5 Ways to Choose a Name

Recently, on a group I follow on Facebook, someone asked "How do you name your characters or come up with unique names for different species and races?" Here are five ways to select a name for a character, race or group.

  1. Select a characteristic that you think is prevalent in your character or the race that you are dealing with. For example: the name Bella, is the Itallian word for beauty. Belle is the French version. Then modify it in one of the following ways: A) Modify it only by changing either the prefix or suffix.... For example: Strong for a male character can literally be changed to Strongman, as a last name. B) Modify the language it is in: example Strong in French is Fort (male) or Forte (Female). A female character's first name could be Forté. 
  2. Find a society or culture that you really like and research a popular first name.
  3. Find a society or culture that you think closely resembles the society that the person came from or that you think closely resembles the society that you're trying to build, and then find common themes in this society. Echo any terms, names or geography after their culture and country. For example, I wrote a book with an oracle in it but the oracle in my book had a very different role. She was not only an oracle (seer) but was also a leader of her people. After researching other female roles, I found the term, "Pythia," and named that role after it.
  4. Learn a small amount of Latin and Greek. The languages use a "root word" plus prefix or suffix system of language... as all languages do. Then utilize this system to piece together terms, names and place-names. For example. One of the books I am preparing for pitch has a were-bear in it. I wanted to find a "Scientific" name for the disease that wou1ld cause it. For example (for those who do not read fantasy) werewolves have lycanthropy. So, I found the Latin name for bear (ursul) and created ursulinothropy.
  5. Finally, you can always go to some online name generators or online baby names databases in order to select the name for your character. This can make your life easier if you're just developing stock characters that you only see once in the book and some give you the option to look for names by culture. Here are some of those sites: A) Baby Name Genie, Nymbler, and Baby Names 

So those are the ways that I find work best for me when trying to think of a name. Some names come quickly to you, like my first book; both characters in the book were named after people who I knew who died before they reached 25 years of age.

Sometimes it'll come to you, sometimes you'll struggle, but pick a name you can spell easily and you can always use the Word "replace" function in order to change any name after the fact.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Amanda McDonald

Did you find this post useful? Let me know below and comment. I'd appreciate your feedback!

Way too long, but feeling great this time!

It's been close to 9 months since I last wrote anything and I think it's because I burned out.

I was going through a lot of personal-life horrors, a job I've been at now for over a year began getting really tough in that "I hate the people I work with" way, and spiritually I fell into what Aquinas called the "dark night of the soul." Amazingly, I didn't fall into a depression or seem outwardly off in any way that others noticed.

Even my mother commented on how this year I didn't go through my normal winter-blues. She said she was proud of that, but I counted it off as one more thing that I hide too well.

I often wrote about my feelings and life when I first started this blog, but it's become an anxiety for me. I felt that I could really write what I was going through on here and yet, it became very business-y.

I want to write and I'm pissed that I let myself get away without writing for so long, but I'm back and I want to get that novel off now.

Here comes Me.


Being the Hamster, Being at Peace with the Wheel.

There is this little piece of me that feels like sometimes, writing is like being the hamster on the wheel. I can be almost done something, it's agonizingly hard to finish and every part of me is saying "give it up already!"

And then that's when my muse, a fickle one, sends me a brand new idea. I've got to write it down, Just. Then. Because if I don't write it down right now I'll forget it.

Why would I do that? Let a perfectly good story idea go by? No way!

But my writing life is this endless cycle of projects book-ended by other projects and each one is *almost* done.

Like right now. Citizen Vamp. I've been working on it since before my daughter was born... my daughter will be 3 in May. It's *almost* done, and I know I could finish it in less than two months... problem?

Yes. Two. Husband and Daughter.

1) I have two people who, have very needy (read: not clingy, just needy) needs and who want those needs. Right. Now.
2) Oh, by the way, you can't write today because today is the day I turn the hockey game on so loud you can't hear your music even with headphones on. Or, our daughter is fairly certain she wants to sit on my lap. "Now, mommy-now!"


Well, here's the one thing I do know for certain. I love them both-but I need to write.

It's essential to my health and sanity and I need it to release. If I don't have that then I end up withdrawn, crabby and no good to anyone.

I'm tempted to rent a studio but they are just not affordable currently with my tight, launching-a-new-business budget. So what's a gal to do?

I got in the car, called up my closest fellow writer friend. I went to her place, had coffee and we just caught up with one another... and neither of us asked the other about our writing. Neither of us said, "So, finish that book you've been working on?" Neither of us felt like venting about the lack of our ability to meet our writing goals because we both have children. Nope.

