The Naming Game

This piece was created for the Red Writing Hood weekly prompt. Entries are posted each Friday.

It’s all in the Name

This statement gets thrown around in reference to many things, but today I’m talking about the art of writing and getting good and hopefully great character names. My writing mentor, Eve Old, taught me the importance of strong, relevant names in fiction writing. The original drafts of my Arkrealm novel had pretty ordinary names for my extraordinary superheroes. The numerous colourful characters left me concerned that readers would not be able to recall them. I kept tossing up whether to cut some of them out, but they all had significant roles in the plot. Instead I took Eve’s advice and developed names that related to each character. I created these names so that once people got the idea it would give them a reference to each character and help them visualize them. I have included my list of Arketykes so that you can see what I mean.

Blayze creates fire

Replikye is able to replicate anything.

Solarzay creates solar energy using panels on her arksuit.

Yarmour wears an armour-like arksuit and creates protective barriers around nature.

Whyce makes ice

Vanysh is able to make things vanish

Magnifay is able to magnify anything organic

Prismya creates the prisms that form the Arkrealm rainbows

Master Clarity has a third eye, which picks up the questions people think, bringing clarity with his answers.

So you can see with each of their names the reader can form a link of recognition.  Each name has a Y in it, because that is Arkrealm’s symbol of Divine Spirit. It is this Universal energy that gives them their powers. At the beginning of Arkrealm The Apprentice readers may feel slightly overwhelmed with the names, but once they get the pattern the names help them link to the characters.

I recall books I’ve read in the past where the names have stuck with me forever. I think a name goes a long way in creating a story that people resonate with. Look at the names in your stories, do they have purpose? Or have you just picked favourite names and stuck them in? Nothing in writing should be by accident, it should be a well thought out plan of execution.

I have had readers say they didn’t like a particular character or their name, but that was because I intentionally gave the character a name and personality that ruffled feathers. Not all your book characters are going to be likable all the time, or things would get oh so boring.

I hope this inspires you to insert more dynamic names in your writing and to move away from the ordinary. Writers are creators and there’s nothing more creative than a good name.

Happy writing,

Dee Rayson.

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10 Responses for " The Naming Game "

  1. Full Article Full Article November 9th, 2013 at 8:10 pm 1

    Particularly educational….looking ahead to coming back.

  2. drayson drayson December 22nd, 2012 at 7:40 pm 2

    Thanks for your comment Cameron. I agree, names can keep you in the moment of the story.

  3. drayson drayson December 22nd, 2012 at 7:39 pm 3

    Thanks, Amy, for this insight into the proofreading process. Eve also taught us not to introduce characters that had no affect on the story down the track or didn’t have a strong connection with the main characters. She also taught, ‘The Inkspotters’, her writing group, not to give a heap of information about characters that had minor bearing on the story, and sometimes it’s not even worth giving them a name, just write the shop keeper etc. My first novel took a long time to complete as it is the first in a series, so I had to structure it ensuring that each character played a part not only in the first novel, but influenced the novels to follow. Several of my early characters were turfed because I saw no future in them.

  4. drayson drayson December 22nd, 2012 at 7:30 pm 4

    Thanks for your response. I hope there wasn’t too many troubling names in the first Arkrealm novel. The second novel coming out this year will have an index of the main character names, their pronunciation and the role the character plays. I just couldn’t do it in book one without giving away most of the plot.

  5. drayson drayson December 22nd, 2012 at 7:27 pm 5

    Thanks for the feedback Angela.

  6. angela angela December 21st, 2012 at 10:47 pm 6

    I also liked seeing the process, and the rationale with the “y” in each name.

  7. Merle Merle December 21st, 2012 at 10:01 pm 7

    The right name fits a character and can make the character memorable, the wrong name leaves you cold. Unusual names leave an immpression, but I like them to be easily read without difficult pronounciation.

  8. Liz Gibbs Liz Gibbs December 21st, 2012 at 8:49 pm 8

    Yes, I remember Eve Old stressing the importance of suitable names for characters. Since then I have had my eyes and ears tuned into interesting names. Names can be very useful in humorous writing. Charles Dickens made good use of names for his characters. Mrs Sparsit, Mr Bounderby, Mr Gradgrind, Mr Grimwig, Mr Bumble, just to name a few at random from dicken’s writing.
    I. M Sweet, John Spong Spong, Isa Wake, just a few examples from old English names for humorous and interesting names.
    An important fact to consider in choosing names for your characters is that they fit the time and period you are writing about. I don’t think Dorothy or Gladys would have quite fitted the characters in the Twilight series.
    What’s in a name? A lot when you are writing.

  9. AmyBeth Inverness AmyBeth Inverness December 21st, 2012 at 6:09 pm 9

    Naming characters is always a challenge. It definitely does help to give some pneumonic hint or meaning to help readers remember.

    When I was proofreading one of my big pet peeves why trying to keep track of characters. Sometimes we’d find out all kinds of information about someone even though they were a minor character and never mentioned again.

  10. Cameron Cameron December 21st, 2012 at 1:29 pm 10

    I think naming with intent is crucial. Names need to help ground a character in their reality and connect a character to the reader. Thanks for sharing your process!

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