I was trying to come up with my alter ego. You know, the one we were talking about a week or so ago. The one where you give yourself the right to put anything you want down on the page without fear of being judged because it’s not your name you’re writing under.
For some reason, coming up with that post created a block for me. I let it create an obstacle to writing. I sat down to write an article and found that I couldn’t because I didn’t have an alias. That’s when I broke out my trusty name book.
I think that just about every writer has one of these lying around somewhere. It seems as though a lot of people get hung up on creating names for their characters. For writing set in modern times it’s not that difficult, simply flip open the phone book, pick a few names at random and put them together.
For writing that deals with different eras or cultures that can get a little tricky. That’s when I turn to a book that I happened upon several years ago: Names through the Ages , by Teresa Norman. Not sure if it is still in print yet or not, but it is a good reference tool.
The book breaks up names into categories: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, and the United States. Those categories are then broken down into time periods. Take England for example, they go through: The Dark Ages, The Norman Period, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, The Reformation, The Early Modern World, and The Modern World. Each time period comes with a brief description about what was going on in that culture at the time and then it gets into the names. Male and Female with meanings, as well as surnames common for the time period.
It’s great for coming up with those odd sounding English names for fantasy, or for setting cultures apart via names. But as I’m sure you’ve already noted, it only has rather anglo names. No Italians, Spaniards, Africans, Chinese, Egyptians, Aborigine or any other shade not white. So I’m curious if anyone out there has any suggestions on other good name books that might cover these other cultures of the world. If so, please post them in a comment because I and I’m sure others would love to hear about them, (I’ve got a father’s day gift card to Borders that’s burning a hole in my pocket).