Prompt 105-What’s In a Name

What is the weirdest name you can come up with (or know someone with)? If you had to give a character a really, really unusual name, what would you choose and what would it show about their personality?

Names are weird to begin with. They’re shaped by the cultures we are born into and often are tied to our own family history. As a white woman who grew up in rural and then suburban America, most foreign names were weird or unusual to me. Many still are, but that’s due to an ignorance of language- and/or culture-of-origin on my part. That doesn’t make the names inherently strange.

When it comes to naming characters, I don’t know that I wholly subscribe to the “character’s names must reflect their personalities” trope. That doesn’t mean I name them willy-nilly, but I don’t necessarily think about their personality when I do.

Sometimes the name comes first and the character is built to suit. Lydia and Luka were such characters. That story spawned from a dream I’d had involving Loki but I wasn’t going to call my protag Loki. Luka felt like a natural progression. I went through several iterations for his sister, but ultimately the very first name that popped into my head was the one I went with, Lydia.

Of course, sometimes the character demands a name that is also a descriptor. I had a fast, sharp-witted vertically-challenged ginger to sidekick my cautious, reserved, frankly overwhelmed protag in my apocalypse story. I modeled him off a guy I worked with when I worked fast food, a guy I affectionately dubbed Mdawg. The M stuck in my head for this character as well and so Midge was born. It was very clearly a nickname, and it didn’t take long to discover his real name, Mitchell, from there.

Most of my short stories I just look around my room for scribbled notes or the books on my shelves and start combining letters and words until a name sticks. If it’s important enough, I’ll check the name on Behind The Name to see if there are any useful meanings or origins for the name I’ve latched onto. Sometimes I surprise myself with what I find, sometimes the names are just names. They’ve got a handy generator too.

Online name generators are a blessing and a curse. They can provide some great names, but they can also send you down a rabbit hole if you’re not careful. Fantasy Name Generators is my favorite because they have scores of generators. If you can think of a book or movie or videogame in fantasy, there is a name generator for it on that site. Most of the names for my elemental fantasy were generated there, as were the aliens in my Galactic Empire miniseries.

When I come up with an unusual name on my own it tends to fit the aesthetic of a lot of vowels and a predilection for C’s, K’s, L’s, N’s, and R’s. I remember one of the first games I had for the original Xbox was a Tetris game where you could make these little characters – little cubes with one eyeball, I wanna say they were called Tetrinominoes? – to guide you through the worlds/levels and you could give them names. I started throwing vowels and my favorite consonants at it and came up with Anekai as my first made-up name. I also have a Skyrim wood elf named Elraenia, and Raelyn from the time control short story was another I’d made up following this structure.

And sometimes I get names off of Coca Cola bottles, like Tanya from Monday’s short story. But I guess that’s not really an “unusual” name is it. This prompt sent me on a tangent I didn’t realize I had in me. Anyway. What unusual names have you come up with for characters?

Notes: I was gonna do a two-fer and combine the next prompt with this one, but I actually got more than 500 words out of this one so I’m gonna save Prompt 106 and do a double post for Monday. Have a great weekend! Looks like the heat is finally going to break so maybe it won’t be too dangerous to spend it outdoors! I’ll be back Sunday with the list of next weeks prompts!

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