Sunday, October 3, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Three

3. How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you're writing about fictional places)?

Well, in the case of Tom, and of all of the other characters in his story, either I've randomly selected them, or they've selected me. Carol, for example, is named after a woman I wait on with some regularity at work. She's nothing like Carol in the story, but the name somehow stuck in my head and sprouted a character.

In my fantasy writing, the names are sincerely formed from grammar rules I created for the languages of the characters. For example, among the iLalir, I pick a clan name, and then give the women a name that starts with the clan, and a given name that's an adjective (most of the time) with the feminine ending -ir. Lal Fanir, Athel Salir, Nol Erathir, are all examples. Women are seen as embodiments of the clan, so their names are adjectives suggesting what they will bring to the clan. Men, on the other hand, are the property of the clan, so they are named first with an attribute, and then with the clan name in the possessive form. Examples from the same clans as before: Klathran Lalo, Selan Athelo, and Thirian Nolo. For the iLalir (and their iThissir cousins) titles are less important, so they always follow the name. (Selan Athelo Shan, Klathran Lalo the King, Lal Fanir the Princess) As a side note, this is a matrilineal society, meaning the family line is traced not through the father, but through the mother.

It's a complicated system, but one with a logical setup, and reason for the way it's done. The Thissiro system is similar, though not identical, and the grammar structure is different, too.

As far as places, I have a much more organic method, which largely just involves picking a name that sounds good and, again, meets the sound rules for the local language. I have a growing word-list, but as yet a lot of things are still shifting and changing, so a number of things may not solidify until I'm done with my final edits.