What’s in a name? How do you choose them? Where do you find them? Are there any you avoid? These are the questions for this month’s Round Robin.
Names are really important. Whether they’re for your own child or for a character in one of your books, picking the right name can make all the difference.
As an author, I do agonize over what to name my characters. Even if they aren’t real people, the name I eventually (or quickly) settle upon influences who they are and represents them just as it does for a real person. Even minor characters’ names require attention. Sometimes, I’ll research a name. Other times, the names just come to me.
For my main characters, I’m always looking for “positive” names. Of course, they have to suit the characters, but I don’t want to name them something that has any negative connotations or bad energy connected to it unless they’re the villain. Internet searches are good for this, especially when you’re looking for the meaning of names and/or names from different cultures.
The last couple of books, I’ve had to research. My current WIP, which I hope to work on and finish this weekend, is a fun shifter novelette geared for an anthology. Originally, the main character’s name was Zenobia, a powerful Palmyrene queen from Syria. She ruled in the 3rd century. Such a name commands respect and says a great deal about whoever carries it. However, my character is of Norse descent. Though Zenobia is a very appealing name, I like its strength, the sound and history of it, but it didn’t seem right. Instead, I settled on Asta, which means beautiful/beloved, and depending where you look, “star” and “goddess”. As she’s the lead singer of a band, having a name that meant beautiful goddess and a star was nearly as good as Zenobia. (Nearly.) The hero’s name is Luke, meaning bearer of light. I like my men to have noble names, a meaning to aspire to. I also researched my heroine’s supporting characters’ names, as well as the hero’s pals.
The perfect name can take a while to find, though. This was the case for my novel Snow Spirits. Set in China in 1962, I spent quite a bit of time researching names for this book. (Yes, it is a new cover.) The main character is a snow leopard shifter and Chinese. Her name needed to be appropriate and suit not only her human nature, but her animal one. When I discovered that Xuě was not only a common name, but meant snow, it was a perfect match. Her husband’s name is Bao, which means treasure, precious, rare, at least in names. Several months later, when I was almost done writing the book, I discovered bao also means leopard. I’d accidentally (or subconsciously) named the two main characters snow and leopard. Considering both are snow leopard shifters, it was rather serendipitous.
Sometimes, I’ll have a place name until the “one” reveals itself. Often, though, I’ll search (fall down the rabbit hole) until I find the right one. It may stop me from writing, but I can’t seem to move forward without that name.
What about you? Have you ever read a book where the name just didn’t seem to fit the character? Or the character had the perfect name? If you’re an author, how important are your characters’ names and how much time do you spend researching that name?