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.
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?
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?
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.
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