Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Creating Names in Fiction

The other day I received a review concerning the naming conventions in A Mage's Power.  They thought my name reversals were both punny and distracting which made me think about how often I relied on them. That got me thinking about naming conventions in general which lead to how many entries TvTropes has for them.

I don't like using conventional baby-book style names. For some reason they feel weird so I make up names for characters and places. One of the ways I do this is by taking a word relevant to the thing in question and reversing it. For instance, there is a character called 'Nosiop' that is a poison master. This way I  can quickly create a name but I can also see how it can be distracting. Once one realizes that a name is a word backwards it can be hard to avoid seeing both at once. In the future I'll look for other ways to add meaning to names and this is where TvTropes comes in.

On Tvtropes we have an index full of tropes devoted to naming conventions. I'll illustrate a few of them with Noisop.
Meaningful Name: Noisop is a maker of poison.
Ironic Name: If Noisop were a maker of medicine instead of poison.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: A name resembling 'poison' is suspicous; it could mean he was an assassin or a Poisonous Friend, etc.
Some Call Me Tim: If his true first name was  Cyanogenic-Glycoside, he might opt for the simpler 'Noisop'. This could lead to him being Only Known By His Nickname.
Unfortunate Name: If a customer found out his name meant 'poison' then Noisop would have a hard time being a chef.

There are many, many more but I'll stop there. If I do too many I'll look up the ones I don't know and get sucked into the Troper Hive Mind again.

Most of the characters in A Mage's Power have names that carry some form of meaning but there are two exceptions. One is a guy named 'Sam'. He is so minor that I couldn't be bothered to think of a concept meaningful enough to reverse. The second, by contrast, is the protagonist himself, Eric. I have no idea where that name come from or why I settled on it. It's just there.

What about all you other authors out there; what do you think about naming conventions?

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