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What's In A Name?--How I Came Up With My Character Names

How do you come up with character names? What's the significance? Does it matter? I think so, at least if you want to write a really tight narrative with immersive worldbuilding elements. Personally, when I was writing Songs Of Autumn I had to consider the world I was building and my audience really carefully when crafting my character names.

Because Songs Of Autumn is a YA Fantasy novel I wanted it to appeal to many ages and a wide demographic audience. So, leaning into fantastical names to heighten the world-building while keeping the character names as familiar as possible was a tough balance to strike. Let me take you through my thought process with a few of the main cast of characters.

Crown Princess Elisabetta Duncan. Our main character. Only, she hates her name and the formality of her title. The only people who call our MC Elisabetta are her family members, people from court, and the priestesses. Most of the people that are close to her, know her dislike of her full name and call her 'Lisbet' instead. Of course, when she meets Matioch Steele she wants him to call her 'Liz'. He's the only one who addresses her so informally and we see that she even thinks of herself as nothing but 'just Liz' through much of the book.

Matioch Steele. His first and last name have significance. In Medieval times a lot of surnames came from people's occupation. In fact, my surname Sevier means 'sieve maker'. LOL! Mat has a lot of issues surrounding the mystery of his parentage so his surname is actually borrowed from his mother--the daughter of a blacksmith. Mat has other plans on what 'Steele' may stand for one day. Mainly he wants to be a solider at Fangorn Keep. Similarly to Liz, Mat is only called by the shortened version of his name by Liz. It shows a real intimacy between the two characters.

Gareth. Gareth is actually a name still used today, though it is very old world in terms of tone and feel. It's close enough to more popularized names, like Garrett, yet still feels appropriate in the context of a fantasy world.

Tia. Tia's name is already shortened. Her full name (not depicted in text) is Tia'an. Her surname being 'an. In fact, Liz met Tia and her brother Killian when she was very young and calls Tia by a shortened form of her name while having mistaken Killian's name. His name is actually Killi'an. The 'an acts as a surname for people in the Eastern Islands, it indicates which island they hail from. Especially the smaller islands as most of the residents of the smaller islands are related to some degree.

Names are important, they can help make a character more interesting, show differences in their station in life, or even help characterize them with very little effort. Putting thought and consideration into these details shows your readers just how important this world is to you. And by proxy, their enjoyment of it. Don't call it in! Coming up with character names can be fun and a good exercise in the development process if you're struggling through a writing slump.

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