How do I give my characters names? And why do I give them names so late?
Last question first. I give them names late – just before I start writing – because they are not real persons. They are offspring from my imagination. I need to shape my characters to what I want and then a name is a hinder in that process. They need to be A, B and C because of two basic reasons.
One: A name causes me to bond to a fictional character in a way that hinders me from the shaping needed. Just as much as doctors talk about “the patient” and a lawyer about “the client” to mark a distance and a non-personal relationship, the rough carving require some mental distance. Since my fantasy gave birth to it, the character is by every reason too close for me to see the result with some form of objective eyes. I need to make some distance.
Two: Parents give their newborn names as hope for what they will become, or just names that they like for one reason or another, but there is no way to tell if they will live up to these names. As a writer I have the option of giving my characters the perfect names. A name that is catchy and sings will, but also gives the character some extra depth, but most of all a name that I feel in my heart is right for this particular character.
How do I give them their names then?
I begin with opening one of the many names-and-their-etymology-sites on Internet. Lately its been Behind the Name, but there are several to find.
I select male or female lists and maybe national origin.
To prevent all my characters to have names beginning with an A I try to begin searching at a random letter.
Then I read name after name. If I find something that sounds good, I read the meaning behind it and if it suits pretty well I try to remember it and then continue searching. More often than not I find a name that I think is perfect and then the character is considered named.
If I by any chance don’t find a perfect name by this method I try to expand my views. If a reasonable ordinary name doesn’t work, maybe an extraordinary name is needed. That’s how one character got the name of Persephone in The Beatuymaker, as she was a manipulating, dark character disguised as a feminine beauty – a goddess of the underworld. While Asher was a the normal guy in a dark depression – opposite his name in the beginning, but working his way to it.