Ever since I was little, naming things was one of my favourite things to do. Video games for the Nintendo or Sega systems that did not include naming your hero, or *gasp* had only THREE spaces for your handle, were judged accordingly. Names like EYE, ORB, MrT, and POO were only entertaining for so long. The longer the allowed spaces for a name, the happier I was. For example, I LOVED Nintendo’s unicycle racing game Uniracers principally because it allowed me 12 characters with which to concoct epic names. Friends who were less creatively inclined would get me to name their heroes, too. It was a big deal to me.
I think it stemmed from loving maps as per this post from earlier in the Days of Balance. When you create lots of fantastical worlds from maps, you have to name things – and you eventually get a grip on what you like in an original name and what you dislike. Practice makes perfect, as teachers like myself sometimes say.
Many of the names in Imbalance are drawn from names that came before. I named a friend’s Diablo hero ‘Csarvenvoroth’ once and we laughed at its length while still thinking it sounded cool. Later I would shorten this down to ‘Csarvent’ the capital of the Thynlands. The longer form is even tucked in there in Orenzo’s grandmother’s book, as ‘Csarventhyl’. Yet more names had their origins in the Warcraft III book I wrote in high school – including the capital of Banor, Axhold, from the name ‘Axhind’; Gilche’s crony ‘Kharagon’ in Grip of Dust; and even ‘Rafien’ came before, although adopted to a much different purpose than being an Orc. Greatly transformed, that one.
I take great pride in my names. I think an excellent name can draw a character out of the blue. For example, starting to write Grip of Dust over a year ago I had to construct the sceptre of Csarvent and his family. I composed the following names:
- (Sceptre) Cedgar Tolman
- Erie Tolman (Chentry)
- Hoskar (Hoss) Tolman
- Lia Tolman
- Kryloak Tolman
Okay, cool, so we’ve got the sceptre and heart-of-the-sceptre, plus her maiden name. Sound like monarchs, sure. Then Cedgar’s brother Hoskar, called ‘Hoss’, I can totally picture this gruff fellow. Gotcha. Lia Tolman… probably a younger girl, and… Kryloak.
What a damn cool name. Kryloak. Kryloak Tolman. I could not let this beautiful name be a footnote in the family lineage of the Csaventi sceptre. There is a story to be told for this Kryloak. No space in Grip of Dust besides the anticipated use of the royal family. I am currently adopting her character to Book Three for a story arc requiring a young heroine and feel entirely justified in the process.
As a final note, I’ll say this. Keep your names handy. Use them. Reuse them. Recycle them if they spark excitement. Just never make them illustrate something about the person themselves – unless a nickname. I remember a discussion in Writer’s Craft class in university wherein a fellow student suggested a girl rename her hero from (something like) ‘Samantha McNeil’ to ‘Samantha Lions’ to help illustrate how she was a strong, courageous, lion-ly person. Puh-lease.
I named my next character ‘Jon Martyr.’