’).
High school student, bitch, mean girl, slut, etc.
YA Paranormal

Male, 17
Brother of character above.
Hollywood Hemmings is his love interest. He also interacts with: Ryan Manson, Tesla Hemmings, Benjamin Zimmerman, Jason Johnson, and Jimmy Hemmings.
Intern at a tattoo shop, student. Emo punk rocker, wild, crazy, random, anger issues.
YA Paranormal

Female, 16
Lives in a small town in Illinois, but spent some of her childhood in Chicago.
Her parents were low ranked Omegas.
Surname is Zimmerman. She also interacts with: Benjamin Zimmerman (older brother), Duke Winchester (boyfriend), Hollywood Hemmings, Tesla Hemmings, Jimmy Hemmings, Lucifer Hohn, Jacob Wilcoxen, Avenged Against, Jade Crocker, Lily Worth, Kelsie Onyx, Lindsey Onyx, Brette Against, and Marci Stephan.
Student. Geeky, emo, shy, picked on a lot.
YA Paranormal

My impression was that most (or all) of the characters in this novel were werewolves living in a community together. Taking that into account, along with the fact that YA and MG Fantasy novels tend to have some names with obvious meanings, I gave this writer some choices that were… I’ll say less my style… than I normally would have. I also offered some fairly common names to complement the other characters’ names.

I thought you might want to give all three siblings names with Y in them to have a matching sibset, but I also gave you other names related to the moon as well.

  • Chandra Lune
  • Aylin Lune
  • Luanne Lune
  • Kylie Lune
  • Brynlee Lune
  • Remus Lune
  • Syrius Lune
  • Bryan Lune
  • Zachary Lune
  • Tyler Lune
  • Eden Zimmerman
  • Willow (Willa) Zimmerman
  • Sadie Zimmerman
  • Zoe Zimmerman
  • Rebecca Zimmerman

The writer replied: I am using Chandra, Remus (because I can’t believe I didn’t think of that in the first place), and Eden. Thanks for the names!

This was the first of three or four werewolf namings I did. I believe I tried to think more out of the box with the others, so I wouldn’t be offering the same moon-related names to everyone!

Character of the Week: YA Fantasy Names

This one pissed me off.

I actually don’t have names yet for ANY of my characters. I’ll most likely come up with them on my own later but I would love to see what you suggest.

1). Male, 17 years old, mysterious and tough, he and his family are all witches from somewhere in the countryside (USA). He has dark red hair and his first memorable act involves demonstrating his (unknown to the MC) magically enhanced upper body strength. Does parkour.

2). Female, main character. 17 years old, lonely and rebellious. Possessed by an evil spirit that sometimes takes control of her body. Best friend and eventual love interest of character 1. Dyed her bangs white and has a tendency to seriously injure most of the people around her. Lives in a medium sized city.

3). Male, 18 years old. Serious and bitter. Has a personal vendetta against character 1, and used to be friends with character 2. His place of origin is unknown, but is most likely the same as either character 1 or 2.

4). Male, unknown age but appears in his mid-to-late teens. He originated in someone else’s mind but was later given life of his own, so he has no limits. Young and somewhat feminine.

These characters were very interesting to name. I was fascinated by what I knew of them. This is partly why what happened hurt so badly.

Since they were described as being from the USA with no modifiers (e.g. Dystopian), I assumed these characters were living now or in the near future. I chose real names in use today, but with a focus on the unusual given the fantasy nature of the characters.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but I want to make it clear that I think my choices were awesome.

  • Morris
  • Maverick
  • Mikal
  • Sterling
  • Roman
  • Fallon
  • Reina
  • Mattie
  • Zana
  • Ruby
  • Nikko
  • Darrick
  • Eliezer
  • Ryne
  • Efren
  • Mikey
  • Shay
  • Ryder
  • Alek
  • Harley

The writer replied: I finally decided on names for my characters, but I ended up not using any of the ones you suggested. The names I chose are Lucas, Audrey, Sam, and Veloci. Though now that I think again Harley really would have suited him, but I’m still going to stick with Veloci.

I wish the writer just hadn’t replied to me, because it was like a slap in the face that not only were none of my names chosen but that this writer didn’t even seem to have considered my names until after a choice was made. And what choices, indeed.

Common (especially as a character name in fantasy and as a love interest), common, common (I’ve seen so many characters with this name), and ultra-rare (best known as the prefix to velociraptor).

I did find that when writers didn’t use the names I offered, that they generally chose much more popular names—popular in both life and literature. I usually wasn’t insulted by this because I understand that people feel more comfortable with names that are more common; however, in this case I was hurt that my names were so roundly ignored and that I didn’t listen to the tacit warning in the writer’s preamble, that: My names wouldn’t be chosen! I spent a lot of time working on these characters names, and I was left feeling that all of my work was just a joke to this writer.

I wish that I had skipped this naming in favor of one for a writer who would have appreciated the time I spent on his or her characters.

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.

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.

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).