Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sunday Musings: March 16 2014

So, what are we musing this week...names.

However, before we start, I’ve been told I should introduce myself. I’m your Musing host, Christine I (Steeves) Speakman. I’m an author here at MuseItUp as well as part of the Executive Acquisition Admin. Plus editor for a few of our Musers.

But, you can call me ChrisChat.

Now where were we…

What’s in a name? Have we not all heard the quote: a rose by any other name…but what if it was another name? Would we still feel the same about it? If a rose was a stinkweed would it still be given to our loved ones on Valentine’s Day?

What images do the names Scarlet, Veronica, Betty, Jessica, Nancy bring to mind?

I have heard some parents wait to meet their newborn before naming them. That the babe will somehow tell the parent their name.

I've heard of writers who need a name before they can write because the name gives them who the character is.

I've even heard of adult entertainers taking the name of the street they lived on as their last name...can't remember how they picked a first name.

Let alone how to spell the name...Chris, Kris, Chrys.

Let the musing begin.

I need to name my characters up front, and I'm very attached to the sound of their names. In Relocated, my main character's name is Raketh, called Keth. I'd initially named his father Kevin, only to be informed by my critique buddies that the names were too similar, and thus confusing. I sought for another, similar-sounding name, and ended up with "Gavin." Fortunately, I'd only written a few thousand words at the time.

With the names for my aliens, I wanted to come up with something reasonable-sounding, yet sufficiently alien, and ended up using a Persian/Arabic name generator and altering some of the names. I also appropriated and modified some of the names of my foreign-born co-workers.

But yes, I had to name each character as they appeared in the novel, and if I had to alter their names, well ...

I've tried to avoid using too many surnames.

Pauline (P.M.) Griffin author of THE STAR COMMANDOS series

I have no set rules for naming characters, although different situations set some requirements.  Many planets have naming conventions.  Lemurans, for example, have simple given names and sea-oriented family names.

I had my s-f universe well set in my mind years before writing STAR COMMANDOS and knew that Arcturians carry both family and line names.  I also knew which ones fit my male protagonist's particular situation.  A little thought provided his given name, Varn Tarl Sogan, again based on the Arcturian convention.  The female lead, Islaen Connor, comes from the planet Noreen of Tara, which had been settled by people from the North Terran island nation Ireland with a smattering of Highlanders added to the mix.  Her name is Irish.  Occasionally, an individual arises already named.  Bandit was one.  Gray Jack Dundee is another.

For me the name of a character appears without any warning. When I needed a name for my main character in If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, the name Carolyn came as I wrote about her. Jennifer was easy, because she was in the title. Carolyn's friends' names needed to be friendly and down to earth so I named them Becky and Janie. Carolyn's last name came to me as I fleshed out her character. It is Samuels.

In fact in all of my novels character names come to me without needing to think too much about them. I have a character and the name just fits. I guess this is part of my "pantser" nature. The character and name are a complete package for me:)

Perhaps I am using my own experiences with people and my TV and movie viewing. I used Jennifer as a mean girl, because this is a name many mean girls have had. In my upcoming novel, Amber is a mean girl, because that is such a perfect name for a mean girl.

S.S. Hampton, Sr. author of  BETTER, THAN A RABBIT’S FOOT and upcoming SHARING RACHEL

I decide on the story, the plot, identify the characters, even flesh them out a bit. But before I finalize the character, I have to choose a name. The name is the person, a clue as to whether they are strong, weak, innocent, or cunning. With the name settled, it becomes easier to finalize the character so that character traits and physical description go hand in hand with the chosen name.

Meg Amor author of the soon to be released DARK WAR, A WILD DARKNESS STORY

My names come out of nowhere. I'm a panster writer. I'm just trotting along mostly at a fast clip taking dictation with my characters. :-).

Book 1 is called Henry and Isolde. A take on a very old convoluted love story. My three main characters are set in New Orleans.

Henry Bovary is an older black musician. He just popped in. He looks like a Henry. Izzy is a white NZer and not a particularly kiwi name but that's what she looks like. That's short for Isolde. You can thanks Izzy's mum Olwyn for that name. (Olwyn is actually my real mums name who is dead - I get to honor her) Another pop in name. Charlie Laralde looks like...Charlie. An urbane sophisticated charming Rico sauve person.

Aaron and I use to name all our cars too. Sometimes they were instant. She's a Cindy. (Current VW Beetle). Daisy - my yellow mini. We adorned her with black daisy stickers. She was gorgeous. Martine - our sophisticated 540 BMW with her custom paint job. Lol. Yes. Not sure why she got a French name. But she looked like a Martine.

