Thursday, February 6, 2014

Naming Characters

How do you choose character names? Do you use a baby name book and look for a name with the characteristics you want your character to have? But what about in non-Earth settings? Do you use common Earth names? Or do you make them up? If so, how?

Naming characters in futuristic societies that came from Earth is easy. Giving characters unusual names could be the first clue to the reader that they “aren’t in Kansas, anymore.”

In my scifi romances where the characters come from alien planets, I use syllables that “sound” like the character. For a macho man, I’ll use hard sounding consonants: Ts, Vs, Ks. Trevarr, Quintall. For females with a soft side, I use fluid sounds: Ls, Rs, soft Cs and Gs, and more vowels. Celara, Jileena. Genna. A warrior fem might be named Kai. A beta male (they can be heroes, too) could be Laning.

The only problem with making up names is the reader sometimes has difficulty pronouncing them. I made a mistake with a character in the original version of Switched. Too many consonants and not in a normal order. When I updated the book, I switched (no pun intended) the name from Hrvibm to Hervimb. Better to stick with pronounceable names.

Another consideration when naming characters from different planets is to first determine the type of society. Here’s where your world building comes into play. Is it a peaceful society or a militant one? What about climate? In harsh, arid climes, the names will reflect that with harsh, even guttural sounds. Same with a militant society. Yet characters from a peaceful society or one with a moderate climate would have names with liquid sounds. Think Spanish names as opposed to Germanic ones.

However you name your characters, make up the rules and be consistent. The same way you do with world building. And unless you have a fantastic memory, keep an ongoing list of all the characters with detailed descriptions. You may end up writing a series and you’ll need all that information when you write the second, third, fourth, etc. book.

Watch this page for a sweet giveaway on February 13th!

Diane Burton blogs here on the 6th of the month and on her own blog on Mondays. She's writing the second book in her Outer Rim series about strong fems on the frontier of space, where Trevarr, Celara, Laning, Jileena, Quintall, and Genna live. Kai doesn't have a story. Yet.


Alexis Morgan said...

Years ago when I started my Paladin series, I made a list of names that meant things like warrior, spear, brave, etc. Even if my readers didn't know that about the names, it made it easier for me to remember who these men were supposed to be.

Diane Burton said...

That's really interesting, Alexis. Thanks for sharing.