Hello, My Name Is…

Hello, My Name Is...

by Dot Caffrey

Writers — and sometimes crazy pet owners like me — are often faced with the task of choosing names. We need names for characters, places, and even sometimes for things. Genre often dictates character and place names. For example, stories based on real people or events, or set in certain time periods, will need to conform to either the facts or the era.

Two of Dot's Cats

Meet two of Dot’s cats, Kyouya and Yuroichi, named after anime characters.

I write in my own world, which gives me free rein when it comes to naming things. In other words, I get to make them up. Some people are intimidated by that idea, but I feel it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my writing. Finding just the right name for a character or a place, or even a cat, well, it’s almost as good as chocolate being a diet food. I did tell you I write fantasy, right?

The two questions I am most often asked are: where do I come up with my character names and how do I keep track of them?

Inspiration

For me, finding the inspiration is the easy part. I listen. I am always on the hunt for sounds that move me. If I hear something I like, my next task is to play with the word or sound to make it my own.

Sometimes I will break a word apart and swap its syllables. Drejon is Ondrej split. Or trying it backwards, as in one of my protagonists, Regnaryn. Yep, you got it, NY Ranger.

I also like to find sounds I like and manipulate them until I get the right mix, as in Neshya. I really like the way that sounds. I have even been known to create a name and give it a history. One of my villains’ names comes from other words I made up: Jurcena, an ancient demon, and heval meaning follower of, and the name became Jurcheval.

Every once in awhile, I will even use existing names like Aloysius and Jansen.

Managing Name Lists

As for keeping track of the names for my stories, I keep lists. One sits on the Notes app on my phone, the other is an Excel spreadsheet on my computer. (For those who know me, yes, it IS color-coded.) These contain words or sounds that I found interesting, as well as names I have already used. When I need a name, I go to the lists and play with what I have.

I will not lie, sometimes it is a struggle to come up with just the right name. I can’t even count how many times names have been changed because I realized they just did not fit. I have also been known to put in a place marker name while I am writing so I can give the name selection or creation the proper attention it needs at a later time.

Now, you know my method, not the only one by any means. So the next question is, how do you come up with your names?

***

Dot Caffrey, Author

Dot Caffrey, Author

According to my Dad, I’ve been a storyteller from the time I began talking (which was at a very young age). But, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to take my passion for writing and my love for all things magical or mythical seriously and set out to write fantasy novels.

When I’m not at my day job or writing, I enjoy creating and wearing costumes (cosplay), playing video games (though, I’m not very good at it) and watching NHL hockey. Of course, hanging out with my friends and my cats also pleasantly fills my time.

You can find me on my website at www.DotCaffrey.com, Facebook and Twitter.

*O.C. Writers is a member of Amazon Affiliates. By clicking the book links on this site, the network will earn a small commission from your purchase.

9 thoughts on “Hello, My Name Is…

  1. Great post, Dot!

    As a fellow fantasy writer, I too have a ton of freedom in naming characters. For some of my characters, like Braegan, I did basically the same thing, by putting sounds together that I like.

    But for my elven characters, I found a great website (www.realelvish.com) that provides translations of Tolkien’s elvish languages into English. I think of the defining traits of the characters, then look through the name lists until I find words that I like that have similar meanings. Sometimes I put two or more elvish words together to make a name, like Faerleithril, which means “soul-freer” or Daenor, which means “shadow-fire”. The site has been a spectacular resource for my novels set in the faerie realms!

  2. Dot
    A very good post and fun to read and have an small inside in how your mind works! And your Dad is right you are a storyteller.

  3. Dot
    A very good post and fun to read and have an small insite in how your mind works! And your Dad is right you are a storyteller.

  4. Great post, Dot! I’ve always admired how you come up with such original names! Writing in suspense/thriller genre doesn’t give me a free rein like fantasy, although I did get the opportunity to name a character using the Shoshone language. Nataya is translated as “dance the woman’s dance”….
    And the main character, Fox Walker, shares his name in Shoshone, as well. Otherwise I’m constantly looking at my books for name ideas! I finished one novel before realizing I had characters named Lonnie, Lucy and Luke…gah! Write on! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Indy. Love the Shoshone name, it’s beautiful. As for names with all the same starting letter, I did the same thing – Graeden, Grenwald & Gantell. Now I keep a “scorecard” of how many names per letter on yet another color coded Excel spreadsheet. LOL.

  5. Love it!!! NY Ranger(s) LOL
    Enjoyed reading this. I was wondering where the names came from. Looking forward to the 3rd book & the next trilogy you write!!!!!

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