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WISH 55: Name a little

WISH 55 asks about names:

How do you choose character names? What makes a good or bad name for a character? What are three examples of really good (or really bad) character names, and why are they so good or bad?

I just kick names around until they feel right. I tend to use baby name books and sources often, thanks to Gretchen’s pernicious influence. I have an archived copy of the Onomastikon which has been very useful for culturally appropriate names. I don’t think my names are ever particularly stellar, but they work.

Examples. Um. I’m still fond of Paul/Emoticon. Paul made the fatal mistake of allowing American reporters to coin a superhero name for him, and as he’s French he didn’t realize how lame a name Emoticon was. (His power was projective empathy, which manifested as glyphs in the air in front of him.) He was always a little annoyed about that, although he refused to show it.

Daevros was a great character with a lousy name. What can I say? I’m not a Dr. Who fan, so I didn’t realize.

Oh, I guess I can admit to the source for Reese Beulay’s last name as my third example. I like David Bowie a lot, and I found the contrast between the song and the concept of backwoods redneck mystics to be amusing.


  1. As a gamer and student/practitioner/teacher of a communication process that is at least half about empathy, i am curious to hear more about Emoticon’s powers. Say more? What happens when he projects empathy?

    ObNaming, i ran one campaign with friends in Massachusetts with a map of Newton and Waltham but scaled up to thousands of miles. All place-names were based on actual place-names using every other letter (e.g. the continent was Nwo-Ata). The gods’ names were all based on my & the players’ names (e.g. Be). It amazed me how i could always find something pronounceable. (the Green Line became Genie –ugh — a magical transport)

  2. Well, to be more accurate, he projected emotions of his choice. So he could make you feel happy or sad or afraid of open places. The challenge was playing an ethical mentalist, which is a pretty difficult trick. How do you keep yourself honest?

    I later got into some fairly odd biofeedback stuff, based on the realization that he could make himself want to (say) exercise. He became fairly good at sort of self-tuning himself, a little like a version of the Focus trick from Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness In The Sky.

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