My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Character Name Hunt

I’ve been actively hunting for names for the characters in LotS (ha, I love the shortened version of my book’s title :P). I’m one of those writers that has to find names that are symbolic for the characters, too, so it makes it even harder than just searching for names.

Oh, and the names are Japanese, so the hunting has been even harder. It’s not like searching for a name in English where despite the spelling, it generally means the same thing. For example, in English,  my sister’s name, Caitlynn, can be spelled many different ways: Caitlyn, Caitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlin, Katelyn etc. But the variants are all based off the Irish or Welsh version of Catherine, which means “pure.”

 However, from what I’ve found, Japanese names may sound and be spelled the same in English, but it could be totally different Japanese, depending on what kanji is used in the spelling of the name.

For example, one of the names I’m considering for my MC:

Spelled “Miyuki” in English. However, it can mean anything from “beautiful snow” with the kanji 美幸 to “deep snow” with the kanji 深雪, to “beautiful fortune” or “beautiful happiness” with the kanji 美幸. That’s not counting the hiragana and katakana spellings. And even these may be wrong; I can’t read Japanese so these characters can be completely off.

Anyway, I’ve decided to try and not focus too much on the techinical aspects and just focus on the English spellings, at least for now.

Here are some of the possibilities for my MC, the legendary Yuki-onna. I’m giving her a human name, for much of the book she’s going to be human:

Chiyoko (child of a thousand generations, child of forever). This one could be interesting since she spands at least three centuries.
Kasumi (mist) I like the way this one sounds, but mist is appropriate in some ways because as the Yuki-onna, she’s not made of much more than that.
Mayumi (beauty, wonderful). Just because I like the name 🙂 And the fact that as a human, she’s renown for her beauty.
Miyuki–silence of deep snow/beautiful snow/deep snow . This one is fairly obvious; I’m leaning towards this one the most because of the “snow” aspect, and it’s more elegent than just plain Yuki.
I’m also in the process of picking out names for the minor characters, but I’m not as concerned about the meanings for them. The only one that’s close to certain will be her husband Minokichi, whose name is taken directly from the myth in Hearn’s Kwaiden, which I’m using as inspiration for the second half of my novel. Even then, I’m not 100% certain on keeping the name, but we’ll see.

Do you put a lot of work into finding the perfect names for your characters? How do you go about it? If your characters are set in a different culture, how do you overcome the hurdles of the language barrier?

As always, I love to read your comments! And I don’t mind hearing any constructive criticism on the names I’ve chosen here, too 🙂

Comments on: "Character Name Hunt" (5)

  1. Well, I can’t leave any criticism ’cause I know nothing about Japanese. LOL But I think you should maybe take a class? I bet you’d love it.

    All of these names sound beautiful. I don’t think too hard about my names lately. In my historical I picked names with meanings, but otherwise I try to stay away from names of people I know, that way if I get published friends don’t think I’m talking about a certain person. LOL

  2. Caitlynn said:

    Is this the name she’s always had? That is, the one that her parents would’ve given her?

    I think I like Mayumi and Miyuki best; the first two are nice, but these seem the most fitting. You know more about Japanese culture than I do, especially from a historical aspect, so correct me if I’m wrong…but didn’t they sometimes purposefully choose a name for its meaning? That being the case, Mayumi seems like a reasonable choice. Miyuki also seems fitting, though probably more from a writer’s standpoint than anything else; however, if you go with the “beautiful snow” one, I suppose even that seems like a likely name to choose.

    Eh…but I’m just rambling. What do I know? 😛

    As for finding names for characters — YES, I do tend to put a lot of effort into finding the perfect name, though I’m unlikely to change it once I do find it. It’s such a pain, though, especially when I’m writing fantasy, because I have to choose fitting names that people can actually pronounce and remember (I imagine you come across that difficulty as well). That’s also probably why I sometimes have the problem of not adding enough characters, or trying to find ways to avoid naming people…hehe.

    • Mayumi and Miyuki are the names I’m the most drawn too as well. And you’re correct: name meanings are VERY important (or at least were historically) in Japanese culture.

      I like Mayumi for the reasons stated in the post but I also thought Miyuki would be good if she was also born in the winter. Meh, I suppose I have a bit more thinking to do on it…

  3. Yes and with a Chinese setting, I had the exact same problems you’re facing. My most important suggestion is, for the sake of your western readers, try to find a name that’s similar to a western name. That way, we can always convert the name in our head and it makes reading easier. Since most of what you discuss and describe will be unusual or even unique to westerners, try to make names simple. I think any or all of your names for Yuki-onna are fine, (my favs are Kasumi and Mayumi), but I’m concerned about her husband’s name as it’s a mouthful for a western reader. Can she give him a nickname that’s easier to pronounce? Just a thought.

    • No problem. If I decide to use that name, I’ll have him named Mino or something. But chances are I’ll look for another name. I wasn’t too fond of it anyway!

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