In my previous post, I talked about choosing the right attire for the characters in your world. Today, I want to talk a bit about naming.
We’ve all heard suggestions for basic naming conventions. These are a few off the top of my head:
- Make sure each name sounds/looks different (Varying syllabic emphasis can help here–pay attention to where you emphasize the name. “Anna” has a different emphasis than “Blayloc,” for instance).
- Don’t have the same first letter of their names for multiple characters in the same story (For example: Jenna, Jim, Jack, Janice… oh dear. Isaac and I may need to revisit Distant Horizon and change a few names…)
- If writing fantasy/science fiction, don’t have long, convoluted names. Or if you do, shorten them. (I’m looking at you Shevanlagiy… Bit of trivia, when I wrote the first draft of The Wishing Blade a decade ago, I copy-pasted her name each time I needed to type it. Probably should’ve taken that as a hint.)
- Don’t have two characters with the same name (Unless this is part of the plot, at which point you still want the readers to be able to easily tell them apart.)
- If your name has too nice of a ring to it, Google-search the name to make sure it’s not already taken. (I once created an original character whose name I later realized was very similar to a DeviantArt stock artist that I often used stock from).
When I originally created my main character for the Exiles role-play campaign that Isaac ran (a story set in the Distant Horizon universe, which we plan to write later), I named her Emily Johnson.
Worked for the campaign, but looking back, I’ve been debating changing her name. There are two reasons.
One, she is supposed to be of Asian heritage, and so I have considered giving her an Asian surname (I haven’t decided which particular culture–Korean, Japanese, Chinese, etc…). However, given that she lives in a dystopian world where English names are encouraged, and there’s a good chance that somewhere along the line, her father/grandfather/great grandfather might not have been Asian, I’m not too worried about this one. Name makes sense for the world of the story. Now, in areas which aren’t under the Community’s control, the names you see are going to be a bit different.
However, there is another Emily in the story: Lady Emily Black. While most characters wouldn’t know her as Emily, if Isaac and I ever delve into that character’s youth, we’ll end up with two Emilys in the same universe. If they were stand-alone stories in different universes, I’m not sure it would be a problem. Same universe?
Could be confusing.
My initial response was to change the main character’s name. (After all, there’s a story purpose for “Emily” regarding the other character: her mother’s name was Emma, and she was named for her mother).
But let’s take a quick look at the culture of the world, in which Lady Emily Black is a well-known, highly respected diplomat (at least within the Community). Thus, it makes sense that a family might name their child after her, hoping that kid would pick up some of her better-known attributes (and indeed, both characters play the part of a peacekeeper between the people they work with).
Not only that, Lady Emily Black is typically known as Lady Black, with Emily being relatively unused (unless we ever go into writing her backstory).
Based on those factors, I’m considering keeping Emily’s name as it is. I might still to choose to change it, giving her a different surname or changing her first name to keep the characters a bit more separate, but right now, I think I’ve got another set of names to worry about.
Jenna, Jim, Jack, Janice…
But… I like their names! I’ve grown fond of them! They all fit the character!
*Sigh.* Something Isaac and I will have to discuss and decide if we need to change before we do our final round of edits.
It’s not like we’ve got Camaraderie/Coalition/Community in the same book–
Or Crush and Chill (both “C” names, both based on their superpowers)—
Um… I’ll get back to you on that.
I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂
Have you ever had to change the names of your characters for clarity? Would you change Emily’s name, or swap out the multiple “J” names a bit?
Looking for more naming tips? Try these articles: