Thursday, 28 February 2019

Colliding Worlds-Choosing Names

Colliding Worlds: Choosing Names

One of my favourite things about writing is choosing names for my characters. In the real world--our part of it, anyway--we have a limited power in choosing our names. Most people I know bear a surname that descended from their parent(s) or which they adopted to match a new spouse.  The first and second names, if any, are generally bestowed by parents. Even in the matter of nicknames or diminutives, most people don't get much choice, because by the time they're old enough to make one the name is already well established. Parents and other name-givers tend to be a bit territorial about their children's names too. If you and your spouse have been calling your son Jonathan Jonathan for ten years it's a bit of a shock to hear friends calling him Jonno or Jay, or even Nath. If you chose your daughter's name, Rose because it couldn't be shortened, you mightn't be too pleased when her boyfriend refers to her as Roz, Ro, Zee or Rosh. 

So, there it is. Of course you can say you won't answer to any name but the one you like best, but it's still awkward to get other people to remember, especially if they don't want to.

Writers, though, can name characters as they please (unless editors change them...) In the Elydian Dawn series I had the fun of selecting names twice-over; once as myself, the author, and once as the Elysians themselves. As part of their break from their former lives, they chose new family names for themselves. Thus Marianne Arcadia had no idea what her parents' original surnames were. Nor did Edsen Balm or Jeremiah Rain. In choosing for my Elysians I first considered their probable cultural background, and then tried to think of names people willing to leave their old lives behind might favour. Thus came Rain, Balm (a herb name), Arcadia, (a classical name), Cliffside, Farsight, Causeway, Atlantis (a myth name), Moon,  Cornwall (a place name), Ocean and Shakespeare, Rush and Collier. All these names could have represented a vision, a hope, a memory or a philosophy.

So... if your name is Samantha and people persist in calling you Sammy, or if you're a Jamieson and get tired of being Jimbo, start writing right now. You mightn't have much power in this world, but you can have lots in your novel!

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