Let’s discuss character names.
This has been on my mind because I’m considering eventually changing (among probably many, many other things) Siobhan’s name in my work-in-progress, The Fallen. To be honest, I chose the name Siobhan simply because I like it. I’d like to name my daughter Siobhan one day. But I realize that this could potentially be misleading, since it is an urban fantasy book -at least that’s the genre I would best categorize it as. Someone might think it’s going to incorporate Irish folklore in some way. It doesn’t. On the other hand, I do like the name of Siobhan’s mysterious teaching assistant, Jasper Mars, and it holds some special meaning, as you will find out if you’re following along. 😉
I definitely don’t think it’s necessary for names to symbolize something specific, although I like to do that sometimes. Another one of my own favorite character names from another story is Celeste Lowe; I both like how her first and last name sound together, and she’s an alien, so her first name reflects her otherworldliness. Rather than be a symbol, it is important for a character name to make sense with the setting of the story, time and place, especially if the story relies extra heavily on these elements. For example, if the story takes place in nineteenth century England. Maybe this is quite obvious, but I think it’s important to keep in mind.
Also, I think that characters can have “cool sounding” names even if they’re not especially reflective of anything profound. One of my favorite examples would be J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Ms. Rowling is fantastic at character naming in general, but although a simple name, Harry Potter is just somehow catchy. Its simplicity may be purposeful on her part since Harry is supposed to be an unlikely hero (scrawny kid, brown hair, glasses), but she could have gone with something else equally as simple. John Smith and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Besides being an English explorer, John Smith just doesn’t seem to have the snap to it that Harry Potter does.
Karen Marie Moning, one of my favorite paranormal romance/urban fantasy authors, is also a name-machine. Mackayla Lane. Jericho Barrons (who owns Barrons Books and Baubles). Dani O’Malley. Adam Black. Drustan, Dageus, Christian MacKeltar, you name it. And I can’t forget L. J. Smith: Elena Gilbert, Stefan and Damon Salvatore, Julian, Faye Chamberlain, to name a few. And no matter how you feel about the Twilight saga, Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, and Jacob Black are memorable names. From the world of indie publishing, I always thought Dmitri Maximus from Emily Guido’s Light-Bearer series was a great name.
So, what are your thoughts on character names? How do you come up with your own? (What do you think of mine?) Please share your comments below!
I like the name Siobhan, even in the context of the genre you’re writing in. It speaks of something other-wordly and mysterious. I hate trying to come up with character names because I always want the name I pick to have a ring to it. The best one I’ve come up with so far is Abraham Higbee. Abraham because the story has a spiritual bent, and Higbee because it’s the earliest ancestor on my family tree.
Abraham Higbee, I love that! Thanks for sharing!
Although I do like the name Siobhan, I do admit it did throw me off when I’m reading because I’ve never heard it and it’s hard to pronounce. You mention Emily, who I also love, and she has a character with a name like that too, Tabbruis. Though they are both great names, they make me stop when I’m reading and stumble a bit. Any kind of stumbling can throw off your flow and that’s never a good thing. Maybe that’s just me, but I can see how something like a name can turn a reader off, especially when reading a blurb that makes them decide whether to even read your book or not (once they begin reading it I don’t think it matters all that much). I think the best solution is if you want to keep the name (and you’re REALLY bothered by whether it’s okay to use) is to give them a nickname or something, something easy for the reader to read along with (because it’s going to be repeated a million times throughout the story) and use their full name in dialogue between characters or something. Like Sio or Hani, anything that is easy to read over quickly. It also depends on where the character is from like you mentioned. In an urban setting it might be awkward to have her name Siobhan unless it has some huge meaning or symbolism in the story or if she’s an old vampire or something. I have an alien in one of my books named Zohren, but he’s an alien and people seem to like the name because it HAS to be different because…well he’s an alien. I had a character named Dayzahnee, which I think is a great name but it sucks for the reasons I mentioned and may turn readers away-but…..oh well! I’m attached to it and am keeping it. After all it’s your story right? If you love it, keep it 🙂
I agree with your thoughts, Heidi! That’s funny, Tabbrius threw me off too, I was pronouncing it wrong until I saw the pronunciation somewhere on Emily’s web site. Zohren is a good name. 🙂 Thanks for your advice, I will probably end up changing her name, or changing the spelling. Siobhan is the Gaelic spelling, but it’s pronounced Chevonne, and it can be spelled that way I think. Chevonne is pretty cool looking I think and looks a bit more contemporary.
Ha ha, Chevonne? I would’ve never guessed that’s how it was pronounced. I was trying to sound it out like Sigh-oh-ban. I do like Chevonne though.
The main character in my novel is named Elizabeth simply because I love that name. She eventually travels back to another world that is 17-century-esk and so for most of those characters, I did some research on popular names from that era. I like your main character’s name! If you feel that it fits, don’t change it. But as your character becomes a real person throughout the novel, if the name just doesn’t feel right then maybe brainstorm some other ones just to see how you feel about them. 🙂
Thanks for liking the name, and also for the advice! Sometimes when you’re uncertain of something about your characters you just have to wait for them to “reveal” it to you as you’re writing. 🙂