Naming names

Discussion in 'World Building' started by skip.knox, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    OK, this is kind of minor and maybe not even world building--it's character naming--but I would like to hear from the Presently Assembled.

    In my novel-in-development, A Child of Great Promise, I have two options for the main character's name. She is female, half-elf, half-human. Here are the two possibilities.

    Falaise
    Aleana Morgalladh

    The first option is a Norman word (it's the birthplace of William the Conqueror, but there's no connection to this story). So at least it's French (the story takes place in southern France).

    The second option is a bit of a Celtic kludge. Alean can mean "child" and Morgallad can mean "promise", both in Scots Gaelic. We don't really know where she comes from, so pseudo-Gaelic is okay.

    Which do you like? The kid's an orphan, so there's not really a need for a last name, or even the appearance of one.
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Mythic Scribe

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    I like Aleana, just by itself. No last name needed. Falaise looks a lot like "malaise", which might not be the sort of first impression you want for your heroine.
     
  3. I feel like Aleana sounds really similar to a loooooot of heroines in popular YA novels. Like Alanna from Tamora Pierce's novels (which are VERY popular) and I seem to remember some others. Generally it seems like a very generic YA heroine name. Every other is some mix of A's and L's and they all sound the same to me. Falaise sounds different. I like different.

    I don't know if your book is YA; I think you mentioned that your MC was young though.

    I'm not sure I'm an authority on What You Should Name Your Main Character, though, given that I named my current MC an SAT vocabulary word...
     
  4. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Grandmaster

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    If the story is explicitly set in France I'd say go with Falaise because it just screams French to me. On a side note, Aleana reminds me of the kingdom of Alania which I was trying to usurp in CK2 last I played it.
     
  5. La Volpe

    La Volpe Mystagogue

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    In contrast to KillerBs, I'd say that if the story is set explicitly in France, go with Aleana Morgalladh (though I'm assuming you'll just use Aleana most of the time, not the full name?). Because she's an orphan and a half-elf/half-human (and assuming this isn't a common occurrence), having a non-French-sounding name among a bunch of French-sounding names might be a nice way of giving an isolation/foreign feel to the character.

    In terms of pure aesthetics, Aleana feels like it slips off the tongue better, but Falaise does seem more unique.
     
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    If the story is set in southern France [East or West?], then I'd be wondering why she was named after a town in northern France?
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Aw, you guys are no help at all. :)

    The linguistic angle doesn't work out in either case. Gaelic is perfectly fitting for France, but only if you come from Brittany. Which is next door to Normandy. I couldn't find a Provencal or Gascon name that seemed right. So she has an outsider name, either way. I have an explanation for that (I doubt it will come up in the book).

    One reason why I liked Falaise was it gets away from the -a or -y endings so common with female names. It can go to a diminutive (invented) but only her companion uses it, so Laisa will get used far less than Falaise.

    For Aleana, there's that ending, but I don't mind, really. It does sound on the ear similar to other fantasy names, and close to Elaine (though it isn't). I don't use the second part of the name except in a couple of places. The elves, who derive somewhat from Celtic culture (obviously!), gave her the name as something of a joke.

    I have tried my technique of writing scenes with one name, other scenes with the other--mostly just notes at this point; haven't started the actual draft yet. There are funny considerations, such as how it plays with the names of other major characters, how it looks in the possessive, and even if it's easy to type. So far, the scales are rather evenly balanced.

    I continue to invite feedback on this. Names are important.
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Me, too. I'm actually sick of the tendency for fantasy female names to sound all alike or similar.

    That said, Falaise creates a problem for me when I think about pronouncing it. I checked a couple YT videos–and they gave me pronunciations that warred with my kneejerk tendency to Anglicize it. This, despite the fact that I studied French for four years and should know better. But my eyes, my eyes... (I'd suggest a pronunciation guide for names, maybe.)

