Woke up this morning struggling mightily with the outline for the second book in the new Legacy of Shannara series (which begins publishing in August 2012). I was fifteen chapters into this seemingly endless effort and realized that the name of one of the key characters was wrong. No particular reason it was wrong; it just was. So I had to come up with a new name and couldn’t do it. I worked for almost 45 minutes and nothing I came up with worked. Frank, Al, Monica, Dick Cheney – nope. Because of this, I was blocked. See, I can’t write about characters without knowing who they are and for me that starts with a name. Not just any name – the right name. It says something about the character, and I need to feel that something to write about him or her. So I sat there, thinking about this and that and getting nowhere. Wrote most of this blog. Wasted all that time. Sometimes I wish I were normal. But, hey, show me the blueprint for that!
28 responses to “BrooksBlog: The Importance of Names”
If you were “normal,” we wouldn’t have your books to read, and the world would be that much poorer because of it.
Don’t worry! It will come to you. Try going outside and getting a breath of fresh air. Think of the people you know who may be similar to this character and twist their names around to sound appropriate for the character. After 30 years of writing, you have probably experienced this before, so do what worked before! If that doesn’t work, well…go get a coffee!
Good luck with the rework, Terry. The focus on characters and conflicts is what makes your work stand apart from other authors. That said, I do feel some of your recent works have had less dynamic characters than the older works many of your fans love. Please spend the due time getting it right for us. Allanon, Morgan Leah, Roan, Brin, Garret Jax, and Pe El have that magic about them. Grianne was the most amazing of recent characters. I’d like to see a new strong character who breaks away from the form of the stale blue-fire-throwing arch-druid that carves their own place in the hearts of your readers. Here’s my hoping that the Magic will work yet again. 🙂
When I write creatively, I do the same thing. Most especially with short story titles – the title frames the work for me, helps me create a snapshot of the work inside my head. The title may change, of course, but it’s where I start.
You’re not entirely a freak Mr. Brooks. And we enjoy you for your parts that are.
Names are tough for me, too. I keep a file of names that I come up with, several pages in length by now, actually. For me, there’s a scarcity of good names, and that makes them valuable.
Probably what you should do is come up with great volumes of ‘bad’ names that you wouldn’t ever use, starting with obvious things – such as Adolf, Jesus, Santa, etc. – and getting less and less obvious. Before you know it, you’ll have one or two half-way decent names to use for whenever you might need one. That’s an old technique.
Don’t despair. While it may be difficult to top O’olish Amaneh and Findo Gask – Chew Magna, Flick, Shea, Bek, Quickening, and Questor Thews are great names as well. I’m sure this character will get a good one. A lot of your characters have names with hints of Latin, Gallic, Slavic, and English of course. Maybe something from Greek, Arabic, or hmm, Hawaiian. Just for another inspiration source.
Everybody has their own definition of normal so under some people’s definition you are normal. Hope you come up with a new name for the character.
We all know you can do it Terry, that is what makes you the great author that you are. Looking forward to your next book and all your future books.
Terry, I think the solution is to send me advance copies of everything as soon as you’ve written it & I will be able to help you work it out. Seriously, if you were “normal” what would we have to look forward to in books. Take a break, spend some time with loved ones & the character will speak to you & give you a name.
It’s important to get the name right. I think so far you’ve done a beautiful job at that. I have total confidence in you. You’ve done an awesome job at making a name become that character to the point where you can’t think of the name without thinking of that character. I think it’s what makes you a great story teller. I don’t get that cookie cutter feel to your books that some serial authors use. You create a whole world and the names are a critical part of that.
I fully understand, I could not picture ANY of your characters with a different name. I think that some of the stories would have turned out completely different if any of your major characters had a different name
I like how you’ve been giving hints of the names of future charactes in the Shannara prehistory novels so far. Bearers of the Black Staff got me imagining that Kermadec’s ancestral roots were in San Francisco.
Pe-Ell comes to mind from Druid. That was a cool character.
Wouldn’t be cool if your stories were like the book “Never Ending Story” and that is why you can not write when a name isn’t right? Somewhere the words are creating a reality in another place…hmmmmmmm interesting.
