#IWSG March: The importance of names!

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to share our hopes, dreams and fears with the Insecure Writers Support Group, the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and this month’s hosts are; Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

Do stop by and say hello to them!

This month I’m going to talk about names.

How do you name your characters? Do you spend hours flicking through baby name books, or do you, like me, pluck one from the ether, examine it from all (or at least a few) angles and decide, ‘yes, we’ll use that one.’

Recently I discovered that I might need to rename a character. I was (and still am) very attached to the name. Being fantasy, it’s not a real name but a word I came up with and liked the sound of. It originally belonged to a different character, but I liked it so much I swapped and gave it to my male lead. He’s had it for at least two years and it fits him.

But last week I came across this word (that I thought I’d made up) in a book. ‘Oh my god, it’s a real word!’ I exclaimed. ‘I’d better check what it means.’



The word? Ambergris.

The meaning? Whale vomit.

Can it get much worse? ‘Oh hey, this is my hero. He’s called… whale vomit…’

“Ambergris, or ‘grey amber’ is a waxy substance that originates as a secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale, and is used in perfume manufacture.”

‘Grey amber’ sounds ok, and apparently it’s meant to be pretty valuable. I’m not quite as down in the dumps as I was a couple of days ago about it (look, people can get attached to names, ok?), because I discussed it with my writing group and they’ve mostly convinced me that I can still go with it. He – my character – comes from a merchant family, so I guess I could work it into backstory… maybe his brothers and sisters could have similarly odd names… or the result of some unfortunate family tradition..?

Anyhow, I shall continue to mull this over, and perhaps in future I’ll google the random words I come up with, just to be on the safe side.

Do you have any naming incidents to share (and make me feel better ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) or experience with whale vomit..?



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11 Responses to #IWSG March: The importance of names!

  1. I love the name Ambergris even if it does mean whale vomit ๐Ÿ™‚ I really struggle with coming up with names. Love the sites with baby names – they’re a big help when I’m stuck.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J.S. Pailly says:

    My advice would be keep the name but acknowledge the whale vomit thing somehow. Maybe there’s a funny story to be told about how Ambergris found out what his name means. Maybe his parent’s didn’t know.

    If you really feel like changing the character’s name is the best option, do what you feel is right, of course. But I think you may have an opportunity here to add something to your character’s backstory.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I laughed out loud at that! Crap, remind me never to look up the meanings of any of my made up names. Hope you find another good one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. patgarcia says:

    I have to admit that I don’t name my characters right away. I usually choose which country I want to come from and then plot out what I want to see happen. While plotting the name comes. How you’re going to settle your own problem, I don’t have an ideas so I’m not going to offer any. However, I hope you find the solution about the names that is right for you.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Margaretha says:

    I don’t know if this will help but Ambergris is also the name of an island, as in Ambergris Caye and it’s the name of at least one famous perfume, as in AmbreGris Balmain (note the spelling)…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my that is too funny! I don’t think anyone will really mind your hero’s name, and they probably won’t look up the meaning, unless you want them to! The closest I can get to that with a name story is the name of one of the characters in an historical fiction novel of mine, and I had to go with the name because it’s historical, right? He really existed. The way I got around it was to give him another “nickname” and use it instead. In real life his name was Poenius Postumus, which sounds like ” dead you-know-what” LOL! I couldn’t call him that throughout the book, so I gave him the name Galen, the name of a famous doctor from the time. So his full name was Galen Poenius Postumus and I only had to use it once or twice, thank goodness! Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. emaginette says:

    I seek out a name generator and occasionally put two together when I’m feeling adventurous. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Juneta says:

    I tend to go with what feels right. Sometimes I try different names and look up meanings. Or start with a meaning. Or I read or hear one I love. I have file I put those names in so I can remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Loni Townsend says:

    Dude, I say stick with the name and have the character totally own it.

    Side Character: “Ambergris? What an interesting name!”
    Ambergris: “Why yes. It means Gray Amber, and I am told it is extremely valuable… like myself.” *wink*
    Side Character: “I thought it meant whale vomit?”
    Ambergris: “Speaking of vomit, I should really expunge myself from this situation.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    I laughed out loud at “Ambergris” as a name for your male lead, Angela. I come from an Atlantic Provinces background, so I have known this word much of my life. I like the idea of your potential workaround for your name problem. I bet you could come up with a great background story! Have a good one!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. helenmatheyhornbooks says:

    I think Ambergris is a great name, which most people will not even know is a ‘thing’. However readers not being most people and having a wider vocabulary I can see how it might be a problem. But then think about working the ‘vomit but valuable’ idea in to your story. Someone who people don’t even notice, but is crucial to the society. Kind of like garbage men and such. People don’t necessarily want to associate with them, but without them….

    Liked by 1 person

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