May 6, 2011

An Alien by Any Other Name

Names and what they mean is the topic of the Fantastic Friday Writers.

How do you pick a name?

Writing name. Are you using your legal name or a pen name? How did you choose?

M. Pax -- Mary Pax was the name given to me at birth. Pax means peace in Latin, only my name isn't Latin. Turns out its derived from Swedish -- Paks and means something like merchant. The name got changed many centuries ago [at least seven] when the family moved to Germany.

Why the initial? I wanted to make a neutral first impression on the book shelf. I don't keep my first name a secret though.

The nice short name will be easy on my carpal tunnel if I ever have to sign a lot of books. I debated using more of a pen name based on my grandmothers' maiden names. Maybe someday I will if I switch genres or something.

Characters and Unique Words

Do you select names with particular meanings? In my first novel, I did. For the most part. Most of the first names have intentional meanings. A lot of the alien words, etc ... are based on Sumerian and Akkadian [the language of the Babylonians]. What I named my ships has meaning, too. I enjoyed deriving words from those old languages. Why not exact? Because languages change over time. It's not a static thing. Try reading the original Beowulf, which is in English, and you'll see how true that is. You don't even need to go back that far. Watch an old movie from the 30's or 40's. They use words we no longer use and have different expressions.

My first novel [series] has a lot of layering and a lot of it subtle. So, names and meanings are not anything I hit the reader over the head with. Maybe they'll figure it out, maybe they won't. Doesn't affect the story if they don't. Makes it richer if they do.

In the second novel ... not so much. Not in my short stories either. It's what sounded good and what seemed to fit. I make sure I can pronounce the names and unique words. If I can't, I'll choose another. That happened with a major character. Can't recall which one at this point, but I remember hashing out plot with the husband unit and not being able to pronounce the name the way I heard it in my head. So, it had to go.

Titles don't usually come easily to me. Some I really struggle over. My first novel, after a lot of thought then a lot of searching, the title came from a line of Sumerian poetry. I followed Heinlein with that as he used lines of poetry as titles. The second novel's title was there from the start, but that's a rarity. I often ask my critique group to help me with titles.

How about you? Do you struggle with naming things and / or titles, or does it come easy?

See what other Fantastic Friday Writers have to say about Names and What they Mean.