I find coming up with names for characters from scratch really difficult.
Perhaps the most memorable name in sci-fi for me is Howdabeen Churry, from Sheri Tepper’s novel Raising the Stones. I’ve never forgotten that one! I don’t know how Ms. Tepper came up with so many weird and noteworthy names, but my process has been to borrow from real life and use name generation software.
My wife has a friend whose daughter is named Twilight. So I stole that one for one of Siana’s antagonists. (This was before the Twilight series became popular, mind you.) My mother always liked the name Jesse, so I stole that one for a sympathetic character who accompanies Siana on a road trip.
For the kingdoms of the dreamworlds, I used WriteItNow software’s name generator to come up with the names of the monarchs. I more or less randomly chose a language theme for each kingdom. Mihali was Egyptian, so its King and Queen became Iakovos and Ilanit. Cylindrax was French, so its lord became Ghislain. The kingdom of the Biennechi was Italian, so royal family names became Sofi, Piatro, Lorin, Lia, Tommasa, et al. I didn’t necessarily lift names directly from the name generator. In many cases I modified the output of the name generator to come with my own names and spellings. But the point is I didn’t have to start from scratch. It gave my names an aura of geographic or cultural validity. The results were definitely less silly or random than the ones I tried to generate out of thin air.
I can take sole credit for a few. Paris, Siana’s significant other. I don’t know where in my noggin that one came from, but this was before Paris Hilton first hit the news. “The Spaerodont” for the incorporeal lord of Ebon Port. I just thought that sounded epic and monstrously Other. And sometimes names came from random humor. I thought it would be hilarious to name the six foot bronze haired Valkyrie champion of Enhbold’s kingdom something light and silly. So she became Cinnamon. Something Siana got to scoff at during their first encounter:
Cinnamon? If I survived this that was going to be a laugh later.
I moved in on the Valkyrie. Cinnamon raised her war axe and I effortlessly lopped the end off it with the Glass Sword. Despite her surprise, she brought the other end about skillfully and forced me to back away.
“You’ve seen the power of this weapon,” I taunted, “There is no way you can master me.” Her brows knit together in anger and her thin lips parted to show even white teeth. I could hear the melee between Raff and Twilight behind me, out of sight.
Cinnamon spun her weapon about and slashed at my feet. It was too tight an attack for my Sword to parry, so I jumped up and backwards. She was unexpectedly fast and rather than just swinging the axe sword-like, she was adept at wielding it with ninja-like twirls. As a two ended weapon it must have been formidable indeed. I was on the defensive for awhile but eventually got an opening to slice the axe in two right above its haft. The axe end was still plenty long enough to use, but for now this portion dropped sideways and just about took her leg off. I pressed my advantage before she could recover it.
The tip of my sword was at her throat.
“Kill me,” she hissed and I saw her spittle bead on the gleaming surface of my blade and slide off its edge, “You will answer to Enhbold for that.”