Tonight we chatted and let life just be the topic of conversation. We just got to be non-writers for a little while, drink coffee and smell it-rather than inhale it on deadline.


Now I need to get to bed because tomorrow is a full day of trying to write with a toddler crawling all over me like an ant.


6 Things my Toddler Taught Me About Writing.

Last night I was up until two am with a sick child that couldn't keep her food down. While the experience as a whole was not comfortable, I learned a lot.

Here were my observations:

  1. Although my child was sick and couldn't keep food down, she knew what she needed. She would ask for water because she was thirsty, of course it came back up but she knew her body was dehydrated.
  2. Between her episodes, I was scared that she would be tired and cranky. Instead she had excess energy and knew she still wanted to play while she had time before bed. 
  3. She took steps to make herself feel better. After an episode or two, she said "Bath, Mommy." So I prepared a bath for her without toys. She relished the water and laid back in it, relaxing enjoying every moment of it.
  4. When bedtime came, although it was certainly going to be interrupted, she took to bed eagerly and relaxed while she could. She fell asleep quickly and woke only to endure an episode. She waited patiently while I changed the bed and then crawled in eagerly and fell asleep quickly.

With these observations, I have learned a lot about writing:

  1. Don't let a looming deadline distract you. Go about the task/writing assignment as if there is one pending, but stop worrying about it.
  2. Don't put off needs as if they are desires when you're writing. Too often I put off food, drink and other things while writing, thinking they are distractions. I need to feed myself when I am hungry even if I am writing. Needs are far different from desires.
  3. Look forward to the time you have to do the things you enjoy, such as time between projects to work on creative projects.
  4. Enjoy all moments of pleasure and stop worrying about when it will all end. Stop procrastinating on projects just to prolong moments of enjoyment; instead, start early and finish early to make the next break that much longer.
  5. Take the opportunities to get tasks done while they're available. Don't let fear or anxiety make you lose sleep.
  6. We've always got enough energy to get the necessary things done. So if it feels like you don't have energy, you're really just procrastinating.

I'm going to try and follow these directions to myself for the future, and in doing so secure a fulfilling writing regimen.

Have you learned anything from your family members that has made you a better writer or artist? Please leave a comment!


The Universal Story: the Single Basic Story Plot Theory

There are multiple ways that stories can be told. But here’s the contentious issue for some: are story plots all new and exciting or are there only so many types of stories?

There are as many arguments as stories, I think.

Some popular arguments are that there is only 1 story, 3 stories, 7, 20 or 36 stories-depending who you ask. I want to cover each of these here, starting with the argument that there’s only one story and the name of that story is conflict.

Aristotle began talking about the story concept in his work Rhetoric and in it he described the Tragedy. Many of you will be familiar with Greek literature and that there are certain styles of writing but they boil down into two themes: the comedy and the tragedy. Not to be confused with story plots, the comedy and tragedy can still each be boiled into one main plot: the introduction on conflict. Now, Aristotle doesn’t stop there, he continues with the idea that there is a main action created in response to conflict: Three or four exist and they deal with the action of the character regarding their knowledge of the possible outcomes.

Meditated: As in, acting in full knowledge. For example, in Canada and the United States, Crimes that are “pre-meditated” offer harsher penalties because it demonstrates that the criminal or alleged criminal knew that they were performing a criminal act or making a decision with criminal outcomes. Pre-meditated deaths, for example is considered more heinous than non-pre-meditated, which means that the criminal or alleged is either a murderer or they committed manslaughter. This is a complex way of saying “you know what you did,” or “You couldn’t have known that what you did would result in this” Manslaughter is when a minor crime or neglect results in a death.

To move away from law and towards the story plot: the single plot revolves around conflict and how the character reacts to this conflict. Aristotle says there are the following actions that can be taken when faced with conflict: meditated deed done or un-meditated deed done. He does say that meditated deeds left undone create terrible stories.

An argument here is unrequited love and the like. A sacrifice itself, while not creating action at the end of a story can itself be action. Greek stories are about honor or glory-bound decisions which lead to comic or tragic results thus I disagree a little with Aristotle. I think that inaction at the end of a story can create a sense of action if done properly: the “if you love them, let them be loved by someone better” story is such as this. However I will agree that a story, in which the main character does nothing throughout, would be a terrible story.

Next: I will tackle the Three Basic Story Plots theory.

For my short story based on the prompt: http://www.wattpad.com/11278891-bird-hunting

Aristotle; Jenny Bak ed.(2004). Rhetoric. Dover Thrift Editions.

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