Before I get going with this post I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! The big day is only 6 days away! My kids are literally bouncing off the walls waiting for Santa to come. My favorite part of the holidays is making it absolutely magical for my kids. My second favorite thing is being able to spend time with my family and in-laws. We always have a great time and the food is, to put it mildly, amazing. :)
I hope you all have a great Christmas!
I'd also like to remind everyone that my next book, Irish Strength, The Irish Treasures Saga Book One, is being released January 1, 2014. It will be available through the CreateSpace store, Amazon and through bookstores and libraries.
Now for the Thursdays with the Author post! ;)
When thinking of names for your characters, what inspires you? How do you come up with unique and original names for so many characters?
Names are hard. Sometimes even harder than writing the actual book.
When I started Dark Mountains, I was young, only 18, and I definitely hadn't seen much of the world. The majority of the book was written while I was pregnant with our first child and as we were waffling on names for our baby boy, I was doing the same thing with the characters in my book. Dark Mountains takes place in Eastern Kentucky so I had to use names that would fit the region as well as the characters. We named our son Colton (Cole for short) and I wanted to share his name with the hero of my book. Cole (in the book) is a young man who is very loyal, puts the well being of others above his own, sacrificed to serve his country, and married the woman he loved. I wanted my son to grow up with the same morals and character as the hero in my book, so I decided to keep their names the same. I have no idea if my son will appreciate this when he's older though!
Another name I used was my mother's (Sheri). She is Cole's mom in the book. The only other name I settled on that had a direct link to my life was using Heinrich as the last name of the German doctor that takes care of Cole after he's injured in the war. Hopefully my brother-in-law doesn't mind the use of his surname but I couldn't resist since it needed to be a German sounding name and his is conveniently just that. ;)
In my next book, Irish Strength, the names were even harder. The majority of the book takes place in Ireland and names from other countries and cultures are extremely different than common names here in the heartland of the US. So not only did I have to find names that fit the culture and country, I wanted my names to mean something.
For example: In book one, Morgan (the modern version of Morrigan) is the heroine. She's fleeing from an abusive marriage and finds shelter and safety in Ireland with family she's never met. She discovers that she's actually a witch and a descendant of one of the first high kings of Ireland. Because of that heritage, she is pulled into a mythological war against an ancient Celtic monster. Morrigan means 'Great Queen' in Irish. In Celtic mythology, Morrigan was the goddess of war, death and fertility.
Also in book one, Quinn (short for Quinton), is also a witch and descendant of one of the original high kings. He is also next in line as head of his family. He is destined (with Morgan) to be the protector of one of the Irish treasures. Quinn means 'wise counsel' in Gaelic.
When writing fantasy, an author has much more freedom with names. Since you're making up the majority of the book, you can also make up the names. But at the same time, you have to be careful. A reader isn't going to enjoy taking five minutes to try and pronounce the name. Fantasy name builders tend to draw their inspiration from old names that are no longer used. Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. Today we use the anglicized, easy-to-pronounce versions. Use the older versions of the name, even tweaking them a little.
So some tips for naming your characters:
(FYI these are just TIPS, not RULES)
1) Try to draw inspiration from the personality of your character
2) Names tend to have different meanings to different cultures. Check the meanings and find one that fits
3) Don't pull names from only ones familiar to you. Check out the top 100 names for specific countries, look up old-world languages, common names used hundreds or thousands of years ago, etc.
4) Don't go overboard with spelling and pronunciation. Readers hate not being able to say a name in their head, or read it a certain way through the whole book only to find the glossary in the back saying it was wrong. (Think Harry Potter: A lot of us were saying Hermione's name wrong until Goblet of Fire when she taught another character how to pronounce it.)
5) Names can always be changed in the editing process. If you're stuck and can't find a good fit, finish your novel with a generic name and go back and read through it. Look for the characteristics, attitude, physical attributes of each character throughout the book then find a name that fits.
6) Read other books from your genre. DON'T use the same names as another author, especially in the same genre.
7) If you're writing in a certain culture, country or time period, the names NEED to match where and when you're writing your story in. A LaKeesha isn't going to be a common name in Sweden. Agnes isn't going to be normal in the Caribbean. Su Ling isn't Canadian. The same goes with the time period. If you're writing historical romance names like Axel, Zahara, North, etc. are not names that would be used 200+ years ago.