Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Happy Tails and Tales Blog.
The Name Game
I hate naming characters.
Yikes! That’s probably not the best way to begin a guest blog. Forget about turning you readers off, the use of the “h” word probably shot me right to the top of a special interest group’s watch list—you know, one of those groups that protects unnamed fictional characters.
Is it me, or does there seem to be a special interest group for everything? I mean, even sticking with just the topic of unnamed people, even I know of—and I’m quite a neophyte, I guarantee—special interest groups representing: 1) the random, unnamed cowboy who ambles across the street just before the shootout (and just after the tumbleweed) in those old western films; 2) the drunken, unnamed frat boys who criss-cross the country stirring up riots whenever a college championship is decided, and 3) people who anonymously post on websites and blogs.
I mean, I’m all for protecting the defenseless, but c’mon …
Still, I’d better get back on track before the protestors shut me down.
So yes, gentle readers, the truth is that I hate naming characters. In fact, it isn’t just characters that I hate naming, it’s pretty much everything: countries, cities, streets, weapons, technology, you name it (no pun intended) … but I especially hate naming characters.
Names are labels. Labels suck.
I’m not trying to take a stance or make some kind of social statement. I’m not even afflicted by a crippling fear of commitment. I’m just horrible at coming up with names.
Character names, that is.
I couldn’t care less about names for actual people.
I can name people all day without breaking a sweat. If you’re about to have a baby and you’re undecided about a name, drop me a line; I’ll come up with a name on the spot.
Because who really cares about his/her name? If it’s that bad, you can change it. The easy way to do so, of course, is to adopt a cool nickname, but you can do so legally if you want.
Artists do it all the time. So do people running from the law.
Those two groups have more in common than either want to admit …
Nevertheless, I believe deciding upon a character’s name might be the most difficult part of writing. So much can rely upon a name: the right one can offer insight into a character’s character (no pun intended), while helping plant an accurate visual in the mind’s eye.
On the other hand, a bad name can become an insurmountable obstacle—and will be quite difficult to change later. While I’m certain there are authors out there who can turn a character’s desire for a name change into a scintillating sub-plot, I assure you that I am not one of them.
Still, it might be an interesting project for NaNoWriMo in November …
Anyhow, knowing how important a name is creates a lot of pressure. And it’s not just the first name, mind you—last names have to be selected, as well.
Some names require hours of research and a painful decision. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not every name involves a difficult choice. Some names pop into existence as soon as a character is envisioned and it just feels right. Luckily, this happens almost half the time—otherwise, I’d probably never finish a story.
On that note, let me share the history behind some of the names selected for Væmpires: Revolution:
Vielyn—(first appearance Væmpires: Revolution)—everyone’s favorite new villain has a name that seems somewhat exotic and unique… yet, it is anything but. Although it is pronounced vee-ellen, it’s actually just a slight modification of the word villain. Vielyn is a bad guy, pure and simple. He’s evil, he’s black-hearted, and he’s going to get much worse as the series progresses…
Still, even the most despicable despot deserves love (in fiction, at least), so you can expect Vielyn to find his perfect soul(less) mate in an upcoming novel.
Her name is Zendelia. As my mother would say, “She’s a doozy.”
Iris—(first appearance Væmpires: Revolution)—I spent weeks agonizing over this name. During that time, Iris was identified within the novel as ***. I struggled. What name could best reflect a character with the fashion sense of a punk rocker but the power to resurrect the dead?
After much contemplation, I settled on Iris, shortened from Osiris, the Egyptian god associated with death and life after death. Moreover, Osiris is usually depicted in bright, flamboyant colors—much like dear Iris.
Steven & Elle—(first appearance Væmpires: White Christmas)—I selected the names of Daniel’s parents as an homage to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. In the Dark Tower, Roland Deschain’s parents were named Steven and Gabrielle. And while the Dark Tower is set in a future rendered archaic by the devolution of technology, Væmpires is set in a future that’s technologically evolved, yet also feels archaic. It’s all very fitting and just feels right.
Councilman Donrel—(first appearance Væmpires: White Christmas)—Donrel is an interesting character. In some ways, he’s the firebrand of White Christmas, and although we have yet to find out what he’s up to during the revolution, his heart seems to be in the right place (which is advantageous, since he’s a warm-blooded væmpire!) and he also serves as a voice of reason—even when his view is unpopular. Because of this, I chose to name him after Tolkien’s Elrond—another person who headed a council and was willing to give voice to the unpopular truth. Donrel is an anagram of Elrond.
Queen Anne—(first appearance Væmpires: White Christmas)—The name of Cassandra’s mother is the key to a very important reveal that’ll come much, much later in the series. I think it’s so clever (and that, ladies and gentlemen is to key to happiness: believe what you want about yourself, and don’t let anyone or anything else—even conclusive facts to the contrary—convince you otherwise) that I’m willing to offer this to the first person that figures it out:
- An autographed first edition of every Væmpires book ever printed
- ·A reading (at your home or local library) every time a new Væmpires book is printed
- I’ll personally select the names for all your future children!*
*These must be real, not fictional, children.
And, with that, I bid you adieu. Or farewell. Or whatever label you want to stick on it.