Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Lesson of the Day: Renaming

I finished up a big round of revisions on my YA urban fantasy, which I'm jokingly calling a YA suburban fantasy since there's nothing urban about this fictional coastal so-Cal town. And the big lesson I learned yesterday while I combed through all 272 pages of my book trying to make it sparkle?

Lesson Number 2: Rename boring things. 

Politicians do this all the time with great results! Didn't like the Higher Taxes bill? That's okay! They changed the name to Mutual Sacrifice for the Greater Good. Not really, but you get my point. Names matter.

When I first started writing this YA urban fantasy, I had a body of people called The Council. Original, right? And I had bad guys show up who needed a name, so let's see... hmm, they use an athame, so let's call them Vanquishers in honor of the Charmed Ones. 

You see my problem. 

At some point I gave the Council a slightly more specific name: Kenzian Council. The name comes from the name MacKenzie, which means 'son of the wise one.' I wanted the Council to be sort of omniscient, but only when they all focus on the same thing at the same time. I picked a name I felt embodied that, and something I haven't seen used before. 

But the bad guys remained the Vanquishers for 270 pages or so. Only yesterday did I pull up this handy-dandy tool to change the rather cliché 'Vanquishers' to 'Rialú.' My bad guys originate from an Irish clan in the early seventeenth century, and they're obsessed with a war for control. Rialú is Irish for 'control.'

While I was searching for important meanings, I came across some names other authors have used, like 'Imperio' in JK Rowling's Harry Potter. It's fun coming up with new or different ways to express a concept, and it certainly changed the overall feel of my manuscript once those two major group players had the right names.

Does your book have an association, guild, council, rebellion, or government that needs naming? Go wild!

Now move on to Lesson Number 3

If you missed the first lesson, check it out here: Lesson Number 1

p.s. Author Anne Riley reviewed GIRL WONDER by Alexa Martin over at Afterglow Book Reviews. Cover. love!


  1. Nice! I have great respect for those who come up with awesome names for their characters and stories! I have never really been good at naming people or objects in my stories. And, I have to admit, Rialu makes the bad guys in your story sound very interesting :D

  2. I don't have a group of people, per say, to rename, but one of my main character's name was so plane it just felt wrong. I love babyname.com. My character was English born. I loved the fact that I could find an English last name to fit him and felt so much better. I want to check out this link you have here!

  3. I do love coming up with different names for things. But you already knew this. LOL.

  4. I had to come up with a name for my humans descended from elementals, other than purebloods, as well as a name for the "headquarters" of the elementals, which is the resurrection of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I may go through and look for another name for The Gardens--something more ancient sounding--and for now I've settled on "pedigrees" for the descendants. I figure I can change it once I'm done writing it. :D

    I really like Rialu for your bad guys. It sounds ominous...


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