Saturday, May 21, 2016

a character named willy-nilly // First Impressions

I can't stand introductions. I can't stand swapping names. It's a strange mixture of awkward and ordinary. It's so commonplace to ask someone their name and tell them your own. Yet it feels so unnatural. 

Lilo and Stitch

Besides, I end up forgetting their name in like seven seconds.

So when I introduce myself to my characters, I try to take a more time with their names.

Well, unless they are an unforeseen side character. Like the guard who gets a few more lines than:

"After them! They're getting away!"

If he starts getting over important, he thinks he deserves his name in the credits.

BUT let's talk about more major characters. Characters we name intentionally. The main character. The main character's bestie. The main characters crush or love/hater. The main character's brother, mother, first dog, and car.

Dory from Disney movie Finding Nemo

Basically, this is a post in which I tell you stories about how I've named some characters and then I really hope you tell me stories about your characters' names, because I'm curious/nosy and I love stories. Obviously. Stories is my game, people.

 Exhibit A

How Oddball got his name

Oddball's name is actually how Oddball came into existence. Nothing monumental. The best way to get a story idea is to do something mundane so your bored brain thinks up something weird for amusement.

I was hanging up clothes when I thought up a kid who lives on the border of Od and Bal and his name is Oddball, because he's a half breed. (Note: I didn't realize the term "half-breed" was derogatory until. . . recently. *hides face* Apparently, I am oblivious to the world. But I still intend to use the term in my book for reasons.)

So yeah. That was the beginning of Oddball. And he thanks me very much for that.*cough*

 greg? // he didn't even know Lestrade's first name...yet he still jumped off the roof to save him, too. I think Sherlock went from being not only great, but good, in that exact moment.- other pinner

Even characters like Shocky, Hawk's Wing, and Ratchet have reasons for their names. Oh, and Esin Trik. Say it like it's one word.

 Then there's Dauntayus. . .

I slapped a name on Dauntayus. All I could think of was the Dauntless (you know, from Divergent). I have no clue why because the Dauntless have nothing to do with this character or the book, or. . . 

Clearly, my mind was wandering and had decided that Dauntless = name. Just tweak it to turn it fantasy. (I haves a weird brain.) And ta-da, Dauntayus! 

Exhibit B

How I swapped characters' names and discombobulated my brain for half a lifetime

Say hi to the weird idea. I wanted the characters in this book series to have different names. Real names, but not normal ones. Does this make sense? For instance, there's a Savannah. I've never met anyone with that name. The MC is Rayne.

Why Rayne?

Because. . .

I like that name. Is that reason enough? Although later there is this concept with water that I added much later. But it's very minimal. Her eyes are liquid gray, like water. That's the lowdown in all it's anticlimactic glory. Rayne is Rayne just because.

There's a Terrence, Mikel, and. . . Kiwi. Kiwi is a name, alright. It's the name of a fruit. *clears throat*

Now, here's the thing. I have these two favorite characters. No, that's a lie. All of them are my favorite (which is completely possible and rational, don't argue, just keep up).

So these two characters obviously need special names. Doesn't everyone give their *favorite* characters the *best* of the names?

My favoritest male character name in the universe is Seth. But I have a Seth in this other, older hopeless failure that will one day be resurrected WIP. I can't have two Seths. THAT WOULD REALLY MESS WITH MY BRAIN. So being a fantasy writer I settled for something that sounds like Seth.



The other name that I picked out is Sid.

So one of the favorites gets named Keth, the other Sid. This is boring Ashley. Why are you putting us through this?

The point is that I gave them the wrong names. Does it matter? Yes. Here's why.

Character A

I want the readers to feel comfortable around Character A. I want them, like Rayne, to trust this guy. I want the readers to be charmed on their first impression. In the beginning, Character A gets named Sid.

Character B

Rayne's first impression of Character B is distrust. She doesn't like this guy, doesn't understand this guy. And he appears very intimidating. I want the readers to have similar first thoughts. In the beginning, Character B is Keth.


It's just a name, Ashley. Why can't you just leave it that way?

Because I really, really want the readers to have a specific impression. And a name is another tool that will help me give that impression.

Sid is a very short name. It has that sharp 's' sound tacked to the sudden heaviness of a 'd'. It's clipped, almost harsh. If you heard someone whisper it in a dark room, it would be enough of a name that you'd be sure you heard something and yet still question if you had. Whispered in the dark, it'd nearly be a hiss.

