Saturday, December 28, 2013

Names, Names, Names

Early on I was advised that one should name the protagonist early in the draft stage and, if you wanted more color, to sketch a brief bio.  The name and background supposedly anchors your mind so the character will be consistent throughout the story. More importantly it forms a bond between you and the character to better understand motivations and behaviors.

But coming up with a name? Should the name mean something, be a reference to something, an allegorical figure, a metaphor, or just a random name picked from the phone book (if they still make them.) Unless you live in New York City the names are likely to be rather ordinary and collecting phone books from around the world would be rather tedious.

What if the story is set on another planet, or in some future milieu where national, cultural, and religious names abound everywhere?  Scrivener provides a nice name tool, but the languages provided are limited.  You can add your own lists, but it is cumbersome to do so and why should you do it for one story?

This was a problem I faced while doing the NaNoWriMo challenge last month where I had Portuguese, French, and German characters, along with a host of Martians.  I wanted to give each of these a national flavor through their names, but did not want something ordinary so I did what any writer would do and hit the web, eventually discovering sites e.g.2000-NAMES.COM that provided all of these and so much more!

There are some rules to naming names: Generally I use irst and last name for the principal characters, first OR last names for secondary characters, and nicknames or attributes for the rest e.g. "the peg legged sailor." Of course the principals have nicknames as well, but that's another subject.


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