Authors Answer 77 – Naming Characters

cropped-pia19912-main_mcam-sol-1099Question 77 – How do you choose character names?

Starting in middle school, I kept a list of interesting-sounding names that I either thought up randomly or found elsewhere, and would tweak them until they became something that fit a character.  As I built my story-world more, though, I started reverse-deriving some of the names to build the vocabulary in my fake language, and then branched out to defining naming-conventions for the various kingdoms and territories.  So these days, I check the naming conventions first, and then the language dictionary, and tack something together from those — but most of my long-running characters have names from before that age, so might stand out a bit from the rest of the pack, who knows.

To add to this, the divergence between my old names, the reverse-derivations, and the naming conventions has given me some interesting wiggle-room in which to feign bad translations and regional variants.  The main culture I work with is Imperial, which — being an empire — tends to translate words and names that don’t sound ‘right’ in foreign languages into something that sounds properly Imperial.  There are a lot of foreign-born characters stuck in the Empire whose names have been Imperialized, but as they shake off these shackles, some of them start ditching the Imperial versions themselves for the originals.

Examples: Weshker — Vesha Geiri
Cobrin — Ko Vrin
Jessamyn — Yesai Miun

There are also some place-names that the Imperial tongue mangles, like Padras for Pajhrastha, or Kerrindryr for Kirin Diur.

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About H. Anthe Davis

Worldbuilder. Self-published writer.
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