My side characters I have to think for a couple of minutes on. But I usually know what they look like in my head. So the names just 'go' with them.

Isadora for Henry's 100 year old mother. His father Louis. I try to think briefly of the era of the people.

Sometimes I have to look up another nationality name. Kamea - called Mea by everyone is Izzys best friend and a Rarotongan. I wanted the meaning of her name to have a meaning but then didn't include it I'm the story.

I seem to have a penchant for A and T names I've noticed in the side characters 

Anton, Andrianna, Alexandria, Antoinetta, Alex etc.

I also incorporate past lives into my novels. So there are 'connector' names.

Isolde/Izzy is Isabel Lanyon in WWII. (Lanyon is my Cornish family name) she is Elena/Lena in WWI. Also Henry's bother is Isadora. Another Issy. (Although god help anyone who dares to shorten her name!) lol.

Henry is Henry Richard Marshall/Rick in WWII. He's Russian and Alexsander/Lex Serebriakov in WWI. I picked this last name from the list of White Russian nobility that exiled to Paris in WWI.

Charlie is Charles L. Grange/Lee in WWII. Etienne (just for something different on WWI)

Charlie's son Alexander Beaumont is Nikolai in WWI. He later falls in love with a Nikki/Nikolina in this lifetime.

Charlie goes out with a Leena and Lexxie I'm this lifetime.

The name similarities are meant to entwine all the characters lives together at different levels. They're spaced far enough apart and in different books that hopefully they're not confusing. Lol.

I've always been fascinated by names. I've changed my own about 7 times now. I think 3 or 4 times officially by deed poll as my life and I change. I've been Meg/Meghan for about 13 years now and love it. I was born Justine. Which I loathe.

It's a very pretty name - in French! And especially with my last name. Justine Amor. Again - only in French. Jus-teeen Arh...mooooor. So poetic and sensuous.

Otherwise I get Justin (as in Bieber - a bloody boys name) Aye-more. Ugh. Lol

I end up sounding like Hyacinth Bucket. It's not Aye-more. It's Arh-moor. :-).

Jami Gray author of the soon to be released HUNTED BY THE PAST

Okay, I'm a bit new to the Musings thing, but I love the topic of names. I actually own a few books on names. Sometimes I get lucky and the first name will just be there as part of my character. Other times, well, that's when it gets interesting. With my Paranormal Suspense series, because most of the main characters have a military background, I needed names that I could either: shorten, nickname, or in one case, use the character's initials as a name (Tag). For my UF series, it comes down to the meaning behind the name and the actual origins of the name itself. Since most of the characters are nearly immortal, older names have to translate into the modern world without sticking out.  Unfortunately, sometimes I think I have the name nailed, only to have my character refuse to answer to it or refuse to do anything because that is not their name. Of course, when pressed their only answer is a glare and grouse, "Why do I have to tell you?" Then I get to go out and do hunts-in print and on the web. For surnames, I love the Surname Database (, it's great. Traces each family name back to where they started, gives derivatives and history.

Mary-Jean Harris author of the upcoming AIZAI THE FORGOTTEN

I love naming characters, and since I write fantasy, I usually make up new names or modify existing ones. I often find it hard to make up the perfect name though, and I really need a perfect name for the main character before I begin writing, though for minor characters, I often just put a placeholder like "A" or "T" depending on what letter seems to go best with them until I find a name later. I have a baby names book that I use as inspiration, and it has names with different language origins so is really helpful to get unique ones. I'm especially a fan of Celtic names, so I usually use these or modify them to make my own names up. But sometimes, I don't realize how stupid some names I make up are until much later, like for a short story with a character named "Quadrilla", though some names I think work well, like "Lunora" or "Wolfdon" (the main character in my upcoming novel Aizai the Forgotten).

Chris Mannino author of the soon to be released SCHOOL OF DEATHS

Wow- I just wrote a whole blog entry about naming a couple weeks ago.  To sum up, I use to obsess about names.  I'd spend hours on a draft with the word NAME1 or NAME2 as my characters' names, until I'd found the perfect name with perfect deep meaning, great sound and so on.  Now, I tend to just type the first name that comes to mind.  I'm not quite sure, for example, why my main character in School of Deaths is "Suzie" and not "Susie" - but I can't imagine her with the S- it just seems wrong.  Must be a gut thing....

Most of the names in my books have some kind of meaning behind them.

