Super Normal

Just another normal day, shopping for Normal Things at Rosauers.

 

PenneChreese

 

Oh, nothing to see here.  Just a perfectly normal box of penne and ch–

 

Chreese

 

…of…

…of…

…what in the unholy $%&# is chreese!?

I feel like whoever titled this product’s mouth melted in the midst of saying it, and no one bothered to question it.  I mean, surely, they thought, surely, an actual human being, living here in this reality, speaking this very language, meant make the sound “chreese” on purpose.

That’d be normal, wouldn’t it?

 

Bene ēdite.

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Letter Palettes

A while back, I talked a bit about what you might consider when naming characters, and today I thought I would follow up by expounding specifically on the topic of pulling words out of your—well, making them up.

Letter Palette

Uh…

 

When concocting names for characters, places, or objects, we tend to favor certain sounds.  Where we gravitate is mostly informed by the language(s) we speak, and what we’ve come to associate with pre-established words and names.  Certain phonemes build specific impressions in our minds, and we rely on this context to put together fitting verbal symbols for whatever we’re assigning them to.  Whether or not this is typically done on a conscious level, identifying and mapping out your preferences (both general and circumstantial) can be a useful endeavor.

For instance, my general letter palette would look like this:

 

+

\

A C D E I K L M N R S T J O Q V X Y Z B F G H P U W

 

The first column represents what I feel are the most benign letters, and I use them fairly indiscriminately.  The second contains letters that I like at certain times, but aren’t as ubiquitously usable.  The third holds the letters that I tend to avoid.  When my intent is to give a name a rough or unpleasant edge, however, these preferences easily operate in reverse.  The initial and terminal letters of the word will be particularly prone to these guidelines.

Now, this chart is pretty simplistic, containing only letters from the English Roman alphabet and not taking digraphs into account, but you get the idea.  I’m calling it a letter palette (as opposed to a simply phonetic one) because visual aesthetics are also a consideration – sounds can often be written a number of ways, and their appeal can be tweaked as such.

Making a general purpose palette for yourself can be an enlightening exercise, but they become particularly handy when tailored for specific sets.  If, for your story, you need to create a distinct culture with its associated terminology and members’ names, planning out a letter palette for it can help you quicken the process while maintaining a consistent feel.

 

So, do you find yourself with particular letter preferences?  Could you define your own general palette?

 

Bene scribete.

Names

Naming characters is an important, sometimes fun, sometimes tricky part of the fiction-writing process, and is something I alternately love and dread.  A name is a symbol that represents someone, both offering identity to those it is attached to, and in turn adopting it from them.

I find that there are generally three ways (or a mix thereof) to come up with and decide upon those monikers:

  • Namesakes.  One simple way to name a character is to do so (in part or in whole) after someone else – someone you know, someone from history, or even another character from some other work.  Such a name will probably already have strong connotations for you, and those might just be appropriate for who you’re writing.
  • Meaning.  The advantage writers have over parents in the naming department is the foreknowledge of who this person or creature they’re creating will be, and can choose a name that is symbolically fitting (or ironically incongruous).  This can be in the form of a name that’s also a word in the operative language (Will, Victor, Dawn, Amber, etc.), a word from another language, or something suitable trolled from babynames.com.  (>^-‘)>
  • Aesthetics.  Often, just focusing on how a name sounds and looks is all you need to do.  I tend to lean mostly in this direction, relying heavily on phonetics when working out what to call characters.  Sounds used together in specific ways can evoke qualities of roughness, delicacy, power, playfulness, and a number of other feelings to subconsciously color the impression of the named.  Spelling should also be a consideration; the visual appeal of different letter arrangements can have the same sort of impact.  All of this goes for whether you’re picking a common name or making up a new one (though I could probably do a whole separate post on the latter!).

 

However you end up choosing your names, there is one thing I always recommend.

 

Tip of a fishName Your Characters As Soon As Possible.

The less you’ve decided about a character, the easier it is to settle on a name.  At least that’s always been the case for me.  Sometimes, the name will even help slightly with further direction!

The more important a character is, the more true this becomes.  If you have a strong image of the character in mind by the time you start thinking seriously about what to call them, picking a name that feels right can be a daunting task.  It means you have all the more context and nuance to map to that all-important referential symbol.  It’ll seem like you have to find a name that already represents all facets of the character, rather than letting the name come to do so naturally as the character develops.

 

But what about you?  Do you agonize over the subtleties of your characters’ names?  How do you like to go about choosing them?

 

Bene scribete.