A Rose by any other name

A new story is boiling in my mind.  It scrapes at the inside of my skull like Athena trying desperately to get out.  The cast of characters came to me quickly, but they needed names.


Sometimes, I feel like names are the bane of all authors.  They have to fit the character and the setting, and work well with each other.  That might sound simple, but for me it spirals into a series of questions just short of the Spanish Inquisition.

Eric's First Rule of Naming

No character in the story can have the same name as a member of my immediate family.

That is hard.  In this particular story, there is a character that feels like a Christopher and another who feels like a Donna, but my sister's name is Chris and my mother-in-law's name is Donna, so both of those names are out.

I made this rule when I was really young, when family thought characters with the same name were really ways to talk about them.  (sigh)

There is a practical reason for this too.  Writers can be sued if people think characters in their stories are based on them.  It makes naming a bit challenging for me, but it is a wise thing to do.

Eric's Second Rule of Naming

Names must flow together well.

Flow is a hard thing to talk about.  The easiest way to think of name flow is that the names need to sound like they belong together.  Families and regions have certain naming conventions, and as a Speculative Fiction writer, determining those conventions are important.

Older fiction didn't bother with this, so we ended up with names like Blork, Gort, and Xanthon.  Names that sounded outlandish, but were just weird.

H. P. Lovecraft thought a lot about the names of the creatures in his fiction.  Cthulhu for example is based on the greek work Cthon which means underground, and he intentionally wanted something that was hard to pronounce and that would be pronounced differently by everyone.  He thought it helped to lend the character an unknowable and alien quality.

Eric's Third Rule of Naming

Love the names you choose.

Writing a novel or series is akin to marriage.  You are going to spend every moment of every day with these characters rummaging around in your head.  It can take months or even years to write and edit a story.  It is a commitment.  Make sure you are committed to the names you choose so you don't end up with a Dwigt in your manuscript.

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