Naming Characters/Places in Works of Fiction
You have your plot ready for your fiction and now you want to start writing. What names are you going to pick for your characters? No matter how easy it seems, it sometimes isn’t. I myself hardly give it too much thought, but then certain experiences have made me wiser. A round-up of trips and tricks people use and a hint for pitfalls to look out for –
1) A trick some people use – Translate adjectives to words in other languages. Ex. ‘Rasi’, a beautiful universal sounding name that just rolls of your tongue, and yet is not very common. This actually means fate in an Indian language.
2) Use Non-relatable middle names. Joseph Kahn – ‘Who is that?’ or Joseph Aster Kahn – ‘I don’t think that is a real name.’ You want the second option right away.
3) Reuse characters from other books like classics with a changed spelling – you want to draw focus to that but leave it just a tad bit ambiguous especially if your character has nothing in common with the original. It just gives people something to focus on as opposed to wondering.
4) If coming up with names itself is hard, there are plenty of random name generators.
5) My experience with naming places has taught me that if you pick real places and streets and then include a fictional setting, people will look for those places anyway. If you don’t want to be very specific, it is better to use fake names higher up in the hierarchy. Start with a real country and state/province ( can’t avoid that unless it is a dystopian novel) and then add an imaginary place.
6) Never imagine that you can hide real people in your works of fiction by switching their genders or using other tricks like anagramming their names. People will find out. No one is stupid. If you end up making such a faux pas, apologize.
7) My advise would be never use your work to attack others personally. If this is a revenge trip, name your book that. If you feel that is going too far or is making it too obvious, guess what, it already is. Don’t do it.
8) Why is ‘The Huffington Post’ called the Huffington Post? I don’t know. It seems like the founder/Editor just used her last name, obviously, but it felt odd in the beginning next to ‘The Denver Post’. Sometimes names should directly indicate what you are trying to convey. In fiction it can be used to drive a point in, but only when adopting a certain kind of personification maybe. Else most often a name is general enough.
9) Using nonsensical names could sometimes a trap. You could write pages with a character you developed called ‘Butta’ and then realize it is like the name ‘John’ in another country. Still, could be a non-issue. Always better to check. Thank God for Google or Bing.
10) The hardest is being politically correct. Sometimes you might end up giving the wrong impression just because you picked the wrong name for a character. Researching names is a good idea. An avid reader might already be aware that certain names are repeatedly used for characters in erotica. A quick research and you’ll get plenty of statistical information about names, like what name occurs most often in the national criminals database and other such interesting info.