Saturday, April 15, 2006


Let's talk names. I'm currently working on an idea for a futuristic and my characters have fairly normal names. Do you prefer this as a reader compared to more interesting alien-like names?

I'm also working with a placeholder name for one of my characters so I can do a find and replace when the right name comes to me. I did this for someone in Slave to Sensation as well. The characters know their own names and won't accept anything else but it sometimes takes a little while for them to come to me.

Tell me your favorite names, so I can add them to my list!

Hope you're all having a good weekend.


Milady Insanity said...

I have trouble coming up with placeholder names I can remember. I can't just use Peter or a title, like Captain or CEO. I'll forget. Then when I next get to the guy, I'll be like, "OMG, have I named him yet?"

Diana Peterfreund said...

PLEASE give them normal names. I'm so so sick of bizarre unpronounceable Non-real names with too many Ys and Ks and apostrophes in paranormal/futuristic books.


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

yea.. how about Peter or Adam or Angie.. or something normal. :-)

and not Shakira or Tashinka LOL

Anonymous said...

Bonquisha? ;)

I have no clue. just nothing jarring! :)

Nalini Singh said...

Milady - placeholder names are great. That way, you don't have to go through the whole ms trying to find all the spots where you need to change it. Some people just use closed square brackets for the same reason.

Diana - I was actually trying to find a link to your post on the weird futuristic names yesterday! I'm going to put some extra y's and k's in peoples names just for you *G*

Actually, I think the weird names are an easy way of making someone "alien". I don't mind it so much as long as it's consistent.

Hmmm, Cynthia, I'm being seduced by Tashinka! ;)

Lol Kendra!

Milady Insanity said...

I know and understand why people use placeholder names.

But because they don't 'fit,' I just don't connect placeholder name and character.

I heard Diana on the apostrophes. I learnt that the hard way, because I couldn't remember how to spell the ones with apostrophes either. LOL!

Karen said...

I don't mind a unique name, but make it something I can pronounce! Hate reading a book and every time I get to the names i have to either stop and try to figure it out, or skip over it. Then it just becomes "that book with people I can't pronounce" :)

Diana Peterfreund said...

Well, I have nothing against using unusual names. I just don't get *unreal* names, especially if they are unpronounceable as well. I'm not saying everybody should be Susan and Bob. There are an awful lot of, say, Nalinis, out there. I also like the idea that the names have a tradition. Shakira is also a real name.

I think the problem is that a lot of people give their characters weird names for the sake of them being weird and made up and bizarre sounding.

Most people don't have names that go on for twenty letters or so. Even if you are writing about an alien society or a futuristic society, the names are going to be something that people can really use. After all, names were invented so people could calle ach other with them. They can't be too hard.

For instance, Scott Westerfeld in his futuristic gave many of his charactes made up names (and even has a scene where they discuss how weird one character with the "old fashioned" name David) but all the names SOUND like real names: "Tally" "Shay" "Croy" "Fausto" and "Peris."

You can give a minor twist to your character's names without making them sound too bizarre. Look at Orson Scott Card's "Ender."

There's no need for F'ykklrnryn D'ghykkueng a'Ghrynnmakkienryls, IMO. You sound much more realisitc, whilst still achieving your point of exoticism, by picking unusual names that sound as if they could really exist.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

maybe a good place name... xxxx xxxxx ;-)

Nalini Singh said...

Milady - I see where you're coming from. I do occasionally have a jarring moment when I think this is the wrong name but I find I can't work without a name.

Lol Karen!

Diana - I tend to go with the pronounceable names as well and totally agree with you (and Karen) about that, but for the sake of argument (and given that I read a lot of science fiction), don't you think that some of the weird names could be explained away by saying that they are in fact pronounceable by the rules of that alien society? ie. The book's in English so we can understand it, but all the characters are speaking another language?

Cynthia - I think the world's longest place name is in NZ. I think I'm going to go try and find it!

Diana Peterfreund said...

I think it can, Nalini, definitely, but I also think it comes with the problem of alienating your reader. Once, for a contest I was reading one of those entries with the long, unpronounceable names and there was a council scene or soemthign and I honestly couldn't tell these people apart. Their names were all equally long, equally unpronouceable, and similar enough that I couldn't tell them apart.

SO, fine, the names are based on another language, and that language happens to have long words, such as the languages of the Pacific Islanders. But then, woudn't the characters have nicknames? They might be Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaea and Turipukapihimaungahoronuku pokaiwhenuaakitanarahu, but they'd call each other Teta and Turi, wouldn't they?

Just saying...

Nalini Singh said...

Good point and you'd think the author would give them nicknames to make it easier on themselves. Imagine trying to type those names right every single time!

JLB said...

Like Diana, I have trouble with character names that aren’t readily pronounceable… it’s rather frustrating to read a book where you can’t mentally get into the flow of the character.

At the same time, I really do like to read characters with unique names – especially in unique settings. Unique does not have to mean complex and unpronounceable, nor do they have to be totally imagined. However, unique names in unique settings helps to enrich the “texture” of the story for me.

The simplest example I can think of for unique names that work would be Star Trek – any season (yeah, in case you were wondering, I adore Star Trek). Star Treks uses names that are easy to say, relatively easy to spell, and which bear some relevance to each character’s respective species/home-world/nationality.

Here are just a few names I like:
Sylvia, Utako, Hao, Aliya, Keira, Mallory, A’jeuné, René, Autumn, and Faera for females
Peter/Pedro/Pierre, Joaquin, Jaden, Krisna, Jin, Forest, Damian, Joshua, Jules, and Emmanuel for males.

I also love androgynous names which can be used for either sex, such as Francis, or names which are usually attributed to one sex being used for a person of the opposite sex, as in the case of the western male’s name Taylor being used for a female.

(Interestingly enough, you might laugh to know that I clicked through to your profile in part because of your comment at PBW, and part because I like the name Nalini… it’s the name of a good friend of mine whom I both respect and admire!)

JLB said...

PS - I love the names Shaquira/Shakira, Shakeena, Tanisha, as well as Tashia... (Tashinka is a new one though)! And I've known at least one of each of them!!! :)

Nalini Singh said...

JLB - I'm a huge Trekkie too! :) I love those names you suggested. Interestingly, I actually used the name Taylor as the name of the heroine in my second book - I really like doing the gender switch thing, too. Or using last names as first names.

That's funny about why you clicked through to me. AND about you knowing a Nalini! There's more of us out there than I ever realized. I keep getting emails for a famous Indian journalist by the same name!