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?