The Name Game

My three houseplants all have names: Oliver, Barnaby, and Ishi. Oliver is the ringleader, being my first and quite useful mint plant. Barnaby is his loyal and steadfast sidekick, a jade plant that has resisted all my attempts of negligent homicide. And Ishi was a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband, a beautiful little bonsai tree that cost way too much for being a living statue. These plants named themselves. I simply took care of them and the names emerged from the ether. My car was named the same day I bought it, and likewise, both my guitars have names that required little to no thought. And yet, to my utter disdain, almost all the characters and locations in my book remain nameless.

I thought that it was a problem of importance at first. Naming plants and other inanimate objects have little affect on my life. If I named my plant Poophead McGee, absolutely no one would care.  But naming my book and all it’s stuff…It took me less time to name my own real-life offspring. Gods, I have strange priorities.

I bring this up because a few months ago, I named one of the countries in my book and it was like Christmas and my Birthday had a lovechild. I was ecstatic. It was the perfect blend of made-up words and real words, coming together to actually fit the way the country felt in my head. I was on cloud nine; it felt like I had passed a milestone. And then I had the other country to name…which is still unnamed to this day.

As I was working on my novel last night, my husband walked past my computer and noticed the name of my Southern country. I explained to him what it was before he could judge it too quickly, adding that my northern country was still known as “The North” in all my drafts and notes. As he strolled into the kitchen, he casually threw out a name. And damn him, it was good. Like, I couldn’t-find-a-reason-not-to-use-it good. I quickly turned back to the computer to hide the fact that my jaw was hitting the floor. It was that easy, the whole time…

Well, two names down, a few dozen more to go. Time to hit up the ol’ fantasy name generator again. How do you name things in your writings? Do you pick a name at random? Let it come to you naturally? Or do you do a painful amount of research?

Header pic: My houseplants stand at attention. Or chill out in relaxation. It’s hard to tell. 

4 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. When I’m creating fantasy names, I like to play with word origins. Like for example, if I had a character who was a water-inhabiting humanoid, I’d look up word origins for water or ocean or sea, and then break apart the syllables and add name-y sounding syllables. I try not to make it obvious though.

    I also keep culture in mind, how those people would name their children. Sometimes that can help narrow down ideas.

    For contemporary names, I keep a list of names on hand that I like. So I peruse that for one that jumps out. Sometimes a name pops out at me that’s not on the list, maybe one I have never even liked before, but it fits the character.

    Names usually come fairly easy to me, except the main character in my current novel. She went through 4 names before I finally settled on one. No idea why, just couldn’t find one that felt like HER.

    Liked by 1 person

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