Archive for March 14, 2017

What’s in a name?

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on March 14, 2017 by Kate Jack

There are various ways of choosing names for your characters. For example calling them after someone you know, or perhaps a TV personality, film star, or even “collecting” names from gravestones, or consulting the Yellow pages and even the telephone directory 🙂

I once worked as a data processor for a famous catalogue, recording the details of people who’d entered a competition the company was holding at the time. Wow! What a treasure trove that turned out to be! Not only were there unusual names aplenty, there was also a plethora of location names to inspire story lines. This proved a great resource, but not wishing to infringe anyone’s privacy, I always altered names slightly to produce my own version and never used anyone’s actual location details. Instead I’d combine place names to come up with completely fictional scenarios.

The first book of The Silver Flute Trilogy, Land of Midnight Days, was set in a city. I deliberately didn’t give it a name, but garnered the details of its streets and buildings from locations in Liverpool city centre, my own home town. One of them was St Luke’s church, as pictured above. This building was bombed during the Second World War. It’s always fascinated me because the damage caused was to the interior only, leaving the outer walls more or less intact.

Once I’d created a backdrop, I then moved onto creating the occupants of my fictional city. I decided to call my main protagonist Jeremiah Tully  and gifted him with the ability to play the flute. The reason for this was because I love the 70’s rock band, Jethro Tull. Once I’d decided on the direction the stories were going to take, I thought long and hard about the other characters’ names and decided on a “biblical” theme, in order to enhance the epic feel of the stories. For example: Zebediah and Ezra are two of the names I chose. However, I didn’t want the narrative to be bogged down by too many elaborate names and most of the other protagonists and antagonists have ordinary names such as Joseph, Helen, and so on. I also made up the names: Thrace, Sylvan, Questial and Elawyn. Since I write YA urban fantasy, I had a fair amount of freedom to embellish my characters with wide ranging monikers. 

Of course it does depend, to a certain degree, what names can be used, depending on the genre you write in. That said, there are millions of “real-life” beautiful and unusual names to pick from, in order to make your characters memorable to the reader. Along with great, three-dimensional personalities, a writer can make a huge impression, enabling people to engage with your work.

The Silver Flute Trilogy

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