Saturday, April 17, 2021

Naming a Story's Characters

This month's round robin is about how each author chooses the names for their characters.  In real life, names can be odd identifiers as spellings change and odd names occasionally show up. 

For instance, my legal spelling is Rhobin. Where did the 'h' come from? Not even my mother knew. My brother spread the story that a drunk midwife misspelled the name on the birth certificate as my father said to name me for the bird which was just outside the window while he and mom were deciding on a name. Supposedly she visited a bar across the ally. My brother, who was born at the same facility, gave me the nickname Beergarden because of the story. Although I love him dearly, grrrr! Older Brothers!  Why do I use Robin? Because everyone tends to pronounce Rhobin as row-bin rather than rob-in. Okay, enough about me.

So based on real-life names, fiction names can have a wide swath of usage.

From all of my reading, I know character names are important.  In some instances, they can indicate the period or place of the story's setting, or the ethnicity of the character.

My first caveat in naming characters for me is to not use the name of anyone I know—no family members or friends' names unless they are very commonly used names. But, if I did want to use their name, I would certainly ask if it was all right and describe the character to them. Do I think they would be upset or offended if I used their name? Maybe if used without permission. Yet as mentioned some names are so common that with a different surname the character would be just another person with that name, so it would be okay. While I know many people named Tom, I've used it in a story, but he was an honorable character and, of course, had a different surname. Come to think of it Tom might have represented my now deceased uncle.

It's my evil characters that I try to avoid offending anyone I know by not using their name. Usually, that character receives an entirely made-up moniker.

In my Aegis fantasy stories, the character naming is different. I've researched many historical names and now have a thick folder of names by country and ethnicity.  In it, I found Celtic names seemed to fit my characters best. This is odd because my son just did 23andMe and found out we are 80% Celtic.

Many of my characters in my science fiction books are also made up although I'm sure some historical names used today will also be used in the far future. The key in made-up names is to make sure the spelling clearly expresses the pronunciation.

That's why I use my folder. Luckily, for my historical book, Constantine's Legacy,  I already had a list of Frankish names. The problem is they can be hard to pronounce. 

Even with these caveats, I can search for names that just seem to fit my characters.

Skye Taylor 
Anne Stenhouse 
Victoria Chatham 
Beverley Bateman 
Helena Fairfax 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Marci Baun 
Judith Copek 
Connie Vines 
Fiona McGier