As a good name. Okay, that might be a little over exaggerated. There are lots of important things that go into good story telling/writing. However, I'm not kidding when I say that names are pretty close to the top of that list for me. A name should make sense. It shouldn't be chosen simply because it looks good, especially if it looks weird next to all the other names in a book (I once read a book where the main character's name was Raven and her younger brother was Billy. Drove. Me. Crazy.). It should help build the character. It should mean something.
Though I'm fairly new at this author thing (I still choke on the word...), one of the questions that I consistently get asked is, "Where did you come up with all the names?" As this is a subject I am so passionate about, I figured I might fill you all in.
First, I should say that my biggest aid was a book I found on Amazon called "Best Exotic Baby Names" by Allison Jones. This is seriously the best name book I've found, despite not being very long. It's loosely set up by alphabet and gender, but for each name it not only gives the origin but the root of the name, the derivatives, and their meaning. For instance the name 'Nikoteleia' is listed under 'Teleia'. Teleia = pefection. Nike = victory. Nikoteleia = pefect victory. The only problem with this is that I often lose names...it just took me 5 minutes find that and I've looked it up a hundred times.
But not all of the names came from this gold mine. Several of the names that appear in the final, published version of "Benajah's Keeper" are the same as they were in the very first draft. That's not to say their characters didn't change drastically. Here are some examples:
Zak: The original Zak was nothing like the one that guides Evanna through her journey in "Benajah's Keeper." In fact, he was total fluff. He was the tag along friend of Tierra, more or less a female version of the Zak we know today. When I revisited the story four years later, I came to the conclusion that Evanna simply didn't need two vampire friends. Especially because she didn't really want any friends at all...
Rian: I'm fairly sure that I chose the name Rian originally because I had a crush on a kid named Ryan. Highschool, you know? And it was soooo edgy to change the spelling. Turns out Rian is a legitimate name, meaning 'king.' Rian's last name was originally Doreland, a name I'm pretty sure I made up. When finalizing the characters, I began to look for a more meaningful last name for my villain; I stumbled upon Delmar, which means 'of the sea.' And it just worked with the ocean imagery, the circularity of the story, while maintaining the same sort of sound. Boom, Rian Delmar, King of the Sea.
The Scarboroughs: Messiah was always Messiah. Noelle was always Noelle. Lucky for me their names just fit. In the first draft, however, Noelle and Evanna had their first spiff in the family owned fish and chips restaurant. I believe the chapter ended with something like, "Messiah, get away from her. She's a vampire." Very dramatic.
Like most of the characters in the book, neither Noelle or Messiah had last names at first. I chose Scarborough almost entirely based on the traditional ballad "Scarborough Fair." If you are not familiar with the song GO LISTEN TO IT NOW. Educate yourself. You'll be thankful.
Keeper: I'm throwing him in here for the hell of it. The 'Keeper' of Benajah was always called 'Keeper,' he just didn't originally have a name other than that. As the story grew, it became necessary that he gain one. And so Abram--meaning 'high father'--came into being.
That's pretty much it for characters that kept their original names, but here are a few more insights:
-Solada did not exist in the first version. Nor did Serah or Nikoteleia. Between the three of them, the remaining parts of the original character Tierra (minus Zak's bit) were divided.
-I did not decide on the name of Benajah until very late into the rewrite. Even after I had narrowed it down, I bounced between several names before making it the official name of Evanna's home.
-Asael was originally named Gabriel. The meaning of Asael ('God has created') just fit better. That's not to say we won't be seeing a Gabriel later...
-Many of the fluffier names in the book (like Messiah's "long list of girls") are real(ish) people. Rachelle, Danielle, Jessica, Alyssa, Dave, even Emilia. Tannon was a kid in my gym class. The name Serah comes from a combination of Serry and Sarah, two good friends of mine. One of them is even a red head.
-Evanna (versus Wrenna) was the hardest character to name. In the first draft, she was deemed Ebony Flame/Flammette. That was the first thing to go, though it was not for a very long time that she got a new [vampire] name. I'm not sure where I first heard the name. I might have just randomly stumbled upon during one of my internet searches (the kind that alway scare my family and boyfriend). It might have been when I became aware of Evanna Lynch, the actress who plays Luna Lovegood (my favorite Harry Potter character). Whatever it was, I'm just happy I found it.
Until next time...