Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writing About Writing, Day Three

Continuing with the questions...

How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

I usually have a wide variety of name inspirations.

When I want a meaningful name, I'll usually pull up a baby name website and plug in some of the character's attributes. That's how I named Liadan, the central character of my upcoming serial fiction; the name is old Gaelic for "grey lady," which cracked me up because Liadan's formal title is "Lady Gray. Quite literally, therefore, her name is Lady Grey Lady Gray. But I only use names that I actually like, so if I find a name that fits but I hate it, I generally shy away from using it.

Some characters are "born" with their names already attached. Gabe and Sarah, from my novel, had their names from the get-go; I honestly can't imagine them being called anything else, even though Gabe isn't that character's real name. Supporting characters Talia and Sam(ael) required a bit of research. Sarah's mother, Rowena, had her name plucked out of thin air.

Occasionally, I name characters after other characters. In my novel, Sarah's father Alan is named after Allan Quatermain. In my Fullmetal Alchemist fan series, Ed Elric's son Lucas is named after Luke Triton, from the Professor Layton games.

Often, characters get named after my friends. So do places. In the novel, Gabe lives on Jaclyn Court; Jaclyn is a friend who has been mentioned in this blog more than once. I also name places after famous people, though much more rarely and usually more esoterically. For instance, in a writing project that is currently shelved for possible future resurrection, there is a town called Shiger. Most people would not recognize the name, but it's actually named after Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of my favorite video game franchise, The Legend of Zelda.

In some cases, I'm sneakier about naming something after something else. I mentioned in a previous post that Ironboro, in my novel, is based on my own hometown. The name also comes from that same town, which used to be known by the nickname "the iron borough."

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