How Do You Pick Your Character Names?

>>>How do you name your characters?

Basically I make the characters' names match the characters, using real world names from the proper places and time periods, then matching the meanings of those real world names to the character's life. So, if the reader looks up the history of the name, they are given even more insight into the character.

But... it's The Quaraun series, so, you know how it is. I throw in random generators, d20 dice rolls, and SpellJammer logic, and yeah. Insanity ensues.

For example:


My main character's name is Quaraun, which is a real world Persian name from Medieval times, and means "he who walks with God" (implying the person is a prophet or priest/or at least that his parents hoped he would grow up to become a holy man of some sort)

I chose this name for my character, because he was raised in 1100's Persia, by a group of priests whom had kidnapped him from his family when he was 9 years old; the story never says what his real name was, he only ever uses this name that the priests had given him.

Also, the name is commonly used in 2edADnD for Elves. I originally found it in the 2edAD&D Elves red cover edition splat book. And liked the sound of it. Than looked it up to make sure it wasn't used in any other published novel franchise, in doing so discovered it was a Persian name, and well, it was no wonder I liked the sound of it and felt it matched my Persian Elf character.

The name shows that the priests intended him to walk in their footsteps and become a part of their priesthood. (Instead he kills the priests, escapes, and becomes a wandering vagabond wizard). The priests implanted him with a parasitic jellyfish, that they believe to be god, thus the name "he who walks with God" takes on it's full meaning, with them, literally proclaiming god lives within him now.

King Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn:

Because he is mixed race black & Asian, he was abandoned by his real parents as a toddler, (in Medieval times, Asian culture taught that people with black skin were devils/demons; thus a dark skinned baby would often be dropped in a well to drown it). He is taken in by Scottish family, who name him Gwallmaiic, which is a real world name from Medieval Scotland. Real world Alba (Scotland) had several pygmy black Asian tribal kings in the 1200s to 1300s, who invaded Scotland and took over several tribes. Based off this real world fact, he grows up to become a warrior and crowns himself king of several clans.

Later when approaching his senior years, he tosses aside the warrior/king lifestyle and leaves Scotland. He becomes a chef and renames himself BoomFuzzy. When asked in one novel of the series, by another character, "Why BoomFuzzy?" he answers with: "Because it was the most ridiculous, none serious name I could think of. I've grown tired of the dull, dry seriousness of life. People should laugh more."

The word BoomFuzzy was spit out of a Seventh Sanctum random candy/food name generator. The word the random generator spit out was "BoomFudgy utter Creams" which I used for the candy and than I thought, give the candy chef a name to match. Thus it became "BoomFuzzy's BommFudgy Chocolate Covered ButterCreams" in the original short story, and was changed to "BoomFuzzy's BoomFudgy Apricot Stuffed Chocolate Covered Fuzzy Fuzzy Fluffy Marshmallow Bunnies" in the novel editions.

The title "The Unicorn" comes from the fact that he is a shapeshifter and spends the bulk of his time in the form of a purple unicorn.

GhoulSpawn aka The Gremlin:

Half-Elf, half-Demon. Born into a time and place where purity is sought after and half-bloods are cast into the streets, not allowed education, jobs, or to be land owners, forced into the slums, becoming beggars and thieves to survive. His mother did the unthinkable and stood up to her father and kept her half-breed baby. Unfortunately she died while he was still very young, and her father renamed the child "GhoulSpawn", which in the series, is a derogatory hate slur that is not a name at all, and is to half-Elves as the n-word is to black men in the real world. Raised as a servant/slave in his own household, he is eventually rescued from them, by main character Quaraun.

For a while he embraces the name GhoulSpawn, refusing to let people victimise him with hate slurs.

In later years, he becomes a powerful and radical wizard/alchemist/scientist who fights against injustice. Using a combination of magic and machines to fight evil, he renames himself The Gremlin, which in our real world is a word that means "the demon that throws a monkey wrench in the works", choosing that name because of it's meaning and the fact that he, being of Demon blood, deliberately destroys the works of wicked men.

And he was called Gremlin before he was called GhoulSpawn. GhoulSpawn is one of the very first characters created for the series and appeared in Volume 1: Friends Are Forever, published September 23, 1978.

