I often come up with character names ahead of their personalities. Not always, but often.
But when someone else comes up with your character for you, it’s a little bit harder to name them. I am in the process of writing book five, and before I started I had a suggestion from the lovely Arielle Bosworth (click her name to go to her blog) that “your protagonist should be a talking sheep who is also a wizard. It could be amazing.”
She went on to explain, quite rightly, that “sheep are entirely unrepresented in the fantasy genre.” And if I don’t rectify this glaring omission, who will?
However, I had to then come up with a name for this character. So I thought about it a bit, and decided perhaps I would gain some insight from looking up ‘sheep’ and ‘wizard’ in other languages. This is what transpired:
I googled the Latin first. Dead languages are pretty fantastical, after all.
In amongst all the adverts I found my answer – ‘Ovis Aries’. Naturally the first two names that came to mind that sound a bit like these were ‘Ovid’ and ‘Archie’ – both of which could work. Ovid, Roman poet who was very popular in the middle ages, unusual first name which could mark him out as special; and Archie, short for Archibald, a fairly old fashioned name meaning ‘brave’ which this sheep will have to be in order to complete his quest. Whatever that is.
There was only one thing for it – I had to appeal to the internet for help.
And Twitter spake unto me saying:
And I thought ‘hm, the ideas I have for this are less mystical and aloof and probably more suitable for ten year olds.’ So I went on the facebook page to see whether they were in agreement.
And although the writing was rather small you could see that the Ovid tally rose ever further.
So, for the time being at least, that is what my wizard sheep is called – Ovid Archibald McHaggis. One wonders how characters were named before the days of the internet.
How do you name your characters, other writers? Do you have a set process, or is it a bit ad hoc, like me? And do you ever change a character name half way through writing and then have to go back and check them all?
May 8, 2011 at 11:22 am
Hurrah for Ovid Archibald McHaggis!! He will be the best wizard-sheep ever!
Also, hurrah for blog-linky publicity! 😀 Thanky much!!
May 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm
No problem at all. And yes he shall 🙂 Will do some audio at some stage to prove it!
May 8, 2011 at 11:27 am
Oh and I completely failed to actually answer your questions, but I almost always find that while I’m trying to mentally encourage my characters into existence a name will come into mind almost simultaneously. Not always, though. And I have definitely had times when I’ve changed a name part-way through and had to do the laborious process of going back and changing the name. Sometimes this leads to hilarious results where half the time a character is, for example, Jack and the other half Derwent… Which leads me to then read it over some time later and wonder if my character actually just has multiple personalities.
May 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm
I did once read a fantasy book* with a sheep given a prominent role, but to be honest it wasn’t very good so you can be the first person to be representin’ for the sheepy-sheeps in a book that is actually good.
Can’t remember the name of the book. It involved armageddon and a lot of poorly written sarcasm.
May 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm
intriguing. What age group was it aimed at? It occurred to me earlier that Dick King Smith is bound to have written something about an articulate sheep…
May 9, 2011 at 7:58 pm
I think it was aimed at the adult market but teenagers could’ve read it. It took a lot from Good Omens, I seem to recall.