What’s in a name

Names are important. A name should tell you something about the bearer of that name. Traits, habits, personality, or wishes for that person: happiness, wisdom, joy. In some cultures, the giving of a name is one that takes a lot of time and deliberation. A child remains unnamed until he or she has reached a certain age and a suitable name can be chosen or acquired. In other cultures names are given at birth and at certain special moments in life, either adding to the first name or replacing them.

Here in the Western world we usually don’t give that much thought to a name. We have to give a newborn a name a soon as possible because all kinds of official parties want to register the new human and need to know its name. And most of all, need to make sure it keeps that name. If names were changeable, it would result in total chaos. Or so I’m told.

In writing, things are much the same. Many writers want their character’s names to actually mean something. Tell something about the character. Names are important in stories. They are there to convey something to the readers. A quality, a theme, an indication of the genre.

High fantasy stories (you know, with lots of elves and dwarves running around on quests, doing elevated things) often don’t have elves  in them with names like Burke or Stew or Ann. Instead long names are used, with lots of vowels, and, if the writer feels especially audacious, adventurous and cool, apostrophes and exclamation marks. (Nothing wrong with that, it’s a phase every new writer seems to go through and some keep using them after, because it looks pretty to them on paper… I know, I used to be one of them. In the original version of Nexus, ZaakX, there was an important character named I!ara… so yes, been there, done that.)

Vampire stories have eloquent names, but slightly more pronouncable than the High Fantasy ones, featuring lots of x-es and y-s. They are often baroque, or quasi-baroque, and seriously lack aforementioned apostrophes and exclamation marks.

Thrillers go with fairly normal names, taking care to use names that are common and most often, local to the writer. This adds to the idea that bad thrillery things happen every day to all kinds of normal people, yes even you the reader.

The characters in Nexus are mostly based on real-life-people. No, not real fallen angels, though that would be cool. People I knew and considered to be friends in high-school, people I’ve known since. I always changed their names, but kept them recognizable to people in the know. Left the first letter(s) the same, and sometimes the meaning of their last name.

Take Cyrilla. It doesn’t take genius to know where that name came from. Apart from a few letters, it’s the name of the Real Life person the character is based on. But with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘i’, because, well, I was young then and just as in the vampire-genre, ‘y’s are very cool when you’re in high-school.  That’s why I’m was so very glad that my second name in fact starts with one.
But wait, there’s more. There’s the meaning of that name: ‘proud’, ‘lordly’, and ‘fiery’ as a reference to the sun-god. Qualities she certainly possesses.

Right now I’m writing a character I had previously left out of Nexus back into the book. She appeared in the late parts of the original Zaak X, but I decided to leave her out of Nexus because her role in ZaakX was, frankly, just to be there. Vanity, mostly. But as the plot of Nexus progressed, and I wanted to find out Dariën’s back-story, I kept running into her, shoving her aside, trying to ignore her. It didn’t work. She wants to be there, I think she really has to be there. His story doesn’t ring true without her.

Her real name wouldn’t do, although the first scene I wrote with her in it, still has her real name. I’m going to change that, but if you want you know it, you have to be quick to read and find out 😉
Back to the name-generators then. It has to be a name with meaning. Especially for her, because of her part in the story. Her last name became Ilias. It sounds vaguely like her real name and it’s nice and short. What first name do you give a hard, iron-biter, very dumpy mercenary woman? Certainly not a cutesy name, that would be cruel. I never said I was nice, so I gave her a cute name. A name she hates with a passion.
If you hear Ilias, you think Troy. So, a theme. Yeay. What’s the most famous female name from the Iliad? Helena of course. But that name wouldn’t do. Not cute enough by far. But the Italian version is better for this purpose: Eleonora. Wouldn’t someone like her hate that name? Shorten it to Leo whenever she can?
She needs a second name, one that is almost as cute but with a bite. I browsed for more Italian names, and came up with Lucrezia. Good.

She has a son and he too needs a name, *sigh*. It wouldn’t do to have an unnamed character run around, calling him “the son”. Well, there are writers who do that, refusing to name their characters and instead calling them by their function. Megan Whalen Turner does this very aptly. Her books are interesting to read.
I’m not doing that, though, so I needed another name. Male, in the Troy-theme, fitting the story. The name itself may be a giant spoiler, or maybe it only is after reading the entire fourth book. I don’t know. I try to keep the spoilers here to a minimum, but that’s not always possible. Then again, everyone who knows anything about his classical culture would know instantly on reading the name.
Anyways, I went with Agathon. Because Cain and variants would be just cheezy.
I’m happy to announce the births of Eleonora Lucrezia Ilias and Agathon Ilias. Welcome to the Nexus.

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