Tuesday, August 3, 2010

30 Days of Writing: #3

I'm always tempted to write "Tumadre"
3. How do you come up with names for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

(Hey, can I toot my own horn for a moment? Really? Thanks.)  If there's one thing I'm apparently good at, it's naming crap.  This makes me day considering I write high fantasy fiction and the cliche is that you have to give your people and places the most ridiculous names possible.  I don't know how many adventures about Q'saratyipi Hyk'ghola-fernz going gallivanting across the land of Unpronounceable I've read about, but there you go. 

For the high fantasy setting, I follow a simple rule when I'm making up names for characters not based off a real name:  two syllables, three at the most.  In Nagnomei, most of the names were made up when I was in my early teens, so they were truly, truly of my brain's creation.  (This was mostly before my family had the internet, anyway.)  That's why later I was surprised to find out that Roku's name was actually the number 6 in Japanese, or that Charletta is a totally legit name used in our society. (I've met one. Actually, two.)   The first was to be expected, I suppose, but the second blew my mind because I actually fashioned that name from the common name "Charlotte", thinking that "Charlotte" would not be a realistic name for my world.  And, well, she needed a name that ended in "A", anyway.

With the vowel thing  I did kind of pigeon-hole myself.  In my world's social hierarchy, only women whose names end in "a" and men whose names end in "n" can be considered for high society, let alone royalty.  Therefore, I had to keep my own rules in mind whenever I wanted to name a King, Queen, Princess, Prince, Lord, Lady, Duke, probably most knights, etc.  This also leads to a sort of "name cult" in Nagnomei surrounding what parents choose to name their children:  those trying to climb the social ladder will name their children accordingly to make sure that said children are good potential marriage material.  Families of very low status don't worry too much about this and call their children whatever the want.  Likewise, it's considered odd to name one's child with the "wrong" ending letter, such as "n" for girls and "a" for boys.  And indeed, there are quite a few women in Nagnomei that pop up with such "masculine" names, Malivion (both incarnations) and Makilon probably being the most prominent.   What's more fun is that the naming systems become quite the drama-mongrels later on in the series, because names should cause drama.

There are a few other funny stories about names, particularly in Nagnomei. As mentioned in the previous entry, the gods are largely based off seven of the most practiced religions here in our world, and, aside from "Shiloh" and "Kami", the other gods' names are quite accidents!  They were named (and once I pick a name that I think fits a character, I am very stubborn against changing it) before I had the entire religious system worked out.  Probably the most interesting "accident" is that of Monir, the god that is based heavily on Islam.  The other night I was wasting  time googling my characters' names to see what I got, and, as it turns out, "Monir" is a popular Persian name.  I was pleasantly surprised at this, but the best surprise was yet to come - Monir is a girl's name!  I found this really entertaining as Monir, the character, is quite forward about his masculinity and even I wonder if he knows the origins of his name...he probably keeps it secret.

As for places, my general rule is to keep them pronounceable and relevant.  Regardless of people or places, I go about naming in the same general fashion.  Usually I pick a letter to begin with that I feel represents the person best, ie, I say "I think this character would have an 'A' name" and building from there.  After that I usually decide on number of syllables and maybe what letter it should end with (easy if it's a noble character).  It usually doesn't take me long, but I have been stuck on a name more than once in my life. 

And that's just for names I make up.  I will not even touch characters with "real" names, like a majority of those in CROSS// at this time, ha.

1 comment:

  1. Wowza at the complexity. I can't imagine the looks you've gotten/will forever get from editors either, considering how much they love to pick names apart in particular. Even though you'd think they would be more lax in fantasy (and sci-fi as well), they're even more obnoxious about normalizing. =P

    If I was doing this meme, I would have no idea how to respond because I pretty much pull names out of thin air at current. I used to settle on a meaning for a name (particularly first names), look it up in many languages and in ~Name Meaning~ databases, and run from there. But that just stopped working as I got older and my writing became more complex. Reading more has also made the process harder, because in naming, I have to consider other fictional incarnations of that name (since my shiz is contemporary and whatnot), but in a way that helps me too because then I can purposely use a name and contradict another author's vision of
    "X." Or I'll just choose loaded names (ARTHUR hello) and mess with them as much as humanly possible.

    I'm bad at naming places though because I always resort to physical features. Granted, I know a lot of places are actually NAMED for their features (Montana says whut), but still. Need to up the ante!


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