    Also, regardless of the place name, the word means "cliff" in French. So everyone in France would be calling her Cliff. <-- This is an utterly pointless observation, unless perhaps you look forward to the French translation of your novel some day. I typically go WAY out of my way to avoid that sort of thing, but this is out of an irrational and unfounded optimism I sometimes have.
     
  9. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Lore Master

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    Falaise sounds like Malaise, which means disease.
     
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I may have to mangle the spelling a bit. Or hunt up a third option. All praise global search-and-replace!
     
  11. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Mystagogue

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    I'd go with Falaise because Aleana sounds like such a stereotypical elf name. Falaise still sounds elegant and faintly elfin but it doesn't make me think of LOTR style elves the way Aleana does once I know she's half-elf. But then maybe you want to invoke that image of elves. It really depends on what the story's about.

    Also I'd choose Falaise because a name that translates to "Child Promise" seems really on the nose to me. I don't know, I'm one of those people who gets annoyed when characters have names that have secret story-relevant meanings. There are a lot of contrivances I'm willing to put up with but for some reason the idea that the parents of the story's protagonist just happened to decide to name their child something meaning hero in ancient Greek. Then again no one's going to know what Aleana Morgalladh unless you tell them.
     
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  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Yeah, that part bothered me too. There should be nothing on my nose. :)

    I'm out shopping again. Galician, Breton, Catalonian. The name actually matters a bit because of what she finds out about her parents.
     
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Well, there are probably 10,000 male children (or more) named Îvô, the Hokandît demi-god hero of ancient wars, for every one called Ludlun, meaning "worthless turd" so honestly, the odds of a future hero being named after an old hero of the gods is far better than being named after dung, heh heh. "Great" people/characters who happen to have names that appear "on the nose" are sort of reality. Pro sports shows this all the time... And this guy drafted here! He was named after X, his parents just knew! While they forget the other million or so children named after the same person who sit in their offices twiddling their thumbs or slaving over asphalt in the street.

    Actually, I kind of play with a similar thing in my WIP, where a character's name begins the same as the king of gods... which is seen as pretentious or insulting in some corners of the culture, and fortuitous in others, but either way, a parent who gives the name expects great things, or in some cases the priest who sees over the naming of noble's child. And of course, most are an utter flop, heh heh. Good fun.

    EDIT: And of course, one can not forget the possible psychological effects of simply having certain names, particularly in certain cultures.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Currently auditioning Talysse or Talyssa as a name. It is cognate to Taliesin, so there's that Celtic connection. It shortens nicely to Lysse or Lyssa, which makes for a good pet name for her friend Detta to use.
     
  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    My vote is Talysse of those listed. Good name.
     
  16. Ireth

    Ireth Mythic Scribe

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    I second the vote for Talysse.
     
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    She's made it through early auditions ok. Still feels odd writing (as in with pen and ink), but I'll get over that. I think it's important to have a diminutive for major characters. Even Detta the gnome gets one. Her proper name is Ardetta.

    OTOH, villains never get diminutives, do they?
     
  18. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Grandmaster

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    In my WIP, one of the bad gals is Lady Ryley. Some of the other characters often refer to her as Lady R.

    Come to think of it, none of my good guys and gals have diminutives. But then, Kala doesn't really need one. Or Locket. They're the twins, and sometimes they call each other "sis," which is a form of diminutive, I suppose.

    What's a good nickname for a fellow called Alonso, or a woman called Ngozi? Nothing I can think of sounds good to me. So they don't get nicknames either.
     
  19. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Yeah, I've got nicknames, in one group... wolverine, squirrel, little sister, potato (from the way he sits a horse like a sack of potatoes) but nobody shortens names so far. The culture names don't really seem to call for it.
     
  20. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    In Goblins at the Gates, the Emperor Valens has a couple of nicknames: Emperor Pot-Belly and Emperor Bandy-Legs. Not to his face, of course! But he was not the villain in that novel.
     
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