Naming dilemma

I was reading a post about a romance set in Egypt and I was trying to get through the names. And I realized, poor thing,  there were really complicated names in ancient Egyptian culture. And to make matters worse, the book was about a historical figure so she couldn’t just use “Ramses”.

I’ve had discussions about names with other authors of unusual historicals. I’d have to say this is one area I’m very cognizant of. Even if the writing is spectacular, if the name makes you trip every time you say it, it’s definitely a deterrent. Of course, I read and loved Dune with its multiple apostrophed titles and names. So maybe that’s why Asian settings have been able to make some headway in the fantasy genre.

In any case, I have five swordsmen to name. Currently they exist in my outline as “Swordsman #” They all have to have accessible names and their names have to be different enough from each other that they don’t get mixed up. This is what you might call an ensemble piece so it’s going to make it harder. Then on top of that, the masculine names have to sound masculine to the Western ear.

I’m very, very much into the shape and sound of words on the page and now you can see why!

No Comments

  1. Lisa
    Aug 28, 2009 @ 09:02:16

    OK, that’s tricky business. And we thought we had it tough when deciding between names like Kate, Emily and Sarah. Ha!

  2. Dara
    Aug 28, 2009 @ 10:37:51

    I definitely understand this one! I’m still trying to come up with an alternate name for the male lead in mine; his name in the original legend was Minokichi and I’ve been told it may be difficult for Western readers (I don’t think it’s difficult but I’m used to how the names sound in Japanese and many Western readers won’t be. Plus I’ve seen plenty of other names that trip the tongue more!).

    It gets really tricky with Japanese too because I like trying to find names with a good meaning but because of all the kanji, there can be different meanings for the same name (there were a few for Miyuki’s name that I had to decide between). Not that that really matters since the reader won’t be reading the kanji form of it, but it’s something I get picky about 😛

  3. Victoria Dixon
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 14:18:43

    Oh, I so feel with you on this! It’s much easier when you’re doing a pseudo-fantasy as you can cheat a little bit and decide a name means something because “you said so,” but it can still have negative connotations if it’s published in the country of its origin. I had to put certain character names past Chinese readers and make sure I hadn’t called someone “Toilet Drinker,” or some such. And of course, there’s the readability issue and the masculine, feminine thing. On top of that, one reader suggested I try finding words that sounded similar to Western names to make it easier on the reader. It’s a great suggestion, but I wanted to scream and cry when she said it.