Names, names and names

So…names. Specifically, personal names.

I always find it weird when people say, “Oh, you don’t look like a [insert name here]”. I mean, what does a [insert name here] look like? Do you have a certain set of criteria that a James, or a William, or a Siobhan, has to fit? Do you have one person in mind who has set your view in your mind already? Why do certain names conjure up certain things?

And yet, with my characters, their names form them. I have to get the name right for the person in my head; I do usually have a bit of choice, but I know when something isn’t right. When I’m creating new characters, I flick through names (I use the Fantasy Name Generator), and usually come across something that fits…but some characters have spent a period of time as XXXX or —- because I don’t yet have something that fits the personality in my head.

If I change a character’s name, it changes their personality. When Ben changed to Toru (waaaaay back when the story first changed to a fantasy world), it made him a different person; some of the traits are the same, but he also changed. In Madcap Library, someone has commented that they aren’t sure about “Duster” – but what other name would a Sloth have? He’s certainly not a Robert…Archibald, possibly, or something equally silly.

However, I admit that sometimes, the change of name doesn’t change the character. Chris went to Catter with no problems; S’ian went from X’ian with only a minor change in her role (although the story did change her, so maybe that was what led me to accept it). Sometimes the change can work with the character in my head…and sometimes the character needs changing, so the name has to change too.

So…with ordinary names, I don’t have a template in my head; I’ve met so many Matt’s and Bob’s that I don’t have an image of what one should be like. But I know that Moel fits her name; my new character in Trust & Treasures doesn’t yet have a name because I don’t have one that fits him. Names are really important to me, and they do influence the character a lot.

Just an odd insight into my head…

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.