What's in a Name?

It wouldn't be right to judge a person based on their name, but does the same standard apply to names in books of fiction?

In my opinion, the answer is no! The reader is aware that the story has been created by the author. Therefore, there must be a seamless relationship between the environment the author creates and the names assigned. If the story takes place in the Middle Ages, a modern name, like Cash, will not work.

It can be very difficult to come up with a good name. There have been times when I'm making great progress writing and everything comes to a grinding halt because I have to give a name to a person or place.

Here are the steps that I took to find an unusual name for a main character in my fantasy novel.

1. I identified a characteristic I wanted to highlight. In this case, she's a princess.

2. I did a search for names that meant "princess". I found "Sara", which means princess in Hebrew. This was a start, but it wasn't unusual enough.

3. I expanded my search based on my results. In this example, I looked for derivations of Sara. This search turned up about twenty names including "Sarana", which I liked. I researched the name "Sarana" and found its origin is Greek and the meaning is princess! This was perfect.

In some cases, a story may read better with unique names. For a completely original name, I identify a characteristic of the person or place. Then, I see if I can use a bit of that word, or a few letters, from a synonym. If this doesn't work, I translate the characteristic into other languages until I get a piece of a word I like and modify that.

In the fantasy novel mentioned above, one of the kingdoms has an abundance of resources. I looked up synonyms for "abundance", and the word "bounty" stood out. I modified "bounty" and named the kingdom "Bounten".

It's fun to get lost in a great story, but if the names are out of place- or even unimaginative- it can lesson the experience. Conversely, a good name can be remembered and foster intrigue.