AMA Q5: How do you come up with the names for your characters?

(As a reminder, this is a question I received in my first blog-style Ask Me Anything.)

John Knight asks, “How do you come up with the names for your characters, especially the ones in The Alien Element?”

Names are powerful. It’s not uncommon for me to go through three or four names for a character.

Amon, Eliana, and Reuben from the Translocator Trilogy each went through a name change in the first draft of The Auriga Project.

As for the names in The Alien Element, the unique names for the Mayan characters were either made up based on Yucatec Maya phonemes (and my imagination), taken straight from mythology, or borrowed from the many, many websites that came up when I Googled “Mayan baby names.”

Ixchel, for instance, is the name of the Maya goddess of midwifery and medicine. This name really fits her character and role in the books.

Maatiaak was cribbed from a website, or maybe made up. The soft “aa” sound is typical of the Yucatec Maya dialect, and it seemed to fit.

Dambu and Rakulo and even the name of the village, Kakul, were all invented. But again they use variations of Maya phonemes.

Uchben Na in Yucatec Maya actually means, “Ancient Mother,” as I wrote in the book. I try to be very careful with the names and mythology I put in my books, and put as much realism into it as I can.

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