Naming your babies

Image result for nameless faceless

We have a baby on the way (6 weeks & counting) and so have recently put a lot of effort into name choosing. We were sure (no particular reason)  it would be a girl, and had a list of around five we both liked. The second scan revealed it to be a him and threw us right off. It’s a lot harder to choose for boys, we’ve found. (Perhaps too many males are Dicks?)

I’ve just finished the first draft of a 10k-word story with a fair few characters in, and it tickled me that despite it just being a bit of fiction I’m hacking together, I still anxiously labour over name choices. I thought I’d share a few naming considerations I toy with and a few resources I’ve uncovered.

First up, I am shamefully dreadful at remembering character names in books or films. Books: I just about manage to remember the main character, sometimes their adversary. However, I can comfortably remember any number of first letters. This leads to flummoxations if two characters have identical initials. Action point: I decided all characters in my stories should be unique in the first letter of their names. I’d even tried breaking this rule in the book I’m working on, and finally, at around 50k words in, changed one character’s name because I just kept mixing (Kiyoshi and Kazafumi–Japanese names, just to make things needlessly difficult!) the two up whilst writing.

Rhyming names, too, can bother me when reading. Bobby and Robby, or even Bobby and Toby… I would confuse these. However, rhyming names could suit brothers or even similar characters striving for the same goals. Bobby the Brave and Robby the Rotten, perhaps. If you like this idea, there are plenty of lists of rhyming names online.

Similarly, syllables can come into consideration. Todd and Tex–no no no, but Todd and Tyler… hmmm, still a no for me, but possibly passable. Todd and Timothy, though… I think I could deal with those (as long as Timothy never becomes Timmy or Tim (and Todd never becomes Toddothy)).

Enough of what not to do. What to do? When we failed to come up with any boys’ names we liked, we scrolled every single name on this list of 1000 names, managing to narrow it down to fewer than 10 maybes. I’ve done similar for Indian characters, as I’m not all that familiar with Indian names.

Every time you write a story, you have to come up with (hopefully) more than one name. And you (hopefully) have some intended meaning/theme/lesson/fable for your story. So why not name the characters with some deeper meaning? Simple anagrams can be fun. Curtains rise and we meet Hose Earl (or maybe Rosa Heel)… what do you think of my main character so far?

Another fun and useful site generates a bunch of names for you based upon selected input criteria? (Top names for our son based on this: Danica (sounds like female porn star), Kyle (Minogue?), Ellis (Elephant?),  Scout (not even a name), Shannon (er, boys’ name?), Jack (booooring), Oliver (knew an arse named Oliver when I was young (women seem to like this name, though)), Alfred (ditto the arse thing), Elias (best of the bunch, but still a bit off), Louis (half loo, half piss). (Here’s another similar site)

Giving your characters names that means something appropriate to their role or personality can make you feel like a terribly clever writer. There are even a lot of common names that have really bad meanings. Getting a bit sillier, how about slapping rude name on a sub-character? Here’s a long list of dirty names, from Eric Shun to Fonda Cox.

Finally, here are a few more links that could come in useful:


New story–Invasive alien species

Ladybird-1200x800One of my stories was published in Little Blue Marble yesterday. The story is called Invasive aliens species and, if I remember rightly, was only around 1000 words, so the whole experience will brighten your life in fewer minutes than you can count on one hand.

There’s an interesting (to me) story behind the writing of this. Back when I’d not long been working in my current job (checking data associated with scientific articles), I had to curate the data for this article on the spread of an invasive ladybird species into and across the UK. Just the phrase ‘invasive alien species’ got me wondering how these ladybirds could be inserted into a sci-fi story.

Also, perhaps serendipitously, I had the first few lines of that nursery rhyme stuck in my head:

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I don’t know why she swallowed a fly
Perhaps she’ll die

The final component was that I’d recently been attempting to shift my story writing from getting a vague idea and then writing to see what happens to planning before writing.

So, after work I wandered off the British Library and tried attempted to develop a plan for this story.

Turns out the British Library closes annoyingly early, so that didn’t last long, but over the next couple of days I did manage to lay out a complete plan for the story. The first step was somewhat unusual: I chopped up the nursery rhyme into sections so that I’d know how many story sections I had to write in between. I then built the story to suit the nursery rhyme sections, as best I could. That meant as well as the invasive alien species theme, I also had to get bigger and bigger animals consuming each other.

There’s not much more to be said about the story without giving too much away. Here’s the link again:

And a little about the magazine in which it appears: Little Blue Marble‘s goal is “to bring greater awareness of the consequences and potential solutions to anthropogenic climate change […] by linking to great content from around the web, and publishing original articles and works of speculative fiction.” I do like the purpose of the mag, and had submitted a few other stories there before this one, but to no success. It’s nice to fail before you succeed!