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How to post. Pick something and explain how to do it. It can be writing
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Welcome back to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop! If you’re new to the series, the authors included are grateful for your reads and appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Be prepared to become a regular reader.
How do you name your characters is a common question that most readers will ask an author, especially when they have an interest in writing as well. We learn early in our education, as authors, that naming a character really is an important part of the narrative. Often this single aspect contains a whole story of its own. Many authors miss the opportunity to make this a truly golden Easter Egg for the readers.
A beginner mistake made in naming characters is reaching for something truly unique. You have to be very careful. If your setting is anywhere on this planet, don’t try to make your character sound like a star child, off-worlder. Please. Too many aspiring authors are not quite at the caliber yet, that they should be going for it. A weird or awkward name mingled with writing that needs work will send readers packing. It’s just another nail in the coffin. That name will stick out like a sore thumb and be a great source of derision.
The reason that the unique-name game doesn’t work is that it’s used inappropriately, as I mentioned above. If you’re naming a Celtic character of the pre-Britain age a star child name or fantasy elf name, it’s not going to make sense. You should, instead, research names of the period. You don’t have to select one that is common. In other words, just make sure what you pick is appropriate to the culture. If it makes no sense to the people and time of which you’re writing, that will stand out and make things awkward for the reader who knows that it’s not right. Very rarely will an author get away with this, and only if the name they settle on manages to connect to the culture in some form.
That reminds me of fantasy, any sub-genre, where the character has some wild name. A lot of authors think they must name their characters strangely, to drive home that they’re in another place and time. You might cite J. R. R. Tolkien as proof, but if you examine the names of his characters you’ll find the undertones of his work in linguistics and history. The names he used follow the roots of the cultures on which he based those peoples. And, Merry and Pippin are names familiar to us in our reality. Not every name need be an extravagant letter salad.
But, should you insist on more creative names, to do so well, you should figure out if the character is living in a real time and place here on Earth, or in a fantasy land. If it’s either, figure out the culture on which you’re basing their background. Study the names used in that culture and figure out the roots. When you have the roots, you can graft a new creation and have confidence that it will grow a successful result.
Another aspect of naming characters is to not only have a cultural connection, but also meaning. There are plenty of names that are no longer in use; names that have disappeared into history. Browsing them can give you a decent pool to pull from. While doing so, look at what the name means. For instance, my first name is derived from an Irish surname and owns several meanings: white-headed, warrior, field/meadow, frequents churches, and man of the woods. Taking that name, you’d not use it on a dark-haired person without spirituality—unless you’re being ironic. Here you have opportunity to bank on culture to convey more personality and story around your character without the need of telling. The name is symbol of all of that meaning, in a neat little Easter egg for your readers.
Trust that your readers enjoy learning things like this. Trust that they deserve your effort and care in choosing. Trust that they will detect awkwardness faster than an indy car.
Taking the time ups your game and you’ll enjoy the work getting there. Trust me on this. A character name is part of branding, and it matters enormously. I hope this short How To has helped you consider a best practice for your writing. Let’s hop on over to see what How To’s the other authors have in store for you…
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