At the time I had 2, yes TWO, AMC Gremlins. One was a 1974 neon orange one with yellow flames painted on it (and yes, is the one you see GhoulSpawn driving in the novels - yes, it is a car I actually owned in real life) and the other was a bronze-brown 1976. Gremlin appeared briefly in Friends Are Forever, as Sir Roderic's strange unnamed neighbour, whom Roderic dubbed "The Gremlin" because he drove a neon orange 1974 AMC Gremlin with yellow flames painted on the sides.

In later stories written throughout the 1980s, Gremlin began to appear more often as a primary character, eventually becoming a main character. 

This means, yes, he was created almost 20 years before Quaraun made his first appearance in the series, and 30 years before BoomFuzzy appeared in the series.

Gremlin would remain the nickname all characters called him, but he would never tell anyone his real name and took to introducing himself as "he Gremlin" without ever telling people why he was hiding his real identity.

It was not until the Tales From White Rock series spun off The Twighlight Manor series, and the story The Dazzling Razzbury, when we see Gremlin locked in a room in the asylum as Razzbury's roommate, that Gremlin began to talk to RazzBury about SunT'a in the T Manor's attic and Antares in thee dungeons and claimed to know their real identities, that we saw Quaraun (SunT'a) and BoomFuzzy (Antares) and GhoulSpawn (Gremlin) appear for the first time, revealing the true identities of all 3 characters, and starting the spin off series The Quaraun series, which would eventually overpower the rest becoming the primary series.

And for people too young to know what an AMC Gremlin is:

Here's 2021 update... the above still applies, but, it only covered just the 3 main characters, so here's an expansion of the answer to cover everyone else as well...

FAQs: How do you come up with your Character names?
They all sound so strange.

Because it fits the genre and world I write, I use the same method like was used in in classic literature Utopia, Hinds Feet on High Places, Paradise Lost, and Pilgrim's Progress, where the character's have "descriptive" names that alert the reader to "who" they are.

For example in Hinds Feet on High Places (by Hannah Hurnard), the story is about a girl named Much Afraid traveling with her best friends Sorrow and Suffering to escape her father Fearing who is trying to force her to marry her cousin Craven Fear, to search the world for a guy named Joy that she thinks can help her find someone else named Humility. The author based the whole story around emotions, so all the characters had names that reflected their dominate emotion.

My own novels are similar to that when it comes to naming characters. The series is heavily influenced by 2edAD&D especially it's SpellJammer (aka Elves In Spaaaace!) and RavenLoft expansion packs. 

Well if you ever played DnD's old 2ed versions, you know that everyone was named after their attributes or skills.

For example a half-Elf who is half-Demon ends up named something like GhoulSpawn, a tower dwelling dark mage could end up being named something like HellBorne, and a guy who wears a bat suit is called BatDude while his sidekick is named Pigeon Poop Boy, if you need a taxi service to travel between planets you want a pirate Gnome named Captain Quirk and his flying pirate ship The Rent-a-Prize, the Mind flayer thief turned priest is named ZooLock because he's good at picking locks, while the two most evil villains of all are a g-string wearing strip dancing Elf named The Jiggler, and a candy making Unicorn Lich named BoomFuzzy, and they all worship a microscopic goddess named The Scared Pink JellyFish, who is the most powerful being in the universe but can only be seen under a microscope, she also crawled up the nostril of an Elf, burrowed into his brain and now controls his body, and he's the only character with a remotely normal sounding name: Quaraun, which came from the 2edAD&D Elves splat book red cover edition, he was previously called SunTa' or Tajid in early stories before being given an official name (Tajid was the name of a real person I knew in real life who was murdered August 21, 1991 and I changed the character's name in the novel to Quaraun a year later, because I had trouble writing a character who was the same name as a person whom I knew in real life, after the real person was murdered. It's WHY all the old editions published before 1991 were puled out of print.).

I also said all of that in one sentence.

1994 cover art for a special SpellJammer issue of Dungeon magazine. The painting was titled: "A SpellJammer Dentist At Work."

