Last summer, I briefly touched on the topic of names – character names, baby names, names I don’t want people to steal from me, etc. – in a post discussing my WIP, The Calling. And today, I’d like to delve a bit deeper into that topic.
Naming – it’s serious.
Naming anything — a character, pet, child, or boat — is a serious business. Names hold meanings, and typically, they’re for life. I say typically because some people elect to change their name. In all fairness, there are some less than desirable names floating around out there — Khaleesi, Orenthal, Reignbeau — and some with meanings or stories that may dog their bearer; for example, I was, blessedly, named after the good twin in a Sidney Sheldon book series, but what if I’d been named after the evil twin?
The responsibility that comes along with bestowing a name is no laughing matter, which is why I took naming my WIP’s characters quite seriously. True, they aren’t “real people” who have to go to elementary school, fill out job applications, or look for bike license plates with their nomenclatures; however, they’re going to be stuck with the names I give them for longer than an average lifespan, and that deserves thoughtful contemplation and research on my part.
Ideally, my WIP will find a modicum of success, and people will remember my characters’ names. Though I entertain no ideas of grandeur that my characters’ names will fall into line with that of Heathcliff, Hermione, and Han Solo, a girl can dream that her characters will be remembered, if not for their names, then for their, well, character.
I have a slew of names that I guard fiercely – baby and pet names – but what I will divulge today are the names of my WIP’s characters, how I stumbled upon them, and their meanings. Of course, I won’t bore you with every name, but a fair few. Plus, I must share how Sarah J. Maas and I seemingly share a wavelength when selecting names.
The SJM Wavelength
Even though I had to go through the harrowing process of changing character names, I feel pretty cool for having had some of the same name ideas as the incredible Sarah J. Maas.
First, my maid character was initially named Alys – naturally, the ‘y’ made it more fantasy-ish, perfect for a fairytale of sorts – but a few months after selecting her name, I started reading A Court of Thorns and Roses for the first time, and lo and behold, the maid character in the Spring Court was named Alis. Naturally, I had to make a change. My maid is now known as Mija (me-juh).
Second, naming villainous individuals is fun but challenging. You want their title to hold some mystery and sound evil or nefarious as it rolls off your mind’s tongue, right? Years ago, I decided upon the name Aric for my antagonist. Then it changed to Kier a while later. Then, while reading A Court of Mist and Fury, I was introduced to one of SJM’s many baddies – Keir, Steward of the Court of Nightmares, and he’s a real piece of work. So down the drain went that name. Now, my villain goes by Herregan.
And third, the last name that SJM beat me to occurred within her first series – Throne of Glass. I had the brilliant idea of using the name Chael for a secondary character in my second book (I’m taking the duology route). But, of course, this was before listening to the audiobooks and hearing the name in use. Full disclosure, I haven’t finished this SJM series, but where I’m currently at, Chaol is kind of a turd, and I don’t want to name my character after a turd, even if it is a cool name.
Characters of The Calling
Between last summer and today, I’ve introduced a few of my characters by name and their inspiration, so forgive me for repeats – I’m quite pleased with the names I’ve selected. Please enjoy my pronunciation tips and naming anecdotes.
I don’t know when I first came across the name Annelise – it’s not common by any means – but somewhere early in the writing process, I decided that this was the princess of Triest. Along with her royal title, Annelise is a Consort for the Calling, an age-old sacrificial-type agreement between the six kingdoms and the woodland domain they surround. Naturally, the Forest (capital ‘f’) is mysterious and magical, with a not-so-magnanimous ruler at its helm. But, aside from her titles and responsibility, Annelise is an adventurous and somewhat mischievous young woman with ample curiosity and gumption.
Image source: Pinterest // myrthena
From my distant connection to Catholicism, Cazmir comes from St. Casimir of Lansing, Michigan, a now-closed parish. I’ve loved the name and the idea of the name for years, and when I started to build this imperfect yet noble guardian, I knew he was my Cazmir. I love that his name has opposing meanings, which fits his character well, as you’ll see – someday… Also, not a name you regularly hear a teacher say during roll call, I had the pleasure of meeting a real-life Casimir at one of my part-time jobs.
Image source: whiterosewritings.blogspot.com
I found Daegan in one of my many baby name website searches, and since I’d never heard it before, I decided it would be perfect for the kind and hapless prince of Moorlund, the kingdom directly north of Triest. This prince is a fifth son and is, therefore, overlooked. He finds himself shipped off and under the care of Cazmir, and the two end up on a buddy-cop-esque journey. Now, I thought I was clever, “discovering” Daegan; however, not long after my late-night internet search, I was watching Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, and there it was – a production credit for an individual called Daegan.
Image source: tumblr // Steve Thompson
Another royal, Eiisen, is the princess of Appris, the kingdom to the far north of the world. Raised by her warrior father, she has an aloof demeanor and a guarded exterior – her name, meaning “iron,” is quite fitting. Like Annelise, Eiisen is a Consort for the Calling, and the two princesses are cousins on their mothers’ side. I stumbled across a similar name at the same part-time job where I met Casimir – I simply modified it. For the Appris culture, I decided that they double their ‘i’s’ because why not?
Image source: DeviantArt // samanthadoodles
Firstborn and heir to the throne of Appris, Evandiir elected the path of abdication to maintain his freedom to roam the land he loves most. He is fiercely protective of his daughter, who is in line for the throne since her uncle has no children. For my hardcore and stoic warrior (who’ll have a larger role in the second book), I don’t know how I crafted his name. I may have some scribbled down ideas, but there’s no amusing anecdote to share here. I think that’s how Evandiir would want it, though, with him being a man of few words.
Herregan, my villain, received his name from an unusual source – a semi-truck. While sitting in traffic, a Herregan Distributors vehicle passed by, and I was struck by the name, having never heard of the company before. It’s a family-owned business with a team-oriented approach whose success depends solely on the success of its customers. Interestingly enough, there’s a family-focused approach for Herregan (the villain) as well…
Image source: Pinterest // Maddi Becke
Shortened from the French “Mijanou” (joyous laughter/daughter who brings joyous laughter), Mija has several meanings. From the Spanish context, it means daughter, dear, or honey, as well as a drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved in the Slovenian language. Mija solely serves Annelise as her maid/lady-in-waiting and is a confidante of the princess.
Image source: Pinterest // Nikos Chrissis
And finally, Olwyn, the burly baker who works in the castle kitchen. The name has Welsh origins and means white footprint, but since Olwyn bakes, I’d like to switch it to white handprint since he works with flour. He strikes an intimidating form but has a tender spot for Annelise and, by extension, Cazmir and Mija. Olwyn runs a tight baker’s ship but is eager to teach a curious mind.
Image source: Pinterest // K Cantrell
So, there you have it, insight and background to some of my characters’ names and my views on the weightiness of picking names.
Echoing last summer’s sentiment, if I find there’s a rash of baby boys named Cazmir or dogs named Mija, I will be very displeased. However, if this proves to be a learning lesson and I must become a hermitess hiding all of her work until it’s publish-worthy, I will. Besides, hermitude doesn’t sound too bad, considering winter’s lingering presence.
Coming up next:
Monday, April 10
State of the Draft