Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to write a story (part six)

   The importance of Names ~

   I have always found names interesting, wanted to know where they came from, how people got them, and whether they liked the names they got. When I was younger I wanted to be called Jodi, a name I don't care for at all now. When I was older it was Jasmine, probably because it sounded sexy and exotic. But for the longest time my name of choice has been Eleanor. I like it both for the sound, ie, the way it rolls off the tongue, as well as the meaning. And when I choose names for my characters those are the two things I keep in mind. I want the reader to be able to say the name silently in her head without much trouble, and I want the meaning of the name to have something to do with the character.
   Occasionally the two do not coincide, in which case I will often choose how the sound of the name makes me feel. For example, the name Alkor sounds harsh to me, almost grating, while the name Bakku, though it has the hard 'k' sound, sounds more innocent and agreeable. And yes, these are two characters in one of my stories although in this case, I either made up or heard the name Alkor and Bakku (spelled Baku) is the name of a place in Azerbaijan.
   Which brings me to the third way I choose names; I look on a map. Already it is in my mind the sort of people who live in the place I've set my story and I've probably already exhausted the names in my books. So I'll go to a map (I have lots of these, too) and look at a place that resembles the one in my tale. In the case of Bakku, he lives in a dry place, a little bit like the middle east, a little bit like the mediterranean so I tried to choose a name that gave the feel of those places. The name of the capitol city where bakku lives is called Bukhara, the emperor's name is Riaz (accent over the 'i'), Hussein is a spy under the direction of the feared General Lutzen, Damaris is the princess betrothed to Bakku, and Tarsus is a mage.
   Of course, the names you choose depend entirely upon the type of story you are telling. The above referenced story is a fantasy so having unusual names is practically expected. The story I'm writing now is an historical romance and the characters' names reflect that: Katherine, Jack, Harlan Harris, Jim Woolbridge, Larry Sweet, to name a few. You might even be able to guess the time period by the names.
   Anyway, names are fun. I enjoy choosing them, though I can easily get lost in the task. They are also a crucial element in any tale. They must ring true to the character and the setting, whether it is real or made up. And I've heard they are one of the few things an editor will not ask you to change. So, choose wisely. And happy hunting.

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