Monday, July 6, 2015

What's In A Name? by Hilary Wagner

Killdeer from Nightshade City
Illustration by Omar Rayyan
I know we've covered this topic before, but it's one that really interests me, so I wanted to get everyone's take on names. It seems there are two camps when it comes to the art of naming characters and books. One camp (my camp) that loves to create names! The other camp that literally can't stand making up names or titles.

For me, I think names are extremely important when it comes to my characters. I painstakingly pick each one out, some have a personal meaning (Vincent Nightshade, Vincent is my son's name), while others are purely for effect (if Killdeer doesn't sound evil to you, I don't know what does!). I think names are just as important as the world your characters exist in.

As for titles, I went back and forth briefly on what NIGHTSHADE CITY would be called. At one point, I really liked The Rats of Nightshade City or simply The Rats of Nightshade. My husband told me no way! He said Nightshade City has a lot more muscle to it and I should go with my first instinct. I think he was right.... ;)

The World of Hank Putt? I don't think so....

So, how about you? Do you think names are important? Do you think Harry Potter would have been as successful if he was Hank Putt? Would the Artemis Fowl series be such a hit if it were entitled Artie Feldstein? Would Redwall have wowed the world if it were called Tiny Adorable Mice with Swords?


  1. Creating names is good fun, until it becomes silly. When the character with the gun is named Gunnar, it's time to smack oneself with a cast iron skillet and try again.

  2. I agree. I love all the details behind how JK Rowling came up with the names for her characters. I think there are more details here: A name really gives a character a certain feel or mood that hits a reader right when they first meet. It's part of the first impression for the reader, I think.

  3. I find one of the early and important decisions I make about a character is choosing the right name. It helps me think of and define a character in my mind, part of getting to know them. Once I have it, it's hard to change a character name.

  4. Key names are probably the one thing that come to me pretty quickly. Everything else, though...

  5. Hank Putt - oh this cracks me up! I am envisioning a whole other cover and story... But YES, Hilary, I think names are hugely important. They convey the very essence of a character (for me) and. Names are part of the world building process and as such, affect the senses - hence, giving us a certain feel, visual, or even expectation of a character. I specifically named one character in my series, Leandro, meaning "lion of a man" as that is what he represents. But I love to have fun with names too - one character I nicknamed "Bo Chez" standing for Big Cheese - as he is a large man in stature and importance to the main character. Another villain I created with a harsh consonant name to convey his dark personality - Adrian Madroc.

    Names of places are just as important - look at the four houses of Hogwart's: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Doesn't each name zap a visual in your mind about what kind of people may be in each house?

    Well, I could go on and on - I love names so! But I agree with your husband on NIGHTSHADE CITY. :)


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!