On Naming Characters

Coming up with names for characters in a Sci-fi/Fantasy novel may be more difficult than naming your first-born. Common names like Bob or Joe (very creative, I know) just wont cut it for the hard core readers. And contrary to the belief of many readers (myself included), authors don’t always just jam syllables together to make words.

I held this belief through most of my childhood. Until I hit High School, in fact, when I took a European History class. That’s when names like Pippin and Saramon. That’s when J.R.R. Tolkien’s works really clicked for me. When I became a Classics major in college, I discovered the obscure character of Hermione in Greek mythology. Everyone knows Helen of Troy, but not many know about her daughter with Menelaus before she met Paris.

I took the long road in figuring out that authors often name their characters based on themes. J.K. Rowling built a world with Classical roots. J.R.R. Tolkien had a long lost history of Europe buried in his fantastical world. Names are a window into the inspiration of your worldbuilding.

Admittedly, the characters that have stayed with me through childhood originally had the mashed together names. All three of them. Side characters had none and were just blanks in my head, and even when I started writing ideas done. But as I got older, the names matured with me.

Kyrae’s name, who is my protagonist, probably changed the most drastically. I moved from mashing two names from Lord of the Rings in childhood into a jumble of letters that I thought sounded cool. I even liked how it looked. And then I had my first ancient Greek class four years after the change.

“χαίρετε!” my professor proclaimed as he walked in on the first day. (transliterated as chairete, pronounced khai-re-te) My head, of course, shot up. A word similar to my character’s, but different enough.

Then he taught us how to greet him. Turns out, the singular form of the greeting is “χαῖρε” (chaire, khai-re). This is identical to the pronunciation of Kyrae.

I promptly panicked. Turns out my character’s name existed in another language. But then my professor explained the word wasn’t just a greeting, but could be translated as “rejoice.”

That’s when I got the idea to shape the world of Arxia, Kyrae’s world, after ancient Greece. Specifically, the Bronze Age and the Minion civilization. Over the next four years, I formally studied Greece and the knowledge I took helped grow Arxia into a believable civilization. They’re not identical, of course, but the similarities are there.

From there, naming characters became much easier. Another main character, whose name was originally a bastardization of the name Arthur, become Arion. Greek wasn’t the easiest of languages to pick names from, as many are incredibly long and difficult for someone who has never studied Greek to pronounce. I also tried to stay away from the well known names, such as the twelve main Olympian gods and the popular heroes. Soon, my world was populated with names instead of blanks.

The third main character was a bit more difficult. I had an attachment to his original name, and I was struggling to find a new one that sounded similar. In addition, he is a character whose family immigrated to the core of the Arxian Empire, and I wanted his name to reflect his family heritage. So I turned to the Persian language as the root for a new culture. The name Vizaar, while different from the name he had in my childhood, is still not a normal or historical name. Rather, I slightly altered the name of Varaz, meaning “boar.” The original name still survives in my WIP, however, as Vizaar’s older brother.

Naming has been a struggle for me since I first started making up stories. I long believed the fantastical names I read in books I devoured had to be a creation of the author’s vibrant imagination. It took me being exposed to the wider world of language that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it came to naming my characters, and made them that much more relatable to my readers.

Writing Inspiration

Whether you had a fever dream, an enlightening acid trip, or simply struck by lightning (be it proverbial or real), everyone has some inspiration for their writing. And some are more unique than others.

The source material is a story in itself, and are always interesting for me to read. They give insight into the writer’s thought process and often can explain their meaning.

You got one? Share! Please?

Sometimes there are multiple sources. A pyramid of inspiration, you will.The basis of my pyramid is, naturally, Lord of the Rings. Oh yes, I’m super original. But let me explain.I first picked up The Hobbit way back in 2nd Grade. Not because I thought the story sounded interesting, but because it was worth a ton of Accelerated Reader points. And damn, did I want to be the person with the most points that year. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until 3rd Grade. Which was the year of The Lord of the Rings (minus The Return of the King) and Harry Potter for me.

When I was nine, I was finally able to watch the LOTR movies. And the result was only natural for a young, naive story-teller. I made up a character to insert in the world while forcing my sister to play LOTR with me.Boy is it disappointing that she eventually developed different interests from me. Maybe I ruined it with my incessant re-watches of LOTR, Harry Potter, and Star Wars.

But yes, long before Kyrae was ever Kyrae, she was a character I made up to play LOTR with my little sister. And as the years went by, her own story developed when I asked the question “What would a story be like if the hero was the villain?”

Fourteen years later, here I am sitting with a 90,000 page manuscript starting Kyrae down that path. And long story long, it doesn’t matter where your inspiration came from. So long as your story and characters are your own and you had a ton of fun along the way.

Why Blog?

So you’re a writer, an aspiring author. You’re about to take the plunge into the publishing world, ready to start your dream as a publishing author. Doesn’t matter if you want the traditional route or not.

First step: research. Where do you even begin? You start through the massive databases of blogs, YouTube videos, and Twitter looking for that golden nugget of advice.

And what’s the one thing they all recommend? An author platform.
Cue the long stream of curses that made even my dog look at me funny.

Here’s the thing. If you’re anything like me, you struggle with social interaction. Not necessarily because you’re weird or have different interests from the rest of the boring population of the world, but because of a little something called social anxiety. Social media is incredibly hard for me. Why? Because it puts the spotlight on me. Sure, I have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Even a LinkedIn. But do I use them? Rarely. Currently, Instagram is probably my most active account so I can force people to look at my dog. Then there’s Facebook, which I surface on twice a year to thank people for the Happy Birthday wishes and to let my family know I’m still alive when I’m abroad. And Twitter? I just use that to follow whatever fandom I’m currently addicted to.

Not the best author platform.

So here I am. I’m making this blog to reach out to other writers who may be like me. You have a story you believe whole-heartedly in that you can’t wait to share with the world. But there’s a tiny voice in the back of your head that’s holding you back. You just can’t pull the trigger on sharing it with anyone. What this is is me gradually building confidence in my writing by sharing my writing process and my WIP. This will also be a place for other writers deep in their shells to try and connect with other authors. Because I know how hard it is to get a hold of Critique Partners.

So, who am I? Well, my name is my business for now. But I’ll tell you a little about myself.

I’m twenty-three. I’m a Masters student in Public History. I work in a museum, working with artifacts and exhibits and all the exciting stuff that goes on in a museum (you’d be surprised). As an undergrad, I studied Anthropology and Classical Studies. I co-direct an archeaological site during the summers, teaching undergrads how to tell the difference between a piece of pottery and a rock (Hint: Look at the interior).

Exciting, right?

But why should you care? Well, if for whatever reason you’re interested in my WIP, my background was crucial to my writing. No, it’s not about an archaeologist thwarting grave robbers and looters all while screaming about how wrong Indiana Jones is (though that would be cool). No, the world I’ve built is a result of my studies. It is a result of my experiences. It is a result of my fears.

So now that I’ve rambled, I hope you’ll follow me on this journey. Engage with me a bit. Comment some. Or sit back and silently watch, much like I am tempted to do. What’s my current plan? Scream into the void at least three times a week. Hopefully.

We’ll see how tempting that rock I live under is.