To sign up for Anne's free quarterly newsletter, click here.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Blogger Angelia Almos

Today's guest, Angelia Almos, recently released a space opera, Spectors, and has written novels in other genres as well. She agreed to share her thoughts and wise advice about the tricky business of naming characters.

*  *  *

One of my favorite and sometimes most frustrating tasks is naming characters. As an author we can add some extra meaning by choosing our characters names carefully.

When I first started writing I picked names I liked and didn’t think about ethnicity, history or the meaning of the name. I sometimes still do this. I’ve occasionally named a character after someone or someplace special. A character sometimes comes fully formed with a name and has no interest in me renaming him. While other times I might choose and discard several names before finally finding one that fits.

I used a combination of naming techniques for Spectors. The heroine – Kristy Ryan is named after my childhood horse, Kristy. The hero – Andrew came with his name from the beginning. The ship was always the Unicorn. I did a little research and playing around with names for the secondary characters and the places they travel to. I consciously decided to keep the character’s names Americanized despite it being a space opera. The more unusual names were reserved for non-human characters and the planets.  

I had a lot of fun naming my characters for The Beast’s Redemption a modern sexy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I started with the original fairy tale being French and went from there. Belle was the heroine’s name in not only the Disney version, but the original. I gave her the last name Beaumont because it sounded nice with Belle and is an old French surname meaning beautiful mountain or hill. The hero was more difficult. I tried and tossed out several names which didn’t fit until I found Alexander Leandre. Leandre is French and means lion-man; the hero is a mountain lion shapeshifter. Alexander matched Leandre and means defending men; the hero’s natural instinct is to protect and defend.

Baby name books/websites and census records can be a great tool, but my new favorite spot to figure out character names is 20,000 Names From Around the World http://www.20000-names.com). It has a Special Categories section of the site making finding names with a particular meaning incredibly easy. This is how I figured out all of my character names for The Beast’s Redemption. For Unicorn Keep and my new Angie Derek short story, I needed several names meaning a particular color. I looked up color names through the Special Categories and was able to find all of their names in a very short amount of time.

Here are some of my tips and techniques for picking out character names. Understand your genre. Certain styles of names go with different genres. Fantasies and science fiction characters tend to have more unusual names than contemporaries. Do you want your character to have an odd name or a boy/girl next door name? What is your character’s ethnicity? Pick a name from that country or background. Does your character have something special about them? Pick a name reflecting that. Consider all of your character names. Do you want them to have similar names or contrasting names? Keeping track of beginning letters can be helpful in making sure you don’t have five character names starting with A unless you’re doing it on purpose.


*  *  *
You can learn more about Angelia Almos at her websites www.angeliaalmos.com and www.angiederek.com.
You can purchase Spectors here.

13 comments:

  1. For me, I LOVE Google Translate. I write so much fantasy I can choose a language that "fits" the style of my world and pick names from there. I do utilize baby name sites too, though, 'cause there are just SO MANY NAMES to choose from, along with the definitions.

    As an aside, I just LOVE the name "Space Opera." It sounds so COOL!

    Thanks for all the tips. Good to have. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kat - I also love Google Translate. Isn't that the coolest tool?

      Delete
    2. I've also loved the term space opera. I'm not sure when the term came into being, but I believe it was around the time of Star Wars and Star Trek.

      Delete
  2. Naming characters and places is one of the joys in Writing Land. For one brief moment you have control. And it's not as daunting as the responsibility in naming children or even pets- it's easily changed. But it's a responsibility nonetheless. Stories have a life of their own.
    Nice to peek into Angelia's process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have named many of my characters' names I had considered for my children, but didn't end up using. :-) Even if I didn't name my daughter that I still love the name and wanted to use it somewhere. :-)

      Delete
  3. Mirka, you bring up a scary area: changing character names. Despite the wonders of find/replace on Word, this can be a real hornet's nest.

    Once I changed a name half-way through a draft. I found/replaced all occurrences. Then I merrily went along, but near then end started calling the character by his original name again. I never realized I was doing it. Four beta readers missed it. Fortunately, one did notice it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anne - I had the same thing happen. I had two sisters, Amber and Ashley. I didn't change the name on purpose, but I started calling Ashley Amber halfway through and then reverted back to Ashley near the end. Several beta readers missed it - only one caught it and pointed it out to me. Man, am I glad she read it. :-)

      Delete
  4. I usually enjoy naming my characters, but I'm always running into trouble with my short stories where readers mistake a male for a female and vice versa. It's happened so many times in my short stories that my critique buddies now advise me to use basic names like Tom, Ralph, and Sue. But still, I just can't do it. It's just too boring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You gotta go with what you feel is right. Nothing worse than a name that is not "the" character.

      Delete
  5. I tend to forget the names I'd first come up with for my main characters. (I feel like a bad mother!) For My Clearest Me, the boy was initially called something else (see, I don't even remember it now) until, like Angelia said, I went through baby names and checked out their meanings. So thanks for the link, Angie, it's another website to explore!

    Kat's right: 'Space Opera' sounds cool. :) Great post here, Angelia & Anne, with very fine tips in the last paragraph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Claudine. I now also have a file where I keep track of all names I've used in published stories. I was beginning to worry about repeating names. I tend to do that. :-) I had one character I had to change his name and it was awful because I felt he was the other name, but I had already used that name in a story and don't feel I have enough out that I could get away with using the same names yet.

      Delete
  6. I've used baby name books and sites, too. They're great. For last names I search online and go by what nationality I'm looking for.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I like to write interesting names down when I hear them out in public, in the newspaper, etc., but I use the baby name sites, too, as well as the phone book.

    ReplyDelete