Fresh back from being cool at GenCon 2012, Susan Morris has a new tips article on how to pick character names:
Names have power. And no one knows the power of names like those in the public eye. Why else would Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta go by Lady Gaga, Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Mark Twain, and Frederick Austerlitz by Fred Astaire?
Susan breaks it down into several sections, which I've listed below. If they sound like they might contain some useful tips (SPOILER: they do), you should read the rest of her article:
- Is the Name Common?
- Can You Pronounce It?
- Avoid Similar Names
- Think About the Syllables
- The Personality of Letters and Sounds
- Cultural Considerations
An example: I'm no fan of random apostrophes in fantasy names, so if you are considering doing something like that and care about upsetting me, check out the 'Can You Pronounce it Section'.
Also, with electronic distribution opening up our ability to reach the entire world, you should check out the 'Cultural Considerations' section. This doesn't just refer to, say, having consistent sounds in a culture's name, but also:
Tip: Be aware of the origins and meanings of the names you use and do a cursory check to make sure your names aren’t curse words or anything gross in other languages—or even an unintended double-meaning in your own language. While a cool meaning or origin can add an extra layer to your characters, a bad one could really come back to bite you!