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February 28th, 2010

What's in a Name?

Couldn't go to sleep last night and was wondering what to blog about this morning. Then it hit me - names! I could talk about names!

But what's in a name, you ask? Loads! Especially for writers.

With a name you can give the reader a bunch of information without ever actually having said anything. Let's try 'Jorge Winchester' for instance. What does it tell you? On a guess, you might say that Jorge comes from a couple with Spanish heritage, probably on the mother's side, and a more English/American bent from the father's side possibly California. (We're talking about assumptions here, guys, subconscious items you can seed in your readers' minds, so you may not have come up with exactly the same. Yet the clash of two cultures is still evident.) So right away something's already been stated about Jorge without ever spelling it out. Of course as the reader continues to learn about Jorge more will come out and it will be seen if this might even be a point of conflict for the character.

(Laughing at myself right now. First name I picked was Jesus. Spanish speakers would have read it in the Spanish as I'd intended (hehsuus), everyone else would see it in English (Geesaus) as both are spelled the same but pronounced differently - doh! But something else to keep in mind as well when choosing names!)

If possible try to keep a list of the names you use as came up with them for a story or book. Reason for this is so you can make sure to make the names different enough from one another so as not to get the reader confused. The bigger the cast, the more important this becomes. You should try not to have characters with the same beginning letter for their names. If you have an Ash, Ann, Arthur, and Alice the characters will start running into each other especially if there's large gaps between their sections. Much easier for the reader if they were called Ash, Mary, Lance, and Deidre as they are all varied and unique. The chances for confusion then are greatly decreased.

In fantasy or science fiction names are a great way to differentiate between races and even social status in your worlds. But you also have to watch not to get the names too gangly or long, as you'll lose the reader that way too. If you find someone needs to have a long fancy name, make sure that while someone speaking to them might use the long form, when you refer to them in the narrative, you have a shortened version or nickname to refer to them by. This will help the readers immensely but also give you the benefit of using the name itself as a variable on the culture.

I have a character in one of my novels called Daltimonious, but when he's with friends or when referenced in the narrative, I used the shortened form of Dal, which is much easier to read and recognize. (Plus he hates the longer name anyway - a fact Rostocha is very well aware of and therefore loves to use it on him on occasion just to watch him cringe.)

Consistency is also key if you're making your own societies or races. The uniqueness will help segregate and again build things in the background for you that won't necessarily need to be explained, but will shine in their own context. A perfect example is the Spanish use of 'Don'. In reading a story if characters call out to older men as Don Diego and Don Rodrigo but call the boy only Simon, the subconscious will pick up on the implication that 'Don' is an honorific of some sort and possibly an address of respect. In English, 'Don' has the equivalent use of Mr.

Just more details to keep in mind as you go about your writing! Hope it was at least semi entertaining! See you!
Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic



(2015) Fantasy

The King is Dead! Long Live the Undead King!

"What are you implying?"

The magister glided forward and scrunched down beside him.

"That in order to bathe, you must first actually get into the bath."


(2014) Urban Fantasy

It took everything from her, except revenge!

The muscles in my right arm jerked from tension as I tried to make it move and it resisted. A shrill scream inside my head insisted I didn't want to do this. That if I did, there'd be no way to take it back. "I...I'm afraid."


(2011) Young Adult – Fantasy

Which is worse…the monster without or within?


Home—family—the two things he would never have, the two things forever denied him…because of her.

Anger welled inside him, the heat of it suffusing him to the core, gurgling with seething emotions the total opposite of the coolness splashing down from the fountain nearby. Before he realized what he was doing, Jarrin stepped inside the gazebo.

(2007) Young Adult – Fantasy
“Harry Potter meets Dragon Riders of Pern”


“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Just tell me what you want me to do. If you prefer, I’m sure I can round up at least a few people to come over and give you a hand.”

Kel slowly shook his head. “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.” His voice lowered to where she almost couldn’t hear it. “This is all part of my punishment.’

She frowned, not understanding what he meant. “Punishment?”

Kel cocked his head in Clarence’s direction. In a flash, she understood. None of this was an accident. Clarence had landed there deliberately, hoping to make Kel pay for all he went through in the past month. She shook her head, not wanting to believe this, but what the dragon said next took any doubts right out of her head.

(2008) Young Adult – Fantasy
“To save the world she must DIE! Or must she?”


Panic and fear filled with utter helplessness made her dizzy. She knew what would be done with her, she knew what they planned. But there was nothing she could do to stop any of it.

Sharp gasps echoed in her ears as she felt the room’s cold air caress the Eye.

“You were right. She is the one.”

(2002) Adult/YA – Japanese Fantasy Adventure
“The Last Samurai meets Pirates of the Caribbean”


Laying the blade on the floor before him, Toshi parted his kimono until his stomach lay exposed. He tucked his sleeves beneath his legs to hold him upright if he should falter. Ignoring Asano, he took up the blade. His shoulder flared with pain and he tried not to flinch, as he grabbed the blade with both hands. He turned the wakizashi until its sharp point was aimed at his belly, the residence of his soul.

(2004) Adult/YA – Fantasy Mystery
“He tried to forget his past, but his past wouldn’t forget him”


Torren took a step back a sudden shudder racking through him. It was as if he’d never left, as if the boy he’d been would be coming back-though the one who’d loved this room and all these things was long, long dead. That boy died when he’d watched his father’s blood pour forth from his mouth, the end of a sword protruding from his abdomen. That boy died when he survived while everyone else lay dead.

Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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