Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Writing: 'The Thirteenth City' Names

Why does choosing names for characters have to be so darn difficult? It seems that the only time I'm decent at choosing proper names is when it's a fantasy story set on a very, very different world from ours.

The story I'm currently working on isn't set on a different world. (But our world is very, very different than what it's like right now.) I won't go into spoilers - because if I ever actually get this finished, I have some awesome twists on the way!

However, I am supposed to have a diverse cast. That's the plan, anyhow. When I first sat down and started writing, I just went with the first good sounding names for the characters, confident they'd either grow into them or a better one would make itself known.

That left me with:

Zheng - An older Chinese inventor. (I actually researched this name a bit and am super happy with it.)

Legretta - A 30-something history professor. Possibly Russian. Or German. (I don't know. I sort of like the name, but all I can liken her to is the woman from Tales of the Abyss.)

Aileen - A student. Supposedly Russian or German but certainly sounds more Irish. (I HAVE to change this name. It makes her all shy and meek and docile and I can't write a woman like that!)

Soracha - Mercenary/treasure hunter. Unknown origins. (Hell, I wasn't even sure if that was his first name, last name or pseudonym. Then I found out it's a Gaelic name for a girl...)

Mikayla - Pilot. Possibly mixed heritage. Maybe Arabic, but I'm thinking Spanish. (And that's too English sounding of a name but every other one I look at sucks!)

Miles - Inventor. Probably half-Chinese. (And what kind of name is that for a half-Chinese boy? Really?)

Caedyn - Spoiler! (I don't think I could ever find a name more perfect than this one. What I love about it is that it's so simple, but looks complicated.)

Not to mention the fact that I've heard said you should never have two main characters whose names start with the same letter. And I've only been able to find names that end with 'a' that I like the sound of. And when I have to say Legretta, Soracha and Eliska, I start to feel funny.

The I also have the problem of not waiting to have names that are either too popular or too 'out there.' I mean, I don't want the reader to be constantly reminded every time they read a name that this character is from this country and etcetera. The hardest thing though is to choose names that don't already have some prior connotation for me.

(For example, I once named a young woman in one of my stories Daphne. I love the name Daphne, but it was years before I stopped thinking of Daphne Blake every time I wrote the name or thought it.)

So, I put my baby names book and behindthenames to good use. And nameberry.

Then I had:

Zheng - (Which, ideally, will never change because the name goes to the old curmudgeon perfectly.)

Gretel - (I can totally hear all the Hansel & Gretel jokes she heard growing up, and her responses to them.)

Eliska - (I like the name. Beyond that, I think the slight connotation I have with it I can easily ignore.)

Soracha - (Every other name I found that I could see him being called starts with a 'K' and, spoken, that would be too similar to Caedyn.)

Valora - (I actually like this a lot. It's different but no totally out there, and it offers several good nicknames. And it sounds just exotic enough.)

Atticus - (Truthfully, he was never a 'Miles' - at least not once I started getting his character pegged down. And this is a much more classy name. Besides, it's totally believable that an English parent would want to name their child something less foreign sounding. Not sure about history, but his Chinese parent might have been dead by this point. Or the name was a dying wish. Yeah, I think I'm trying to convince myself, but he is totally an Atticus.)

Caedyn - (There's a small part of me that wants to go with an Egyptian name. Eventually, depending which direction the story goes in, it might be revealed that this is the either easy to pronounce or the bastardized version of his name. Or a nickname. Or any of about a half-dozen other options that would explain it. But, for now, I'm keeping this name. And, yes, there is a reason why his name sound simple compared to the others.)

So, I'd love to hear what you think of either set of names. How important are names to you in books? Do you like it when a character fits their name perfectly, or do you prefer when the name is a psych-out and they're the opposite? If you're a writer, do you have problems choosing names for your characters?