Nemesis Names
May 23, 2022

One of the tricks to writing a good story is naming the characters, which includes the bad guys. All the greats excel at this. Steven King (Stu Redman v. Randall Flagg), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein's Monster), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock v. Professor Moriarty). Each of the names invokes qualities in the characters' personalities. How could Voldemort not be a bad guy?

So, I spend a decent amount of time thinking about names. I've scratched out so many that were absolutely awful, like Diglidonny and Ránshāo De Gǒu Shǐ. Some are bad words in other languages. Others are random syllables I put together. I go back to my names list and cringe 99% of the time, only able to pull out the occasional winner.


NAMESTORMING

Pronounceable: If they aren't easy to pronounce, then readers will abbreviate them in their head as they read. For  readers like me that listen to the words in my head (I can't speed read), cumbersome names are awful.

Unique: If the names are too common, they are often easily forgotten. Worse, they can carry vibes from people the reader knows.

Too weird: If a name is so weird that it distracts the reader, like a historical fiction book about Mr Hiccupotamus Toad, a reserved bookmaker.

Cheesy: Some names are too on the mark, like the murderer named Mr. Badd or the virgin named Virtue.

Culture: This is sometimes the hardest part for me. How do I name someone from another culture. In sci-fi, there is a lot more freedom, but in speculative fiction being authentic can be challenging. It takes research to avoid stereotypical names or names that aren't offensive.


THE 90/10 APPROACH

For me, it takes a ton of meh names to come up with a few that are stelar. For me, if about 90% of the names that I consider are unusable, and 9% are fine, then only 1% are great. Here are a few baddies that I liked:

  • Dǎ: Evil (Chinese for fight or beat)
  • Scarn: Ogre (Ugly sounding)
  • Grell: A D&D barbarian
  • Tollere: Life-draining SOB (Latin)


FOLLOWER-SUGGESTED NAMES

If you have names you'd like to see in a story, please suggest them on my Twitter or Facebook page. Here are a few followers' suggestions for my next book(s) for goodies and baddies. I'll try to work in as many as I can.

  • Athena of Antronex (Fantasy)
  • Thurston Hammerstock (Fantasy)
  • Brighton Anneborne (Historical)
  • Dustina Strikov (Russian)
  • Razor Longshanks (Western)
  • Roger Grudge (Graphic Novel)
  • Quinly Black (All)
  • Hammerstorm (Fantasy)
  • Hector (Thriller)
  • Chas 'Runner' Pendegast (Not sure)


RESOURCES (NOT SPONSORED)

There are several books that might help you. Books of baby names abound. Even better, online lists of baby names are out there, ready for you to devour. If you're the kind of person who likes physical lists in real books, I'd check out 100,000 Baby Names.

If you want general information, check out How to Name Your Fictional Characters. They provide a wide range of useful tips.

Online searches are perhaps the most useful tools for me. The Bump allows you to pick based on gender, starting letters, syllables, style, and where the name is from.

BE IN MY NOVELS

If you suggest a name, it may end up in my next novel. Or ask to have your name in a novel and it just might happen. You can contact me through my contacts page, Twitter, or Facebook. While you're there, don't forget to follow or like.

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J.F. Lawrence | Jesse Lawrence
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