Character Names and Sir Thresselthwaite Goldenhind

Sue Barsby recently linked to this article, all about character naming.

Character names are a big deal, for me. I build my stories around my characters, and rarely put finger to keyboard until a character’s name, appearance and backstory have been plotted out. Maybe this isn’t how it should be done, but it’s a way of story planning that I enjoy.

Etymology is wonderful when it comes to names. There’s a reason a character in a YA novel I’m starting is named ‘Michael’. And there’s good cause for a city in my Fantasy novel being called ‘Crow Hill’. If you choose to name your villain ‘Garbage Evildoer’, is it any wonder they have a axe to grind?

And names in SF and Fantasy have their own rules to follow. This is another aspect of naming that I love. People from different regions will have names that follow different conventions. An ‘ie’ ending on a name might be feminine in the south, but masculine in the north. Syllable counts are often close. Surnames may or may not exist. Titles might change. As may names, depending on age, rank, etc. And if you have a character named ‘Sir Thresselthwaite Goldenhind’, his best friend is unlikely to be called ‘Fred Brown’.

Character names don’t have to mean something. But they certainly need to suit the character. I remember being thrilled when I read that Harry Potter’s middle name was ‘James’. I still get chills thinking about Sansa and Arya Stark’s identities changing as their names do. What’s in a name? Everything you choose to pour in.

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