Names, culture, and 42

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

I enjoy poking about through the Yahoo!Answers Books and Authors section on occasion, and often find questions of people asking what to name their characters. One such question asked for names to be used in a science fiction novel. The inquierer only had that these characters were from a different planet and wanted the names to sound cool.

When writing fantasy or science fiction, I find its a good idea to come up with a culture/world before coming up with names (although sometimes I have a name for a character a build the culture around that…a little counter intuitive, but it works for the rough draft). I also try to ask myself these questions: What sort of world do your characters live in? What are their values? How are their names formed? Is there any particular reason as to why I’m naming him this?

As I said, sometimes I work counterintuitively. I had a name for a character and a setting, but his world didn’t have a true culture, or even a naming practice. So I took what I had for his name and based the world’s naming practice off of that. Roman first names, Dutch last names. It was simple enough, but from there I was able to think about the values and work ethic of his culture. Another character in the same story had a completely out-of-left-field name. It didn’t fit the world at all. So I changed it, and he better “meshed” with what I was trying to create.

Picking a name just because it looks cool isn’t a good idea. Be sure that there is at least a reason for it. In the world of typical medieval England fantasy, it does not make sense for an English serf to be named Reiko or Victoria. Names should reflect the culture, and vice versa.

On another note, this is post 42! The meaning of life, the universe and everything is no clearer to me now than before this.

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