Fonts, M-P, Names, Writing

N = Names

N is for Niagra EngravedN is for NarkismN is for Nyala

Niagara by Henry Hathaway 1953,  Narkism by McMurphy is a Hebrew system font, 2000

Nyala “The Nyala font features Ethiopic harmonized with Latin characters for bilingual documents” by John Hudson and Geraldine Wade


Collecting names and naming people, places and things has long been one of my passions. Long before I decided I wanted to be an author, names played a major role in my life.

From the time when I first learned to read and write, I kept a list of every name I found. If I heard or read a new name, that name would go on my list.

Every now and then, I’d lose the list, but I spent enough time relishing and memorizing the names that I could almost re-write the name list from scratch.

You can imagine my shock when I was about twelve and discovered there were actually printed books of names. These books had far more names than I had on my beloved handwritten lists. I had to have one.

Since that time I have collected name books (I still maintain a list of my favorite names and names I have not seen in the books). Names are very important to me, more so now that I’m a writer.

Writing fantasy allows me a great range of play with names and for high fantasy I usually make them up, but even made-up names have power.

N also equals NautilusTwo Nautlus shellsNautilus on the half shell

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

On this famous quote by William Shakespeare, I disagree. A rose by any other name would be a completely different personality. Even fictional names form the personalities of their characters.

I recently changed the name of a main character in my epic fantasy work in progress and every scene with that character has shifted a little, hardly noticeable, but the personality and the interactions with other characters did shift.

Names might be an infinitesimal part of writing. I would agree with that, but I also think names have great power and the author who neglects name choice is doing his characters a disservice.

When writing a novel, I use an A to Z list for names. The names of the main characters are placed next to the corresponding first letter of their names and highlighted. As I write all other character names are added to the list.

There are two reasons for maintaining this list through the life of a novel. The first reason is so that I don’t end up with too many similar names. If I want similar names I do so on purpose with a reason.

For example, you do not want characters named Jim, Joe, Jake, Jack and Jerry all in the same book. It is a lot harder if all your characters have similar names for the reader to tell them apart and keep track of who’s who.

The A to Z list is also useful for choosing names for new characters. If I have 5 “N” names, I then start looking for name possibilities for the newest character under a letter with few or no names after it.

Five books

Sometimes the names in a book are purposefully similar, but that is a choice made instead of an accident and every now and then a new character will pop up who absolutely has to have the name they came with. If that name is in an over-used letter then I look at the rest of the characters from that book, especially the minor characters, and see if I can change one of their names.

Besides the variety the A to Z list gives me, I also look at how many syllables each name has. If all your characters only have one syllable names, or only have three syllable names, you then run into the same problem of confusing the reader by too much similarity in your naming system.

The second reason I use the A to Z list is to make sure I don’t leave any characters out of my notecards.

I keep 3×5 notecards on every character. At the end of a chapter, if I have a new character(s), I make them a notecard with when they appeared, what they looked like, and any other pertinent data. This helps continuity and if I forget someone’s eye color, or accent, or height, and so forth, I have a dependable source to look up the details.

This is especially helpful when writing a series.

My favorite name book from my entire shelf of name books:
The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

And some great name websites:

I can’t imagine doing this, but the tool is here:

Another place to look at names and their connotations is on twitter: #oldpeoplenames

May you always enjoy each and every name you come across and if you find any unusual names please send them my way.



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