Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Back on the Blog Chain: What's in a Name?

Those of you who've been following me for a while may remember I used to participate in a Blog Chain. It went on hiatus for a while, but now it's returned with a slightly new format. There will be two topics each month, and I will post about them on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. (I haven't decided yet if I'll still blog on that Wednesday or if I'll stick to three blog posts a week.) I missed the discussions the Blog Chain inspired and am looking forward to more of them in the future.

Kate picked the topic for this round, and here it is:

What's in a name? What if Harry Potter had been Larry Snotter? What if Edward was Jacob and Jacob was Edward? What favorite books had character names that you loved or hated? And how do you come up with your own character names?

 Character names do make a difference as to how you view the characters. While Harry Potter sounds like a name an ordinary person might have, "Snotter" sounds like a parody of a name. "Edward" and "Jacob" paint different backgrounds for the characters, though Jacob makes me think of the Biblical line, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

As far as character names I've liked or hated...I did think J.K. Rowling did a good job with names in the Harry Potter series. The names were unusual but fit the setting and characters. It's also interesting to note that the main villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, was so feared that few people dared speak his name, giving it more power than it would have had otherwise. Another author who picks good names for her characters is Lindsay Buroker in her Emperor's Edge series. Some of her names and characters include the assassin Sicarius; heroine Amaranthe Lokdon, a former enforcer; a former professor nicknamed Books, and  Maldynado, a noble pretty boy-toy. I must confess, however, that even though Buroker included a pronunciation guide to the names in one of her books, I came up with my own way to pronounce the names and can't make the mental switch.

I use several different ways to come up with character names. I look for names that fit the setting and ethnic background of the character. Meaning and connotation are important to me, so I look up names online or in baby books.  Since I like to plan multi-generational sagas, my families have their own methods for passing down names. The main character in Lyon's Legacy is named Joanna. She's descended from a famous musician named Sean Lyon, and since Sean is the Irish version of John, his descendants share versions of his name: Joanna, John, Ian, and Jack. Joanna mentions she dislikes her name but can't come up with something that fits her better. What will she name her own children? You'll see one name near the end of Lyon's Legacy, but you'll have to wait until I publish Twinned Universes to find out another name. (I will give you a hint: Joanna's second child is named after someone in Lyon's Legacy.)

 To find out how Christine, who posts tomorrow, and the rest of the Blog Chain Gang respond to this question, please check out the links in the sidebar. See you in two weeks for another Blog Chain post!


E.J. Wesley said...

Larry Snotter ... ha! I feel like I need to wash my hands now. :-)

First names tend to just come to me. I begin a story in my head, always, and I just give the mc a name. I try to make last names mean something, though, by finding something that fits the theme or point of the story and/or the character.

Sandra Almazan said...

E.J., LOL! Yeah, I agree names need to fit the character.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Love the name Lyon! It has this old-world family tree feel to it. Dignified.

And I agree JK Rowling created awesome character names! I mentioned a few in my blog chain post today, too. One I just thought of that I didn't mention is Rita Skeeter. What a great name for a nosy, shameless reporter, especially given her special animagus gifts.

And yeah. *shudders* Lord Voldemort made a good "He Who Shall Not Be Named."

Sandra Almazan said...

Thanks for the compliment, Katrina! Sean and his descendants consider themselves alphas, so they appreciate having a distinguished name. ;)

I think we could come up with entire blog posts discussing all the names in the Harry Potter series. While the premise of The Casual Vacancy doesn't appeal to me, I wonder how well the names suit the characters in that book.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Sandra, glad you could join us and be a part of the blog chain version 2.0 :)

Margie Gelbwasser said...

I like the way you choose names, and I've always liked the name Joanna.

Michelle McLean said...

I love searching for character names. I have baby name books all over the house lol

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