On the Naming of Names

May 25, 2013 in Writing

Someone recently asked me about where I get my character names. I do a mix of things.

1) Researching names and words appropriate to the cultures I’m drawing on for a piece and adopting or adapting them to fit my story—Haemun from the WebMage books, and most of the human side-characters in Fallen Blade fit the mode.

2) Grabbing names that suit the character more less at random from the depths of years of reading—Melchior is one of those coming as it does from descriptions of the three wise men in the bible, which in Mel’s case I think of the three wise guys.

3) Pulling random sound combinations or names out of my back brain because they taste* right—Ravirn and Aral both fall under this latter rubric. Ravirn was originally a short story character and I hadn’t planned to do much more with him, so I didn’t put much thought into the name, just reached into my back brain for something that sounded good. Aral, I came up with on the spur of the moment for an email discussion I was having with my editor.

*Taste is the word I use to describe back brain processing of things in my writing. Mostly that’s at the sentence or word level, but it’s also how my sense of how novel structure works. I write in a very spoken-word-oriented mode, saying things in my head as I write them—and I check my grammar etc. as I write by the way it feels in the mouth of my mind.