Keth is short also. But it kind of lingers. It's a name you want to say. It has the soft 'k' twinned with an equally soft 'th'. It's pleasing to say, it's pleasing to hear. It has the essence of a feather; light weight and soft.

For a more straight forward analysis, is Keth an intimidating name? Gosh, no. Why don't I just name Character B Sue?!

So I swapped their names. It was all for the better.

Except in my head, for the longest time, I had two characters named Keth. And who in the world was Sid?

 His expressions are the best

Do you intentionally name your characters to serve your story's purposes? Do you prefer names that are realistic or funny and paradoxical? Do you have any weird stories behind your characters' names?


  1. NAMES ARE SO HARD. Ok, I'm gonna refer to my stuff as WIPs even though they're more ideas than in-progress at this point lol. Guy names seem to come easier to me. The love interest for both WIP just kinda came rather easily. And then they both ended up being perfect coincidences when I looked up their meanings, and the meanings just fit with the characters perfectly. And one of the side characters, I just kind of offhandedly named him Connor, and it stuck lol. But the female MC names, ugh. I have a bunch of notes for one of the WIPs, and I swear she has a different name in each note because it took me forever to find a good name. And I always test out how the MC and love interest names sound together. And none of the names can be too similar, like, both ending with -in or -en or something. And I can't have too many names in one book that have a hard K in them (seriously, I have three in one book, so I felt like I needed a softer name to balance it out). And like you said, different names give off different vibes. So choosing names is like a whole ordeal, haha.

    1. They are really hard! That's so awesome though that you just happened to pick those to love interest names and they worked perfectly! Usually, it's the other way around for me. The guy's name tends to be more difficult than the girl's. I never thought of testing the MC's and love interest's names against each other. That's a good idea though! Since they're supposed to go together. Oh, I've had the same letter names happen too! In my very first book ever, I had three POV characters whose names started with an S. Somebody's name had to go!

      Names definitely give off different vibes. I think it's a great tool to use as a writer. We can use it to set the tone of the book, develop the character, or give a first impression. Naming this is a bigger deal than one would think. XD Thanks so much for dropping by!

  2. YES. THE WHOLE INTRODUCING YOURSELF TO SOMEONE THINGY. IT SOUNDS SO WEIRD TO SAY YOUR OWN NAME. o.0 The gifs were ON POINT today, btw. XD I love all the names you came up with! Haha and I love your "whoops I made it a name" way of labeling your characters. XD

    For some reason, over my last, oh....4? WIPS (Which have all been recycled versions of each other), I can't shake the names Rolf, Allistar, and Zane. I don't even seem to care what role they play, as they've all bounced back and forth between good guy, bad guy, traitor, and redeemed character.

    I guess for my characters, I usually have an idea of what letter I want it to start with, or how I want it to sound, or what I want it to mean, but I don't have the full idea yet. So I'll browse baby name sites, name generators, the names of things in other languages (like Latin), and just sort jumble things up in my head until something falls out. Or just steal a name from a video game, which is what I did with Rolf (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawns are like the best games ever).

    Also I keep going up to look at the Patrick Jane gif because PATRICK JANE!! XD <3

    1. IT IS INSANELY WEIRD! Thank you. :)

      Oh, I like that. Rolf. The way it looks, the way it sounds. I've never thought of Allistar though. But Zane! Zane sounds like a name with a lot of depth not depending on what role the character plays. Like a bad guy with a sense of humor, or the quirky side character who's always cracking jokes. That's cool that you can rotate names and roles. I would be so confused!

      Baby name sites are a good idea. I used to do that, but then I would get so lost. THERE ARE SO MANY NAMES! It just makes choosing more difficult.

      I do really like that one of Patrick Jane. It's so funny. His face is just priceless in that one. And I can hear the words in his voice and everything. XD

  3. I love how much thought you put into your character's names. Like the way you say it and how it sounds and everything.

    I don't do that at all. I pull up a list of the top 1000 most popular boy/girl names and chose the one that sounds the best. Sometimes I have to go more specific, like I have a Hungarian/Bulgarian fantasy and I had to get the right types of names in. Then you can't have the same types of names in the same book. Like if you have a Sue and a Susan and a Susanne then it's not going to turn out well. Especially if they're all different people. I've actually read books like that. *sobs*

    1. Thank you! When I "make up" a name, I do try to say it aloud. I want the readers to be able to pronounce it because I know it's frustrating to come across a name and just do aoweitrhaweoihsdddn in your head every time you see it. XD

      Oh, that's a good idea though! And yeah, it does get confusing when characters have similar names. Sometimes even if their names all start with the same letter, it can be a little mind boggling. Like when I was reading TLC sometimes I would mix up Cinder and Cress because they both start with a C. And then I'd read something only they would think and be like "Oops, wrong character." Their names don't even look alike though. . .

