March 4, 2011

What's in a name?

I have two names. There's my legal name, and then the name my family has called me (Lori) for as long as I can remember. No actual idea why. My childhood is shrouded in mystery. Mm.

"Legal name" is who I am at work, who I was at school: studious, quiet, awkward. Lori is who I am with my family and close friends: loud, intermittently hyper and lazy, prone to laughter and talking too much about manga and/or writing. Both are clumsy to a fault and oftentimes reticent, but I've come to identify myself differently depending on where I am and who I'm with.

I guess I have a third name, one I picked up in fandom: questy/questofdreams. She's more like Lori, only with a whole case of redbull in her. AND SHE TALKS IN ALL CAPS. YOU WILL LIKELY SEE HER ON THIS BLOG FROM TIME TO TIME 8D

Point is, names are powerful things that can shape our perceptions of who a person is, and we do that all the time when meeting characters in stories. What I want to talk about is... not following that mold!

Naming Names

Naming your characters is sometimes more difficult than writing the story itself. It's a single word that will identify that character forever in yours and your readers' minds.

Remember though, that the name you settle on should fit that individual character and not a societal/cultural guideline.

For example, I have a character in my current manuscript named Amun. When you hear that name, what sort of character comes to mind? Dark hair and skin? Likely Egyptian?

Not at all. Amun is white. He has sangria red hair and brown eyes and adoptive Japanese parents. I chose this name on purpose because it suits who Amun is, an exception to all the rules. A few people have suggested I change his name, but... why? Because it's Egyptian in origin, and Amun isn't Egyptian? Because it'll confuse the reader? But I want it to. I want to challenge those preconceptions, because that's what Amun does. He rejects social norms. He doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. He also gets top grades, generally stays out of trouble, is unfailingly polite to his parents and fiercely protective of those he loves. But if his classmates decide to make conversation, he'll let them know immediately, and curtly, that he's not interested in talking or making friends.

If Amun's parents had been more conventional, they would have named him something like Tetsuo. But they didn't, and the name choice also reflects a bit of who his parents are.

So the next time you go through the oftentimes difficult process of naming your character, don't be afraid to break the preconceptions that come attached to a name--but again, only if it fits your character.

I plan to sketch portraits of all my characters at some point, but for now, this is a drawing of Amun done by the supremely talented ryuu, whom I'm lucky enough to call my friend:

What are some of your favorite names and why?


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