The 2edAD&D SpellJammer naming system, got to love it.

Now, if it was just one or two characters named this way and everyone else had "normal" sounding names, than it would just be making one or two characters seem "special". But the thing is, in Quaraun's universe EVERYONE is named this way. Main characters, secondary characters, minor characters, background characters, crowd characters, good, evil, bad, grey, beautiful, ugly, heroes, villains, merchants. Everyone. So it fits within the context on the world, because these types of names ARE the "normal" for this society.

I would not advice using this mish-mash of common words to create descriptive names, as a way of naming characters unless you do it for your entire cast. I've seen authors do it JUST for the main characters and than everyone else in the novels will have "normal" sounding real names (Peter, Paul, Mary, etc.) and it really makes the main characters stick out like a sore thumb and just feel very out of place, like they don't belong in the novel's setting.

When you name your characters, make sure the names match the setting they live in. For example, the Quaraun's world, it's not just the characters named this way: buildings, rivers, towns, business's, etc. are named this same way as well. Thus you see places like: Black Tower, The Screaming Unicorn Inn, White Rock Asylum For The Criminally Insane, The Mind Controlling Pissed Off Pumpkin Patch, The Forest of No Return, Fire Mountain, Pink Porpoise Pond, etc. Some of them are overly simple such as The Guild being as the name implies a guild and The Fuzzy Wuzzy Fluffy Bunnies being well angora rabbits.

I should probably point out I'm a SpellJammer Dungeon Master and have been for 40+ years, so, (it was released in 1973, 5 years BEFORE Dungeons and Dragons was, under the name Metamorphosis Alpha, and was brought into the DnD franchise in 1991 now renamed SpellJammer). I use the SpellJammer d20 dice roll chart naming system for all my novel characters same way I do in the game. All the names of my characters are literally whatever a dice roll on the SpellJammer character naming chart rolled out.

Obviously this method won't work for every genre, but for Psychedelic Bizarro High Fantasy about the Highest LSD addicted cannibal High Elves flying across the Universe massacring humans from their rainbow powered pirate ships, it works great.

The series contains a novel that also was the first novel to be awarded the World's Best Gay Romance of the Year award and broke down barriers preventing authors from publishing Gay Romance, and was the novel that caused Amazon to create a Gay Romance category, just for that one novel, and was Amazon's #1 top selling Gay Romance novel for years in a row, selling 10,000 copies within it's first hour of publication.

So people (other authors, not readers) who laugh at my characters' names (and there have been many) and say I should give them more serious real sounding names, and tell me to take my writing and my career more seriously (like they do), while telling me to be politically correct, stop using tropes, and saying I should hire a sensitivity editor (again like they do), should pay attention to the fact that readers are fed up with seriousness, historical accuracy, political correctness, sensitive snowflake syndrome, and really do just want authors to write things that are fun to read for sake of being fun to read, without worrying about stepping on toes. 

And the Quaraun series has stepped on a lot of toes, including making the gay couple be one white transvestite who HATES being called a SHE when he's a HE in a dress and one black serial killing gangster with the N-word everywhere (oh yes - it's there A LOT), and includes scenes of them killing sensitivity beta readers at publishing houses and literally driving WW2 German army tanks over SJW protestors.

Critics slaughtered it for being ANTI-SJW, mocking PC sensitive snowflakeism, and readers loved it and it wins awards for it's in your face give no shits style.

As an LGBTQAI+ Person of Colour myself, I HATE it when STRAIGHT WHITE people think they knows what's best for us and the recent BLM riots, I mean protests have been nothing but an utter mockery of even more white people thinking they can control us coloured folk. It's why I DO NOT support the BLM movement. It's nothing but white people telling us non-whites what to do as usual.

And, no, I'm not joking one bit, those really ARE the names of my characters, how I named them, the things they do in the novels, and I still won those snooty patooty awards and pissed off all the authors of more serious work who didn't come close to either my sales or the awards my books won.

The lesson here? Stop worrying about what other people might think, and write whatever the fuck you want. There's a market for everything, and it just might surprise you to learn the market is getting pretty fed up with political correctness getting in the way of just writing a fun novel.

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