One of the most important jobs for a writer is the development of a cast of characters for their stories. Coming up with an appropriate name can be daunting.
Years ago, if I needed a name, I read the telephone book and usually a name would just jump off the page, and into my head. Now of course, a phonebook is an endangered species. In this computer-generated world we live in, I have dabbled, unsuccessfully I might add, with what is called a “Character Name Generator.” You can sort the names with filters such as language, gender, even fantasy. You can go a step farther and find traditions, and historical data from other parts of the world, even ancient historical era’s if that’s what’s needed to further your story.
Most everyone in my age group, though I’m not about to admit my age, first discovered the joys of reading with the “Adventures of Dick and Jane.” I just gave an old copy to my Great Grand Daughter Beatrice. She is one smart little girl. When they were first printed, the names were chosen because they were familiar, and most children could relate to the down to earth names.
As these children grew, they became enamored with the unique, the mysterious. Some of these children grew up to be writers, seeking that mystery for their work by including foreign names, places and languages.
I will admit that seeing foreign language insertions in a written work, can give it a touch of class. A few of my favorite authors include characters from somewhere abroad. It can bring excitement or intrigue into a story.
But the writer does have to give due diligence when making the decision to use foreign language or even a created original name.
• The first question has to do with motive. Will it enhance your work, do you feel that it’s important for your story?
• Is there a reason for foreign characters and language in the story.
• When choosing a name, you have to ask yourself, will the reader know how to pronounce it? Maybe the character can be put on the spot to pronounce his or her own name, to be certain.
I must admit that as an avid reader there have been many times that I have tried a character’s name 15 different ways, and never felt certain that I was saying it correctly. It distracted me from the story.
In the final analysis, it’s up to the writer how they choose to highlight their stories, be it language, murder or mystery.