I don’t know about anyone else, but names trouble me.
Not in a phobic, I can’t go near one, kind of way. I don’t get introduced to people then have to run away screaming. It’s the importance we all place on names.
I spoke in a previous post (THEY – have a look see) about how we name things as a species to be able to understand them. The bogeyman is a name given to the imaginary monster who creeps about in the dark, always unseen but utterly awful none the less. Without the name attached to the thing we would be left with nothing but the thing in the dark. It could be anything. It could be vampires (the proper ones not the sparkly ones), it could be aliens. It could be vampire aliens!
If we ‘know’ it’s the bogeyman then at least we have a way of preparing ourselves. Trying to prepare if we don’t know what’s outside waiting to rip our faces off would be almost impossible. Holy water or silver bullets? Explosives or death ray? Do we need to burn a dead mans bones or just wish really hard? As soon as we know the name of something, things just seem to get easier.
But for me, making things easy is the hard bit.
When you read stories, the names of the characters and places are vital to drawing you in. Get a memorable name and you’re cooking on gas. Get it wrong and there’s going to be bit of a wall to say the least. Dr. Indiana Jones – perfect, Dr. Gloucestershire Magee – not so much.
So how do you create a good name?
I’ll admit, for my first book, I just mixed up names of people I knew. Not the most inventive I’ll grant you but there was still the challenge of matching the right name to the right personality. Would the swashbuckling protagonist suit being called Zoe Storm or Doreen Grubb? Ivan Power or Nigel Simkins? The same goes for the imagined creatures. Is the evil monster more believable as The Over Master or The Fuzzy?
When I chopped and changed the names, I already knew what my characters were going to do in the tale I wanted to tell so I could try them all on for size. That said, there was always the creeping fear that I was choosing the wrong name. It sounded cool to me but would it to anyone else? As a form of sanity checking, I just asked people, ‘What do you think of this name?’ The feedback I got was very positive, either saying it was good or bad. At least I knew what I needed to do to remedy the issue.
I think it’s fair then that the names are the last things that have to be sorted out for your people. The author has to mould everyone into what they need to be to advance the narrative and that will include what to call everyone. I’m currently even exploring a nickname for a character in book two of my Dragon series, daring or what? That’s probably why the title of the book doesn’t cross my mind until very late in the day. I had to make sure that it was the perfect name to marry up with every piece of what I’d written. If naming the pieces is tough, naming the whole is a real struggle.
All in all, I have to spend a fair amount of time kicking ideas around for the correct names for almost everything. In fact, I think that takes up a far bigger chunk of my writing time than you’d expect but I think it’s going in the right direction.
I’m looking forward to showing you the results pretty soon.