Friday, November 03, 2006

Naming Conventions

I've been having problems devising a name for my lead character. I looked finally to the type of name I want it to be, the names that just strike me immediately as being, so to speak, "too perfect." And, having taken those names apart, I've managed to come up with a short set of rules I think I'll try to abide by for certain types of characters -- those close to the fantastic and mystical, while also being buried in mortal, material concerns. People who aren't meant to be imposing from the outset.

Here's the (very) short list of names I want to imitate:
Dorian Gray (from "The Picture of..." by Oscar Wilde)
Morgan la Fey (from some of the Arthurian romances)
Jonathan Strange (from "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke)

First, the first and last names together must be four syllables long. The last name should be, for preference, only one syllable. But even if it can't be, the last one should be a word that could otherwise stand on its own -- gray is a color, the fey are the fairies, and strange is a quality that someone has or is.

Second, there should be as few hard consonants as possible. Nothing really sharp like a K sound, or a solitary hard T. D is about as hard as the consonants should get. The sharp consonants are forgiveable in obeying the last-name portion of the first rule, in borrowing another word for the name.

Third, vowels should be predominantly Os, As, and Es. I don't know enough about linguistics and the jargon of describing phonetic sounds to say anything worthwhile about their phonemic "length" or anything like that. All I can say is that the vowels should sound like those in the names listed.

Fourth, and finally, the accent of the first name should be on the first syllable.

Obviously, there are exceptions that sound really good. One that breaks several of these rules while holding to others is "Mordecai Toth," which is an impressive name in both writing and speech. This name, incidentally, comes from a computer game: "Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War." He's also an inquisitor, which means his name must be immediately impressive and intimidating, calling for a number of hard consonants.

A few examples of the rules set out so far.

Darren Arcane (slightly too fantastic for my desires)
Harrison Cane (reusing "cane" for the last syllable)
Gideon Fane (yes, rhyming, but I like the word)
Erasmus Gage

Victorian first names work fairly well for this sort of thing, really.


Jeans Pants said...

What about the name Jeans Pants? Sorry I was just Blog surfing and came upon your site. I'm living in LA hoping to one day write screenplays but for now, retail will have to do. Good Luck, I'll be back to visit

Kenneth Raymond said...

Yours is a quicker, catchier name, and has a fair bit of the pun to it. I like it, it just doesn't work for what I'm trying to evoke for my own lead character. Like I've said, "Dorian Gray" is really a strong example of what I'm grasping for.