Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What's in a Character's Name?

Yesterday I posted on my writing blog about the importance of names in writing.

Naming characters is one of the most important parts of setting up the plot to write your story.  Certainly it can be one of the toughest.  It can also be one of the most rewarding, not only because of the amount of symbolism and plot that can be wrapped up in it but because names have associations and if you do your job right, people will remember your characters.  If I were to say 'Aragorn' you'd immediately think 'Lord of the Rings'.  If I say 'Severus' you immediately think 'Harry Potter'.

So how do I apply the guidelines I talked about yesterday to my own stories?  I'm going to use my last four projects as examples:
Wings of the Tiger (my current WIP)
Queen Beauty and the Beasts (NaNo 2016)
A Certain Darkness (NaNo, 2015, JuNo 2016, on-hiatus WIP)
Ebony and Aubergine (on-hiatus WIP)

A Certain Darkness
Psychological political thriller set in a future in which humans have spread out across the galaxy and what were countries on earth are now planets or star systems. 

The story takes place on the Korean planet in an elite college for orphans.  Most of the students are Korean and their names reflect that, but the MCs are an Irish guy and an Italian girl.   Their names reflect this: Liare Patrick Delaney and Verena Silvesti.

Wait a minute, you say.  Patrick and Delaney are Irish in origin but Liare?

That's where it being a futuristic novel worked in my favor.  I'd made up the name 'Liare' and loved it.  I knew it had to be this guy's first name.  By keeping his middle and last names Irish, I could convey the feeling of his heritage (which is significant to the story) while using a name which I loved, which needed to be his, and which sounded futuristic-y (thus adding to the atmosphere of the novel) without being too hard to pronounce.  [It's pronounced Lee-AIR if you're wondering and the meaning has something to do with 'light'.]

Queen Beauty and the Beasts
Urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast + Phantom of the Opera set in contemporary South Korea.

This was one of the easiest books to character-name.  Since almost everyone is Korean, including the male MCs, I chose their names after poring over several lists of Korean names and using my favorites or ones whose sounds matched the personality of each character.  The FMC is Argentinian, and her name– Belleza– means beauty, allowing me to reference both the Disney form (Belle) and her name in the original fairy tale (Beauty).

Ebony and Aubergine
Historical fantasy Scarlet Pimpernel retelling, set in the 1800s on a fictional continent in the Pacific.

I knew I wanted the names to be primarily Arabic and Persian with the culture being a blend of Arabian, Persian, and East Asian cultures.  Which on first impression just sounds insanely impossible.  How do you even DO that?

Like this: the land was settled by Arab pirates, but due to the influx of refugees and other diaspora reasons, it's now a mix of East Asian and Arab culture, with the current inhabitants mostly of East Asian blood but with Arab names.

The meanings of said names play into pretty much every thread and sub-thread of this book.  The FMC's name– Zahira– is the feminine form of Zahir, which means 'helper, supporter' (not saying anything other than that because SPOILERS SWEETIE).  The Sir Andrew character is named Mustafa (if you read Mufasa, I don't blame you) which means 'the chosen one' - significant given his place at his leader's right hand.  Lord Tony's name means 'knight'. 

Wings of the Tiger
East Asian historical fantasy set on a fictional continent which is an Asian pseudo-Atlantis.  (Yeah, I kind of have a thing for fictional continents inspired by legends.)  [I might have a thing for East Asia, too, not that anyone would notice.]

The two MCs are from Korea, then known as Goryeo.  Their names are native Korean words, but at the time (and to a great extent now) Korea didn't use native descriptive words as names.  So I've just broken a major rule in writing HiFy, and one I cautioned people just yesterday not to break.

Or did I?

I needed their names to be Bora and Nari because of several reasons (in-joke relating to the inspiration of the book, the meanings of the names, easy to say and remember), but I needed a way to 'break the rule' without breaking the rule.  So I established (er, am establishing, I'm only in the 3rd chapter of the book) that the names 'Bora' and 'Nari' were the girls' nicknames, which they adopted as their names while on the run, to disguise their real names.  Then they just kept them when in the new land.

'Plot darning' Mirriam Neal has called it, and even those of us who are obsessive plotters have to do it sometimes, though certainly not to the extent that pansters do. 

Almost everyone else in the story is from the fictional continent on which the story is set, and their names are my inventions or alterations to fit in with the semi-Mongolian culture I've put together.

{NOTE: Wings of the Tiger is now open for beta/alpha reading, so if you're not on FB and didn't see the announcement there but do want to read this story, leave me a comment.  Please, only readers willing to give feedback.  I'm not asking for intensive critique feedback, just the usual beta stuff.}

So, that's how I personally get away with doing both what I want in regards to names but also following guidelines of good, believable naming in stories.  Because who doesn't want to break rules without breaking rules?

How did you come up with the names for the characters in your WIP?  What is the explanation for them within your story universe?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don't Forget to Miss Me

It was an odd phrase that caught my attention.  On a Sunday afternoon, several months ago, I was watching the latest episode of a Chinese drama about a teen, female martial artist.  I’d started the drama because it starred one of my favorite Korean actors as the coach, and kept going because not only was his character good but the camaraderie between the students of the central martial arts hall was beautiful.

In this particular episode, the FMC and the coach were in Japan for a competition and she’d just Skyped home to talk to her friends.  As they said goodbye, her best friend– a cute, petite girl in pigtails– hollered ‘don’t forget to miss me!’

The call ended and both sets of people went on with their day.  It wasn’t highlighted— it was almost a throw-away phrase— but it struck me strongly.

It can come across as clingy: 'she's only gone for a week, what's the big deal?  What a needy friend.’

I’ve struggled with this concept myself for months.  As a fiercely independent person, I loathe the idea of being clingy.  I often have trouble understanding the difference between being clingy and being dependent.  Even being attached to someone comes with a set of problems for me, because to be attached to the point of dependence on someone feels to me— initially— to be a sign of weakness.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours in conversation with my closest friends on this topic, ranging from as long ago as three years to as recently as earlier this week.  (100% honesty 24/7 is seriously recommended with your best friend/s, people, FYI, even if you want to protect them or think they're too stressed to handle it right then.)

You become friends with someone because you like them (usually).  The closer you grow to that person, the more they become a part of your life.  With your best friends— who should be a near-constant part of your life— you SHOULD miss them if they’re gone for a week.  The healthiest best friends want to share almost everything with each other: experiences, feelings, opinions, likes and dislikes.  The abnormal thing would be if your friend was gone for a week with minimal contact, someone you talk to every day of the week and with whom you share everything, and you DIDN’T miss them.

Being clingy is a problem, because clinginess is when you expect the other person to carry you all of the time and don’t work to stand on your own feet– instead of only leaning on a friend at times, and offering your shoulder for leaning in return.  Clinginess is when there isn’t a balance, when you convince yourself that you can’t get through a single day without constant contact with that person.

There’s a difference between clinginess and dependence.

Being DEPENDENT is not wrong.  One of the main purposes of a close relationship— whether platonic or romantic— is to help each other along the road called life, to be a travel buddy, a soul or heart partner.  This can’t happen if you’re not dependent.

And missing someone on whom you are dependent makes sense.  It's normal.  It's right.

I saw a pin the other night that explains it pretty well:
"It’s hard when you miss people.  But, you know, if you miss them it means you were lucky.  It means you had someone special in your life, someone worth missing." 
Nathan Scott
Specifically, this seems to be referring to people who are no longer in your life, but I think it can also be applied to temporary absences of friends.

Don't forget to miss your best friends.  Or any friends.  Missing someone is (usually) a sign of a healthy relationship.