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The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0898796322
ISBN-10: 0898796326
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About the Author

Sherilyn Kenyon is a bestselling author. Along with her work in fiction, she also contributed to The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference, both published by Writer's Digest Books. Her work has appeared in dozens of magazines and journals worldwide. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; 1st edition (February 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898796326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898796322
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,758,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stefan Högberg on March 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook" is useful for some writing, but it also includes grave errors that may turn your story into unintentional comedy. I'll get to that in a moment; first, let me say that I liked Blythe and Sweet's essay on naming strategies, even though they make a few weird statements in it (a fictional town called Leslie might indeed seem isolated and cut off because Leslie means "from the gray fortress," but only if the reader already knows this). Names are important in a story, and the strategies have been useful to me.
The lists of names from different cultures also seemed good at first, while I was still browsing through cultures I don't know a thing about. Then came the lists dealing with my own culture, that of Sweden, and my enthusiasm died. A quick summary:
1) Kenyon has confused male and female names. Under Female, we find the quite masculine Adrian, Lage, Svante and a few others. The female names Bodil and Valborg turn up under Male.
2) Many of the names haven't been common for about a thousand years (Saxe, Alrik), are extremely rare (Guda), or simply aren't Swedish at all (Quenby).
3) The dots and rings are missing. It might seem overly picky to complain about something like that, but an A with a ring over it isn't just some kind of modified A--it's a whole other letter. Personally, when I'm studying names from a foreign culture that uses the Latin alphabet, I want the original spelling rather than an anglified version of it.
There are other things to complain about, but I'll stop there--obviously, using these lists to find names for Swedish characters may not give you the result that you want, and Swedes may end up laughing at your story.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is not just for writers, but for researches or anyone who wants to know the history and meaning behind a name; their own name or that of a child soon to be born.
Beginning with The Importance of a Name you discover ways to make people care about the person simply by choosing a name. Next is the importance of Characternyms, or what does the name impart? One of the examples is Magnum from the Hawaii based TV series starring Tom Selleck. Magnum is not only a wine bottle that holds twice as much as a normal liter, but it is also a very powerful bullet. We are presented with a hero that is "bigger than life" but who also is effervescent, strong, and brings the ring of sex appeal that champagne, laughter and a stunning force carry with them. It was a masterful name selection.
There are names by genre, gender, country (including illusive Native American, Latin, Greek, Russian and more) as well as notes in how to use the names to create the right impression: for example "...the Norman invasion in 1066...English were referred to by occupation...Aiken the Miller or Aisley of York."
Character Naming Source Book is filled with gems and is far more than a general account about names. For example Victoria (my name) is Latin and means triumphant. Feminine derivatives are also Viktoria (Hungarian-victorious, Swedish-victory) Vittoria (Spanish-victor), Victrix, Vincentia, Victrixa; in Scottish Vika is "from the creek" and Torra is "from the castle." It would appear that I am a triumphant female from the castle by the creek. This is only a small sample of the wealth within these pages.
Without doubt this is one of most complete histories of names that I have ever read, and I have about five books just on naming. I recommend this book unequivocally.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has been writing for some time knows just how difficult it is to come up with meaningful character names. Yet having a meaningful name, one relevant to the story, is as integral a part of the plotting process as the actual outline itself. Naming a character who is a free-spirit Todd is just wrong; it reflects nothing but laziness on the part of the writer. Francis, which actually means free, is a much better alternative, and matches almost perfectly.

Another thing this book is good for is for fantasy writing. How many of you have a read a fantasy story and found the names of characters so strange that it could only have been made up? This book actually tells us to use established names and warp them or combine them to give more suitable fantasy names.

This book also has a huge selection of nationalities, from African to Welsh, and everything between, including dead languages such as Latin, as well as Asian nationalities like Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. It provides male and female names as well as their meanings, along with common family names.

Though The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook obviously isn't meant for every writer, it's definitely an important book for fiction writers. It helps to legitimize a story's plot or theme by providing meaningful names, and also shows that a writer is willing to do some research in order to succeed in his or her writing. So, if you you're a genre writer, I'd highly recommend this book, and put the phone book back where it should be: next to your phone.
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