3. How do you come up with names--for characters, and for places if you're writing about fictional places?
With characters, they often come out of nowhere, just like the characters themselves. It's like they already exist. At least when it matters, I should say. I don't think I've ever come up with, at least, a main character without already knowing their name. They just sound right and I don't really have to think about them. (Except a couple of times when I've had to change the name because of a too strong association. Argh, that's REALLY hard for me. It feels like I'm beating my mind up.)
Examples of characters who were ”born” with their name:
|Ririn and Evangelica from "Ashland".|
|Dina from "Anem".|
Then, sometimes I do have to decide names for less essential characters. And I always have to do it with places. They never seem obvious to me and if someone looked close enough, I bet they could tell that I find naming places the least interesting.
I don't have an actual plan for this. Well, I don't have much of a plan with anything regarding writing. I go with the flow. But here are some ways the names come to me:
- Wait. Just wait long enough and a name will pop up. Once it does, it's usually the right one. Possibly several but the choice never seems hard for me. I named a character "Leco", because he just sounded like a Leco, and that's how it usually goes.
- Let whatever names you remember come to your mind and a bell will ring once it sounds good. If it's a fantasy story, just alter it a bit to fit the universe. I like to use names that have a familiar sound. I named a character "Nia" and it came from "Nea" (which is a popular name in Finland).
- Look around, find text, and start switching the syllables around. If it doesn't work, start changing letters. At some point, something will sound like a name. Once I named a castle "Labelend" because there was "Yellow Label Tea" on my table.
That's pretty much all there is to it.