Thursday, 18 April 2013

And What is Your Name?



Hey all,

I have finally returned to the Dreamstate II grindstone. It’s both comforting and entirely terrifying to get back to writing in a capacity where I actually have to come up with new content instead of just revising what was there before. I feel like my brain’s trying to warm back up a bit after being put on ice during my editing—I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of things before too long. Also, I’ve started a new routine at the gym and my body feels like it’s about ready to give up on me. The routine is Wendler’s 5/3/1 if anyone is curious.

But, onto the real content of today’s post—naming things in your books. I realized, just yesterday, that I’d never really talked about how I pick names for the characters, or places, or whatevers that go on in my writing. Some of it is a little bit arbitrary, which I’ll get into later, but there is a fair amount of thought that I put into most of the names; I could easily fill an entire few pages if I go into super specifics, so I’ll try to keep the examples short.

Okay, first of all, let’s just go over the basic idea of naming characters. Now, this is really just what I do, rather than what everyone should do. I’m not really 100% sure on how any else picks names, and honestly, they may have a waaaaaay better system then me, but this is how I do it, and I’m writing this piece, and so that’s what we’ll talk about. To get going, I like to make up most every detail I can about my characters before I give them a name. This usually ends up being a pretty two dimensional view of the character (it’s hard to fill them in completely before you see how they react/ the other characters react to them). But take, for instance, Daniel from the Dreamstate series. I knew roughly what the stories would be about, and so I took down a list of names that had a bit of context behind them. Biblical names often pop up, because there are so many of them, and also because they come preloaded with context. You can make a pretty powerful allusion to something just by naming a character. I chose the name that I felt the most comfortable with and that I liked the sound of the best (which is really what this comes down to). While the Daniel and dreams link might be fairly run of the mill and weak, it’s still the kind of thing that I like to stumble across in a story and think ‘oh yeah, that other thing, right;’ it’s fun.

Another instance of this is that in Dreamstate II, there are these desert Bedouin people that ride a certain type of animal around the sands. Now, I’m being vague to not spoiler anything—keep that in mind. Anyways, the way I’m writing, these people are kind of a dilapidated ancient Egyptian culture broken down by the Brothers (really rough description). The animals are therefore named Buhen, which is the name of the archeological site where they found the first instance of horses in the ancient Egyptian culture. Also, the name has a good round mouthfeel, which describes the animals perfectly. There’s a very good chance that no one will make this connection, but if it does, cool, if not then I have a name that I’m happy with.

This leads into the type of naming that I do when I have to step into my own brain and away from the rest of the world. The Fal, for instance, in Dark Eyes, had a very medieval European vibe to them, but I didn’t want them to just have European names—it was too easy. I more or less sat around for an afternoon coming up with sounds that kind of sounded like they could be names, but weren’t, and giving them to the people that needed them. I obviously came up with some sort of a pattern to the names, so they all had the same feel to them, but really, for the most part, they were just made up. There’s nothing going on behind the names, but then again, all names ever were at one point just sounds that people called one another. There doesn’t have to be a story behind a name to make it a name—sometimes it can just be a name. As long as you like how it sounds, and it suits the character well, then, in my opinion, you’ve got a very solid name right there; choose what you like the best.

As a final note, if you catch any weird slang in my posts, it’s because everyone in this new Dreamstate book talks in their own way, and it’s running my grasp on the English language. Seriously, I caught about four typos in this post that are commonplace in the book.

-Trevor

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