Eilis O'Neal (eilis_oneal) wrote,
Eilis O'Neal

The False Princess: Name Edition

For me, names in a book are important. I want my characters to have names that tell me something about them--even if its something that might be misleading. I have a lot of fun making up or figuring out character names, though sometimes it also makes me want to tear my hair out. Especially when I'm having a hard time with a name. If it's an important character, I simply cannot go on until I've named them. I can't put in a placeholder name, because a) then the character won't talk to me and b) I just end up brooding about how that name isn't right. I can put in place holder names for minor characters some of the time. Other times, I just end up with a long ------- where their name should be, rather than give them the wrong name.

So I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about the names in The False Princess and why I picked them.

Nalia: The name of the princess of Thorvaldor, which Sinda thinks is her name for her first 16 years. I knew when I was creating the name of the princess of Thorvaldor, I wanted it to be a flowy, feminine, soft-sounding name. Something that sounded particularly princessy.

Oddly, I actually ended up stealing Nalia’s name from myself. It’s the first name of the princess in a short story I wrote called “The Prophecy Predicament,” which was published in 2006 by Leading Edge. I decided I liked the name enough to use it again, but there’s no relation between the two princesses, or the two worlds. (And that Nalia actually has much longer, very silly princessy name: Nalia Isidor Setephania Ophelie . . .)

Sinda: The true name of my main character, who has grown up believing she’s a princess. So, knowing that I wanted the official name of the princess to be breathy and princessy, I also knew that I wanted my name character’s real name to be the opposite of that. A name with harder sounds, clipped almost. Not only because the reader would feel the difference, but because Sinda herself would. Her very name, in the ways it's different than her supposed name, would make her feel her demotion even more. I also liked that the first syllable of her name is “sin,” which brings with it the idea of something wrong or bad—which Sinda initially feels about her change of circumstance.

A few people have asked me if I meant to play on the name Cinderella, and I have to say that the similarities of sounds of the two names didn’t enter my head until I was asked about it. Not that they weren’t there in my mind subconsciously, but I didn’t think of them at the time.

Also, it was actually a bit tough coming up with Sinda's name. I spent about two days writing absolutely nothing, while I tried to figure out what this girl's name was!

Kiernan: Sinda’s best friend, an Earl’s son. Kiernan’s name was one of those that I didn’t have to think very hard about. I tossed around Sinda’s name for quite a while, making sure it was right and weighing it against others. But Kiernan showed up and was named within a few minutes. In retrospect, I like that his name has some of the same sounds as the words “clear” and “keen,” because his feelings for Sinda and his loyalties are quite clear and keen. But I can’t claim credit for creating it that way.

Something I’ve noticed as I create names for book characters is that I have a weakness for boy’s names that start with K. In fact, I’ve had to occasionally force myself to choose other letters for main male characters—not everyone can have a K name, I have to tell myself! I’m not sure why this is—there aren’t even any male role models in my life with K names. I just apparently like them.

Varil: Sinda’s aunt, whom she is sent to live with after being evicted from the palace.
I wanted Sinda’s aunt to have a very hard, pretty sharp sounding name. Something that would mirror her personality, and that wouldn’t sound at all comforting. To my ear, it’s harsher than Sinda’s name, but there’s a similarity about the sounds, which I wanted because they’re related.

Philantha: An eccentric wizard who takes Sinda on as a student and scribe:
I wanted Philantha’s name to reflect her personality. So it’s breathy and a bit long-winded, and different from most of the other names in the book, though it still needed to sound like it fit into the world. Philantha’s name sounds the way that she talks, if that makes sense.

Tyr: A boy that Sinda meets in her Aunt's village: For the boy that Sinda would meet in her first days as a peasant, I wanted something short, but with strong sounds. Something that would play against Kiernan's name, in a way.

Next time, I'll talk about a few place names, and some characters who I can't talk about without spoilers. Also, I'll tell the story of my embarrassment in trying to buy my first book of names for writing purposes.


Tags: the false princess, writing
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