Names! And I haven’t even started writing yet

September 19, 2007 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Bria, character, names, writing | 5 Comments

I love naming characters.

There’s so much to it.  I speak ONE language – this is an embarrassment when discussing languages with my friend who speaks seven and reads nine. PAINFUL. But, my etymological history outruns hers any day with English words.  So you can see why name meanings would be a big factor for me. 

In my YA Fantasy (fingers crossed about the partials that are out for me and Miss Meg) my Heroine’s name is Faela. The hero and the myths of her people are tied to wolves. Naming the hero FAOLÁN felt far too obvious, but I wanted to have the tie there so I played with a familiar name. 

Beyond meaning, is connotation. Most people in America aren’t going to try to name their hero Lee Harvey. Or you might bow to Lucas by calling you’re hero Luke (coincidence?) but really, could you get away with naming your villain Darth? 

Keep in mind where and when your story takes place. Popularity of a name should be considered in this context.  If you’re writing a regency, the heroine should NOT be named Ashley. Name your hero that if you want to be correct, but remember most people don’t understand it as a strong ‘manly’ name. If you’re writing a YA and name your girl Ashley, then remember to run through the connotations again. list popularity of a name for the last 10 years in several countries. 

The sound of the name against other characters’ names should be considered. Let’s face it, Elizabeth and Darcy could never have been Marcy and Darcy. There needs to be a connection between them that’s further represented by the cadence of their names. 

Cadence is big with me as well. Part of my linguistics studies in college was surrounding the idea and I guess it has stuck with me. A friend and I were at a movie not to long ago and I loved the actor, a newcomer to the American screen.

Turning to my friend I said, “I’ve never heard of him, not even in an Irish flick.” At which point my friend asked why he would have been in one.  

Surprised, I responded, “Because he’s Irish.” Like, duh. 

Apparently, he had no accent, but he did have that certain cadence of an Irish native. Being familiar with it, I guess I just heard it as normal and assumed everyone heard it as if it were an accent, because, oh yes, I was right (I don’t get to say that a lot, so please, forgive the nanner-nanner of it.) 

Do you know what your name means? One of my favorite places to play is Behind the Name. It has sorting by name, meaning or origin. You can play with the ‘Random Name Generator’ or create nifty Anagram Names. Check them out.  OR if you’re just looking for some fun with names, check out the blog Spastic Onomastic at namenerds.

Find the perfect name, cloak your character in it, and Go Write.




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  1. Oh, me too, Bria! Okay, my names may run to the more mundane side of life but it’s like having kids. There’s a certain power in naming a person. I loved doing it with my kids and I love doing it with my characters.

  2. Oops. I forgot to leave a comment when I dropped by to read this last week. Crazy week, what can I say?

    Anyway, great post, Bria! I had fun laying at the links at the end! There’s definite power in naming characters — I find I don’t get too far unless I’ve got a good grasp on the character’s name, and it has to be just right to work.

  3. […] amazing writing topics everyday and the book is a must read. If you question the importance of Cadence in writing, you’ll never wonder again. Start HERE by reading MORE OF THE BEST WRITING […]

  4. One of my favorite charries is named Faela too! Anyway I loved your article. Good job Bria.

    • Thanks Shleya~

      I’m still having fun naming. I’ve jumped to my own blog (I think I talked about it there too… I need to get more interesting 😉 ) but now the names are all contemporary. It’s amazing how many of those rules come into play in the real world too!

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