I have always loved the unusual names you come up with. They are so unique. I have a name I came up with a while back that I thought would fit perfect in your books. The name is Erred Gala and I would love it if you’d ever make a character with this name.
Have you tried the name Dave for a new hero? Or maybe Davor or Daven to make it more interesting…;)
Well, Terry- if the character is a troll or was raised by trolls, yu should use the name Chlem’til. Obviously it is an anagrams for my name, but it works, doesn’t it?
Thanks for all of the great stories!!!
make him an “undisclosed” twin weapons master named – Garrote Jax!
Drink a bit of ale, eat a bit of fresh bread with fruit and it will come to you. If it doesn’t help at least figure out the first letter of the name and work on it as you go. I’m throwing out “Graeko” just because one I like. LLAP
PS Love your style>
The names that you choose for your characters all have a magical ring to them Terry.Im sure the one that you come up with will be as special as all the rest.Allanon is my particular favorite.
To quote a friend, “Normal is the setting on the washing machine”. I enjoy your books & look forward to each one.
I love all the characters you have come up with and their stories. Can’t wait for the next Legends book. Oh what about ShayLee for a female character?
I think that your characters, and their names, are the best part of your stories, it’s what I love most about them. Take your time don’t rush with it. I’ts something that must feel right to you..If you can come up with a name like Truls Rohk.. you can surely do it again. He has so far been one of may favorite characters by the way.
I have been fascinated with the names of your characters for 30 years. Very few authors, such as Jack Vance and Tanith Lee, have that ability to produce original names time and again. Take a break, listen to the wind, the rain, or whatever inspires you. It’ll come. Thanks for all the great books over the years.
I’m sure the name will come to you.It always had in the past.If not maybe ask some of us you followers,just give us an idea whether its a druid,dwarf,elf gnome or kindred etc.. I for one know I could come up with a few just by using the mmorpgs / p.c.games that i play Like world of warcaft people come up with some wild names there and you could tweek them to fit.But what ever you do don,t give up WE NEED YOU. I haven’t
finished yet Bearer of The Black staff and all ready having cravings for more.
Hay when I try to figure a name for a characters and cant come up with one I pick up a dictionary and find a word I can twist into something great if not let the name come from the heart and meen more. It may mean more time but it will have impact.
Here’s some random names, probably not awesome enough or may have a different feel since they’re from my universe…
when coming up with names I just sort of twist my tongue until it spits out something cool. I often sound like I’m gargling when I do it.
Eleron, Elerick, Elrich, Elerich, Elorlas, Eluwyn, Evrick, Evrich, Eralas, Eralich, Eralick, Edas, Edrick, Edrich, Elshich, Elrish, Elvash,
Blade,Blaze,Blich,Belich, Beron, Berich, borlas, Bralas, Bralich, Bralick, Baralas, Baralack, Baralich,Baralick
Derick, Darick, Devrich,Davrich, Dralas, Dralich, Drach, Drack, Dralach,Dralack
Ralack,Ralach,Ralick,Ralich,Rick,Rich,Ralas,Ralick,Ralich, Radick, Radich, Relorn, Ralix, Rax, Rowlix, Rolix, Rolick,Rolich
Talack, Talich, Talick,Talich, Talin, Talan, Teck, Tilick,Telick
Morrigan, Aaeryn , Vala, Aeria, Arla, Aruka, Allia, Alcia, Alicha, Alicka, Aurish, Arish, Aulin,Aulyn, Arlum, Elisa, Elicka, Iruna, Ilsa, Ilia, Lyra, Lira, Kyra, Kira, Kalara, Kalra,
Valcia,Valia, Vacia, Vash, Kayna, Layna, Belor, Bala, Beuwyn, Byun, Jun, Jilla, , Electra, Allora, ASENA, Senai, Anora, Lora, Castia, Mora, Maryn, Merlyn, Mela.
That’s all I can come up with at the moment…
Maybe if you think of this charactor in terms of being an ancestor of one of your other charactor’s then a variation of their names might help.
Personally i always loved Quickening.
I also have to say that I remember the very first time i picked up a Shannara book the name Allanon instantly invoked a picture in my head that is still there 20 years later.