Bringing a Story To Life – What’s in a Name?

Whats-in-a-Name-Shakespeare“So, once I thought of the villain with a sense of humor, I began to think of a name and the name “the Joker” immediately came to mind. There was the association with the Joker in the deck of cards, and I probably yelled literally, ‘Eureka!’ because I knew I had the name and the image at the same time.”   –  Jerry Robinson
Years ago, I worked one on one with a mentor through the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop.

This is a great workshop for aspiring novelists.

About midway through the story we were working with, I decided to change the name of my main character from what many would consider an old-fashioned, perhaps overly feminine name, to Kate.  My mentor’s response was overwhelmingly positive.

She pointed out that Kate better suited the character’s personality and was more appropriate for a contemporary novel.

It was a good lesson on the importance of a name.

What’s in a Name?  It seems obvious that the name should fit the character, and it should, but it can be more difficult than you think.

There are too many choices.

When deciding on a name, it’s good to consider the setting, (i.e. location, time period), any cultural influence, and the character’s personality.  Equally important, consider whether or not the name is a story in itself.

Why does the character have the name?  Were the parents trying to do something unique?  Is the name a nickname gained at some point in the character’s past?

A Character’s Character. It’s important to consider the personality and any character traits, along with where and how those traits were picked up, when deciding on a name for the character.

The Army in Metatron’s Army was inspired by coloring book characters.  Needless to say, their names were overly simple, and not suitable.

The characters in the story do not closely resemble the original cast of characters.  They have matured, grown in number, and were written appropriately.

Choosing more appropriate names was no easy task, in spite of the fact I’d been living with  these characters in my conscious and subconscious for years.

I knew their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, their fears and hopes, and what motivated them. 

There were multiple time periods, locations, and cultures to consider.

Where to Start?  I drew from best-practices advice I’d received while attending a breakout session at an RWA Writer’s Conference.

These conferences are a worthwhile investment for any aspiring author, even those who don’t write romance and those who are self-published.  The information gained, the networking opportunities, and the ability to spend time among your peers is inspiring and invaluable.

The best-selling Urban Fantasy author  in charge of the session gave an incredible presentation filled with valuable suggestions that were relevant to this project though at the time I wasn’t considering it.

Sub-conscious as work?

Tap Your Resources.  One of the names was suggested by a family member.

I ended up loving the name, which conveyed strength and dependability, so much that I gave it to one of the main characters.

Try This.  I got a tip from someone who dabbles in world building.

“Try a name generator.”

 Organize.  Due to the complexity of this project it was important that I remain organized.  I created character groups, making notes when characters belonged in more than one group.

They would appear in multiple scenes or multiple books.

By the time I was finished, I was satisfied.

 I was also worn out.

In the end, all but two characters received new names.

A Name at Work.  Until a book is published, the name chosen by a writer is known as a working title.  Sometimes, the name of the book is changed prior to publication.

Typically a decision made by someone other than the writer, the name is changed for marketing purposes.

Choosing a title for this project was easy, if complex.

Coming up with Metatron’s Army was easy.  The subtitles that would describe each progression in the epic, not so much.

 I pushed the decision to the back burner and continued with the other projects I was working on. 

Over the next two years, I jotted down potential subtitles.

When it came time to begin the project, I looked over my list, considering whether the themes I’d written would carry through the number of books that make up the story.  About a month into the first draft, I decided to go with something entirely different; a chess theme.

My hero is definitely a  knight, complete with quest and qualified for rescue and just as a chess player must think several moves ahead, I need to think several books ahead every step of the way for this story.

A bit of research revealed that several chess terms perfectly reflected the theme of individual books.

Putting it All Together.  The process of choosing story and character names is thought intensive, but Metatron’s Army was particularly challenging.

I found myself slipping up, using old names while typing the manuscript.

It was also incredibly rewarding.  I am proud to announce the availability of the first in the Metatron’s Army series.

Metatron’s Army: Advantage, now available.


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