  4. I have an infamous 3 hour process of choosing a name. Basically I find every baby name book and website ever published and create a list of relatively promising names. Then I delete the ones that I just don't get "the feel" from. Then I say it out loud, maybe in a few sentences, and if I don't like the sound of it I delete it. I keep on continuing this deleting process until I'm left with a name that I'm 110% satisfied with. If I'm not, I do it all over again. (It's quite tiring, actually)
    I don't really like naming characters after people I know, well I used to, but I'm learning to be okay with it.

    1. But I mean I'm sure you know someone named Oddball.

    2. Wow! That is a huge process! You have a lot of patience. I take my hat off to you! I do like how you don't settle for a name you feel meh about. Settling for less always makes me regret things.

      Yeah, I don't like naming characters after people I know either. It's just strange. In at least 3 of Jane Austen's books, there's always a character named Jane? I know Jane was a popular name back then, but still. To have a character with your own name?! I don't think I could ever have a character named Ashley. It'd be too weird and of course everyone who knows nothing would think it's a self insert. . .

      Oh, yes. I know plenty of oddballs. ;)

  5. Interesting post! I'm so bad at naming characters. Usually I just end up calling them something random or putting *name* until I think of something. It's definitely not my strong suit. It was interesting to hear how you do it though:)

    1. Names are kind of hard even when you put thought into it. I've done that before though just written a blank space to insert a character's name later. It works though. :)

  6. I found this super interesting, you have a process, and the names mean something to you, most of my characters have spur of the moment names. Like Peter, it wasn`t inspired and I`m still not sure I like it. Love how Oddball got his name:D

    1. Thank you! I don't know. I always thought Peter was a neat name for a vampire. Definitely unexpected. I thought it was fitting. I'm not sure how, it just seemed to work. XD Although William's name is definitely fitting. It's a bit more sophisticated. It's not Will. It's William. I'm rambling now.

  7. Love your writing posts! I admit that I've never gotten TOO stressed out over names, at least not if I'm writing something that is supposed to be contemporary. But if it's fantasy or something the like, then I put a little more thought into the name - something unique or catchy.

    Also, I'm one of the worst people about stealing names that I like from books I've read. XD (*Goes to hide in corner of shame*)

    Another problem I come across is that I think a name is awesome through one draft, then when I go to revise or pick it up months/years later, I'm like, "Dafuq this name?" Or the characters take on a completely new personality of their own that I didn't anticipate, then suddenly their names just don't seem to fit anymore.

    Oh, and I'm really starting to detest authors thinking they're going to be cute and use a regular name, but give it some insane spelling. Spell like a normal person!!

    Anyway, didn't mean to get a little ranty there. Your post obviously brought up a lot of good points. XD

    Brittany @ <a href="'>Space Between the Spines</a>

    1. True. Contemporary names are easier than fantasy names. Normally.

      Stealing book names is so much fun! Although, I think there are some names I wouldn't dare steal for fear of an angry mob. Like Aragorn. I'd never try to use Aragorn.

      I've had that happen too! I've given a character a sweet, innocent name and then they open their mouth and the things they do! No. They were not what I expected. XD

      Ah, yes. I agree. It's hard to look at a misspelled name. Although, I don't mind if authors try to respell a "normal" name if it's for a fantasy character. I guess because fantasy is supposed to be different about everything. . . But in contemporaries it's just annoying. Who makes their children spell their name like that!?

      Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

  8. Love this post! (I feel like that's how I start all my comments? But, yeah, love this post.) When I saw the title thought I did think there might be a character actually called Willy-Nilly (I mean, you DO have somebody called Berk!) and I thought we needed to have a serious chat ...

    My characters are definitely a mix of "THIS IS THE CLEVEREST NAME EVER I'M SO CLEVER" and "huh, I like that name!" So, from TCATT, Corrie's writing teacher is called Caroline Deborah Hughling.
    CAROLINE Lawrence -- author of the Roman Mysteries series, one of the first series that made me like OH MY GOSH CHARACTERS BOOKS SERIES EXCITEMENT DANG!
    DEBI Gliori -- author of Pure Dead Magic series, among the first fantasy I loved.
    Ted HUGHes -- poet who introduced me to poetry / generally the forever bae.
    JK RowLING -- all round queen and love eternal.

    You see??

