Who else has trouble coming up with names for their characters? Especially in fantasy? There’s a fine line in fantasy between two ordinary into ridiculous. It is possible to toe the line of ridiculous if you have a well thought out system of rules — if there’s a common naming scheme within your story so that if you have a name with three vowels in a row or something it both doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb and pronunciation is explainable and not a complete mystery.
I am not good at this. (Do most of my posts this month include this statement? Oops.) But what I do have is the post apocalyptic world of my WIP novel, Growing Magic, that still has ties to old names that we would find familiar. So I wanted at least the last names to be different, and let that thought percolate in the back of my brain for a while.
An answer emerged while I was thinking about the issue of married names versus maiden names. When women get married they face this question, and recently I read some articles on what happens when men are asked whether they would change their name after marriage. A lot of the responses were both amusingly predictable and kind of depressing… Most had never thought about it, most would not consider it and felt insulted to be asked (not that they wouldn’t have asked a woman that question though), and the ones who might change their name generally say that they would hyphenate it so they still have THEIR name in there. After some thought, what I came up with is a much more living system of nomenclature. It’s simple: from your birth parents you inherit one syllable each, the first from the maternal side and the second from the paternal side. That’s your last name. Adopted or surrogate children can add more syllables from other parents in between those primary ones. (… And it just now occurred to me that I need to change him one of my main character’s last name.) You choose your own family name by selecting which particular syllables you want, once you’re old enough to communicate and can be considered separately from your primary caregivers. You can also announce your own preferred gender identity at this time too, no one decides either of those things for you and you have complete ownership over your own identity. Last name doesn’t indicate inheritance so much as lineage. These are small communities where, if you don’t know everyone personally, you at least know most of them by name and can recognize the rest by their family connections.
Except for one area that is still very rigidly patriarchal and still in here it’s names from their fathers only.
So that’s my novel’s last name figured out. First names remain a somewhat open question.