Earrings of Ixtumea: The name 'Ixtumea' at first was based on a river named in the Bible "Idumea' but my critique group at that time suggested I come up with a name that reflected the Mesoamerican culture. Basically the name is made up.  Guadalupe, 'Lupe' name in some Latino culture is based on the Virgin Guadalupe, which is very sacred to these people.  The legend has it that an Indian in Mexico wanted to go to the church but the priests said he couldn't as they believed at the time that they didn't have souls.  The Virgin appeared to him and later have flowers spring up in the place to prove she'd visited him.

Crossed Out: True story--I was at my local Bank of America and noticed that the teller's name was 'Cura'.  I asked about it and she told me that her mother was a huge Cure fan and named her after them.  Perfect!  My main character's best friend's mother loves the 80s and 90s music.  So hence 'Cura' came to be.  **No, it's not Spanish like some think.  I named Stephanie after my desire to name my daughter that.  Since I couldn't have my own children, Stephanie was born.  I mean, writing a book is like giving birth.

No More Goddesses: I had a number of students in my first grade classroom named Jordan.  I loved the name and used it.  Selena is named after the Tejano singer who was murdered around the time that my character would have been born.  A number of girls were in fact named Selena after the murdered singer.

In my current project my main character's name is Esperanza 'Espie' which in Spanish means hope.  Espie is the hope of her and the Other world once she ventures out of her cult and falls in love with the 'enemy.'  Hope that their love might overcome the decades of hatred between both worlds.

I felt I wanted to put my two penny's worth in on this one because I was asked this very question, by one of the students, in a school I was reading chapters of Sam and The Sea Witch too. I mulled it over and sorted out my thought process whilst talking to him. It appears Johnny Pothelswaite was a boy in my secondary school class. I didn't know that until last Friday. At school Pothelswaite was just like Johnny and to be fair I barely knew him. Only that he was unassuming, not very brave, never in trouble, just a shadow at the back of the classroom.

I wanted Johnny to compliment Sam's boisterous character by being nervy, even scared of doing anything wrong then the name came into my head subconsciously. As I say I only put two and two together last Friday, isn't that strange.   

When I read fiction set in times past very little annoys me more than names which are inappropriate for the era. Names must be suitable for the period and in historical fiction they must fit the era in which it is set. Authors need to be aware of when first names came into common usage and when they were popular. Surnames developed in the Middle Ages, and some of them were limited to specific areas and when they were first introduced to the country from overseas in which a novel is set. There are ancestral, territorial, occupational and descriptive surnames.

I cannot begin a novel until I have chosen names for my main characters. One of the reference books I find very useful is The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names by E. G. Withycombe.

Here is one example:

Loveday. (f): a common medieval Christian name, which later became confined to Cornwall (where it still survives), sometimes in the form Lowdy. The name was originally given to either boys or girls born on a loveday, that is, a day appointed for a meeting between enemies, litigants, etc., with a view to an amicable settlement of disputes. It is a translation of Latin dies amoris. The Christian name Luveday is recorded as early as 1205, though the earliest example of the noun given in OED is c.1290. It is now given only to girls.

Luveday Cur 1205
Loveday HR 1273
Lovedie Corn. Par. Reg 1578
Lowdy Corn.  Par. Reg 1601, 1622

Dawn Knox author of the upcoming: DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE

I've often thought it must be wonderful to make up a new name for a character and then find people have started using it to name their children. I'm not sure J.M. Barrie, who wrote PETER PAN, was the first person to use the name 'Wendy' as often suggested, but he certainly brought it to the public's attention and popularised it. 

When I hear an interesting name or word that could possibly be used as a name, I make a note of it for future stories, although I must admit, I rarely consult my list. 

The character for a story generally comes to me first and once I've decided on the personality, a name usually pops into my head that I think will suit him or her, as well as be appropriate for the genre and era. I do, however, sometimes select names from my list for incidental characters. 

The protagonist of my story DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE, took shape in my mind and then I came up with the name which seemed to suit her. Daffodils are fresh, bold and distinctive, qualities that can also be used to describe my character.

I’ve never met anyone with the name ‘Daffodil’, so perhaps my book, when it’s published, might prompt a new craze! Although I’m not sure what I’d say if I ever met an unhappy Daffodil, who hated her name!

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at


Anonymous said...

My choice was inevitable, obvious and simple - twins Fleur and Lee live in Fleur de Lys...

J.Q. Rose said...

So appreciated all the thoughts of choosing names for your characters. Characters' names help define their personalities. I had to change names too when the main characters names began with the same letter. I believe in using names people can easily read, not using a bunch of odd letter like Nysxz or such. I guess those might be fine for fantasy or sci fi, but I just don't want to stop the reader in her traxx to try and figure out the pronunciation. Thanks so much for sharing today.