Back when I was writing romances, I wanted everyday names for my characters. So I kept a baby names book near my computer. I’d flip through it for my hero’s or heroine’s name, looking for one that seemed to match the character’s personality. When I found the right name, a little bell would go off inside me. I could see the character that much more clearly.
When I started writing the Tankborn series, I couldn’t use a baby name book anymore. The Tankborn trilogy is set hundreds of years in the future. To set the tone for the world, the names needed to be a little more exotic than what’s on offer in the naming books. Also, I had a multi-ethnic cast and I needed names that would suit them. So I had to rely on the Web, and sites that listed, for instance, Brahmin or Chinese or Zimbabwe given names and their meanings. Here’s one of my fave sites for finding international names.
Kayla, the name of my main character in Tankborn, isn’t super unusual. At least it isn’t now. When I first came up with it, back when I was writing the movie script that later became Tankborn, I thought I’d made up the name Kayla. Not so much.
When I wrote the first book, I did make up some of the names of other characters: Tala, Jal, Tanti, Quila. In real life, people make up names all the time for their children, why wouldn’t they in my future world? I used made up names mostly for GENs, sometimes for lowborns. And just as with Kayla, sometimes the names I thought were made up, that originated with me, were actually “real” names (Pia and Risa come to mind).
For my trueborns, I used real names of various ethnicities. There’s Devak (Indian), my main male character, Devak’s friend, Junjie (Chinese), Devak’s father and mother, Ved (Indian) and Rasia, (Indian). Raashida (African), is an important character in Awakening, the upcoming follow-on to Tankborn.
Do I ever use the names of real people in my books? Yes, although I don’t match the character to the real person. I just “borrow” the real name because I like it and it works for my book. I borrowed Zul (Devak’s great-grandfather) and Azad (Devak’s dead half-brother) from people I actually know.
How about you? If you write, how do you come up with those character names? If you’re a reader, have you ever stumbled across a name that didn’t seem to fit the character, or a name that was absolutely perfect?