Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What's in a name, part 2 - naming characters

I know I said I was going to write a review of Aeon Timeline today, but I haven't done enough playing on it to be able to do that. Maybe that will be next week's post. So, instead I'm going to talk about something we were talking about on Twitter yesterday - character names.

I am a goof when it comes to naming characters, I admit that. I changed Catie's name like three times. It wasn't until I started calling her Catie in my head instead of Mia that I knew I had her real name. Eli, on the other hand, was always Eli. Though I did change his last name because his original last name just didn't seem to fit his station in life. A former Duke with the last name "Bennet"? Not so much. Other names just jumped out at me, and I ran with them. I think the funniest in terms of where it came from is Adam. What better name for someone that is so old even HE doesn't remember how old he is than the supposed first name EVER? Some of the characters have a joke that for all they know he's THE Adam. My muse periodically jokes that if we ever pair Adam off, we should name his girlfriend Eve. It's times like that that I wish it was possible to glare at yourself.

With characters from all over the globe, and ages ranging from William's childe who is eighteen to Polly and Nicolaus who are around 1300, to Adam who quite likely has a BC in his date of birth, naming them can get interesting. And it can be hard to find names that I like that fit both the nationality and the timeframe. I've decided that when in doubt, nationality trumps timeframe. The older ones may very well have adopted more current versions of their real names at some point in their history. And that is my official story for any characters whose names are far too modern for their age. (This is also an advantage of doing Eternity's Redemption as a frame story, since the frame is modern day and the rest is their memories they could be so used to their current names that they even think of themselves as those names when remembering their pasts. Or something like that...). With Eli I actually tried to get time right, too. And turned to the best repository of old names I could think of - the Bible.

Now some writers like to give their characters names that relate to their role in the story. I could never understand that. I mean, it's not like their parents knew what they were going to be getting up to later on. I decided instead to just give them names that I liked and could imagine their parents liking.Last names, though, were another story. While looking for a last name for Seamus I found a last name that actually means demon-spawn. I officially don't want to know where that name came from, it frightens me. But it made me think. And combined with the fact that Catie's last name can be literally translated to "new Earth", an idea sprung up.

I have time mages. In fact, my entire premise involves a group of them that saw this final battle coming and have spent the past 1300 years preparing for it. Well, maybe they actually saw it even sooner than that. I am now looking for last names based on the theory that back when last names were being handed out there were time mages who had already gotten a glimpse at the roles these people would play in this battle and named their ancestors accordingly so that future mages would know which family lines to keep an eye on. It makes an odd kind of sense in my Universe. In fact, it even fits in with the curse on Polly's and Nicolaus's family that their magic doesn't work on each other.

So, that is part of my naming characters project. Finding last names in the appropriate language that has a nicely meaningful meaning that could have tipped off those in the know to watch this family.

What about you? Do you follow any particular naming conventions or have your characters's names mean something in the story? And for those of you that aren't writers, what do you think of books that either do or don't have meaningful names?

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