    Also Demid Gethenovitch. His name is part Greek, part Welsh, part Russian, and translates "evil king of darkness". Perhaps slightly overkill ... but I'm relying on readers having a limited knowledge of Greek/Welsh etymology XD

    Who else is there? Beatrice (remember her, she's part of Edmund's story from A Room Alone, she was the subject of my SS April) and her sister Sylvia are the daughters of an English teacher and they're both named after woman from Shakespeare (from Much Ado About Nothing and Two Gentlemen of Verona). Whereas Edmund himself is named for Edmund from Narnia. His grandmother Daphne claims that her parents were friends with Daphne du Maurier in the 20s and that's who she's named after. (But we're not quite sure she's telling the truth.)

    Probably my favourite story, though, is of Corrie's stepsister Aurelle. I named her just thinking the name sounded pretty, but later I was looking up colour names (because I do spend quite a lot of time researching names. Don't we all?) and came across Aurelius / Aurel, Latin derived from "gold". And I remembered that the chemical symbol for gold is AU, and, of course, that's where Aurel / Aurelle comes from! And she has golden hair/skin and is generally the definition of a golden girl ... and my subconscious is a genius!

    It made me vair vair happy.

    (Apologies if I've told you that story before!)

    Anyway, I really love your Sid/Keth story <3 Also, this post made me laugh! And excellent Sherlock gifs as usual XD

    1. If I ever do by some wild slip of sanity name a character Willy-Nilly, please, please. Have a talk with me. XD

      Yet. How does one have a *serious* chat over a character named Willy-Nilly?

      OH! That is the coolest thing ever! I've always wanted to name a character after an author or an author's character but I never really put that much thought into it. (And they usually just end up being a cat or something. . .) That is so cool! I must try it sometime!

      *shrieks* Oh gosh! I love Demid Gethenovitch's name. That is the best thing ever! Evil King of Darkness. GAH! I love it! Definitely not overkill. I would've of never known if you hadn't told me. It's like an author inside joke. You can like write it in the author notes in the back of the book. "By the way, lovelies, Gethenovitch is truly means. . ." But now I must know how to pronounce it. Is the G a g-sound or does it make a j-sound?

      I did suspect Edmund was named after Narnia Edmund. But that could just be because Narnia Edmund is the only Edmund I know so it was the only correlation I had. :P

      Ah! That is so cool about Aurelle! I love it when that happens. It just all comes together!

      When I was smaller and wrote a very terrible story, I named a dragon Gru and found out that it actually means "a shudder of fear," which worked out perfectly. The story was about a conceited king who was famous for slaying dragons, but then comes Gru and the king starts having nightmares and getting panic attacks.

      (No, I don't think I've heard it before. :) It's a good story!)

      Thank you! I'm glad it was funny. :) And of course, Sherlock is life. Or at least most of life.

    2. "And they usually just end up being a cat or something." Hate when that happens XD

      Thank you! It's a hard G sound. Ha, it's the type of thing I daydream about superfans working out and putting on Tumblr and the fandom goes mad with excitement! XD (Maybe the superfans stalk me back to my 17 y/o blog and find my comments on other blogs and read this thread themselves.)

      Yes, although that's me naming him after that Edmund, rather than his parents. (Whereas Beatrice and Sylvia are named for characters WITHIN the story. Ooh, this is getting a bit meta.)

      Gru? I guess that was before Despicable Me came out XD But that is a great story, I love that!

      The Greg gif made my day XD

    3. The superfans probably will! I don't have a Tumblr, but I've heard they are very avid fans. Like serious scary kind of fans. When you have Tumblr fans, I will congratulate you and warn you to look the doors at night. XD

      Oh! That is so cool. That their parents were like book nerds and named their kids after book characters (me if I ever have a kid). But meta is the best!

      Waaaay before Despicable Me. I was like 12.

      I love that Greg gif too! It's one of my favorite lines for some reason. There actually is an inspector Greg in the Holmes stories. But he's not a Lestrade. There's a couple different inspectors/detectives and Lestrade and Greg are separate people whom BBC made into one. Sorry, being a nerd.

    4. Me if I ever have a kid too! XD If I have a daughter her middle name WILL be Hermione and my husband will have not a jot of say in the matter.

      Your story (with the nightmares and the panic attacks) sounds sophisticated for 12! ~tips cap to you~

      That's so interesting! Never apologise for being a nerd. If we can't nerd around in front of our blog friends, in front of whom can we nerd around?!

      PS The superfans thing made me laugh XD

  9. Very interesting - great selection of gifs! :)


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