Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing Prompt #24

A new friend stopped by last night and caught a glimpse of my plotting whiteboards up on my wall. It was readily apparent from my character names that my current wip is a fantasy novel. Today’s prompt comes from his first question:

24) Where do you get your character names from?


Here’s mine:

Because I write fantasy for the most part, I get to have a lot of fun with naming. My names, like my book ideas, come from all over. I like the freedom of naming, and naming main characters is serious business for me. I have a couple of ways that I work, here’s how some of my characters got their names:

* Ishtae – Because she’s a badass, I wanted a short, one syllable nickname for her to go by, something with a hard consonant. I tried a lot on for size. Kat was an initial thought, but a) it’s overused, and b) it wasn’t “fantasy” enough for me. The sound “Ty” came to me, and I had to figure out how to work it in.

Tae needed a longer actual name, something that marks her former life of being a daughter of a wealthy family, destined for a court existence, something more feminine. I liked the softness of “Ish” but couldn’t go with Ishty because it would get mispronounced as Ish-tee. Same with Ishtie. I decided on Ishtae (which rhymes with buy and tie) and she’s rocking the latin pronunciation of the ae sound. Of course, I created my own new pronunciation issue since people want to pronounce it “Ish-tay” but I loved the spelling once I found it, so Ishtae it is.

* Razul – Razul was easier to name than Tae. He is from a combination desert/plains people who are nomadic. Their culture is centered on a tribal structure and they are skilled horsemen and horse-breeders. I started off knowing I wanted a Z in the name. Initially I was thinking I wanted to start with a Z sound, but most of the names I came up with sounded more like wizards than saber-wielders.

Putting the Z in the middle allowed for the same Arabian feel but gave me more options. I came up with Razul, which appealed to me because of the contradiction of sounds that the Z unites. “Raz” can sound a little harsh, and “Zul” (pronounced “zool”) has a sleeker sound. The final sound can be dragged out a little, “Razooool” and I think it adds a touch of mystery to the character, which suits his reticence.

* Silmande – Silmande’s name has an entirely different origin. Her name came from the computer game Neverwinter Nights. I was clicking on the random name generator function for making a new character and it popped up. I was rolling a fighter at the time, so I quickly passed on it, but it stuck with me. Once I started naming characters for my current wip the name Silmande came back to me.

For my current wip I’m focusing on less “western world” sounding names and aiming for more exotic sounds. Silmande (the e is silent) fits the bill. It’s not right for a fighter, but for a softer (but still determined) female who relies on diplomacy and a subtle form of magic, it’s perfect.

If I wanted to really play against type I could have named a male character Silmande (how perfect was Simkin’s name, from Weis and Hickman’s Darksword series?) but from the very beginning of the story planning process my lead’s name was Silmande.

* Iokoe – Silmande’s sister’s name came not from sound but from print. I love names that start with I (I’m a super sucker for them). I love names that involve I’s and K’s, and I love the look of the I-O combo. Honestly, I haven’t even decided on the correct pronunciation of Iokoe (eye-oh-koh versus ee-oh-koh) but I love the way Iokoe looks on paper.

As far as naming fantasy characters, I HIGHLY recommend trying out the Seventh Sanctum Name Generators. They have a bunch of generators which are good for several things. Firstly, entertainment value! They come up with some seriously comical names. But what I really like it for is the wide variation. And the unique pairing of sounds that only a random generator can come up with.

I’ve gotten the flavor of my naming for my current wip from odd sounds I saw in names from seventh sanctum. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re stuck on names; it’s a great jumping off point. I also use a book of baby names organized by astrological signs (99 cents at the grocery checkout line) and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s amazing Character Naming Sourcebook.

Mostly though, I make my names up, using resources as a starting point. I have so many other naming stories but I’ll stop here. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. I love this. It's cool how you can grow a name from a single evocative letter or syllable. Your process makes more sense than that advocated by Dr. Chevalier in "Gentlemen Broncos"...

    (If the rest of the movie is like the trailer it could either be very good or very bad. I need to see it.)