So I was musing over what I should name one of the many, minor humans soldiers in Book Three, and I realized (though this is actually really obvious) that all the humans have normal-people names, and all the elves have weird names that I either made up or found in some name book. Hmm, I thought, at least that makes it easy to distinguish to which race a character belongs! See, guys? I'm looking out for you.
Names are extremely important to me; they always have been, and it irks me like nothing else when authors give their characters extremely cliché or dumb names. For example, if your princess is some amazing, gorgeous, perfect woman with long, flowing hair and a beautiful pearly-white smile, please don't name her Belle, or Rose, or Aurora, or any other name that suggests she was named at eighteen, not as a screaming, red-faced, tiny baby. Her parents didn't know what she was gonna look like, guys. But I think that happens mostly in fairy-tales (I hope?), although I've read a few books with absolutely ridiculous character names that made me want to launch the book at the nearest wall.
So names are important to me? Why is this? These are real people—yes, I know they're not actually real—but a point of writing is to convey a story in way that can convince the reader that somewhere in space and time, that story could have actually happened. You want your characters to be as flesh-and-blood as possible! You want your readers to be able to smell the salty air of your world's coastline, and feel the grass between their toes alongside your main character. You want the culture and cities to seem as though they could be found somewhere in the galaxy and be just as developed as ours. Is it sometimes incredibly hard to do this? Absolutely; it's taken me a good five years to develop Yaracina and Eshen, and I'm currently doing the same world-creation with another novel I'm writing (which is not related to S&D in any way). I love learning the history of my worlds, though; it's so enjoyable to create a backstory, cities and towns, rulers, landscapes, locals, etc. for a world where you can literally do anything you want! So just as you must craft a completely unique place for your characters to inhabit (if you copy someone else's world, I will come hunt you down—that's not cool), you must make the systems of names at least somewhat unique. Sure, you can name your characters Jacob or Emma or Catherine or John, but if they live on a world that's not Earth … does that really make sense? I guess that wouldn't bother some people; it only bothers me slightly. The good thing for me, however, is that Yaracina and Eshen are futuristic versions of our world, so I can use literally any names I wish to use—I can use current names for my humans, which I do, and I can make up names (or even use more exotic real names) for my elves! It's the best of both worlds.
For example, Elysia may sound made up, but it's actually Greek, and it means “sweet” or “blissful.” Her sister's name (Malitha) is actually a fake name, though :) I lucked out with Elysia's name; I was scouring a name book (Bruce Lansky's 100,000+ Baby Names is the most helpful book on the planet for naming characters) and came across 'Elysia.' At the time, I had no idea what sort of person she would be, and I forgot what the name meant for a while. But when I was looking it up again a few years later, I saw what 'Elysia' meant and it was awesome how well her name matched her character! Lliam was the same way. I don't actually remember how/when I decided to name him Lliam, but his name means “determined guardian” (that will make more sense later on … although it does work for YF, too). Roman just means “from Rome,” though; sorry, buddy. It also amuses me when I think I make a name up and then discover it's actually a real name. That happened with Yaron—I thought I came up with his name all on my own … and then saw it in my name book. In case you're curious, it means “I will sing; I will cry out.” Does that fit Yaron's character? Maybe the crying out portion; he does not sing ;) But it's still a cool name for him!
Anyway, characters' names are important. I wouldn't name one of the Spanish soldiers Bob or Ryan. (Who names a fantasy soldier Bob, anyway?) I wouldn't name an elf Emily or Patrick. The name needs to fit the character's origins. For example—Zoser's real name, Neron, is Spanish and means “strong.” He is Spanish, so that works. Elysia is a Greek name, but it doesn't necessarily sound Greek and isn't common enough to be thought of as a Greek name. (Well, there is Elysium in Greek mythology, so an argument could be made.) Efroy, Malitha, and Aubryn are not real names and therefore they became elven names for my characters :) Coming up in Book Three (and FR), we'll also meet several Chinese characters, so they will all have culture-appropriate names.
I love names. It's a slight obsession. But hey, it's an important obsession for book-writing, especially in the fantasy genre! Names tell you about a character—whether he's human or elf (in my books' case), and whatever connotations accompany his name. If you use it correctly, a character's name can be just as, if not more, important than his physical appearance.
So there you have it—my thoughts on literary names. And remember … naming your princess Belle is not okay (unless you're rewriting Beauty and the Beast). Especially if she's not from Earth. Now go forth and name wisely, my friends!