When I started writing A Marked Past, I knew I wanted to write a young adult novel about a young girl living in Salem Massachusetts; but I wasn’t sure who would actually tell my story. Who would walk through the streets of Salem? Who would possess the magic that my storyline needed?
My main character’s physical attributes came from old photos of my grandmother as a young girl. Her dark hair, fair skin, and bright blue eyes inspired me to create a character with the same features. Her name however, came from the last place you might expect, from team members at my day job. I was working as a corporate consultant, and while chatting with a coworker I heard the name Lyla. It’s what he wants to name his first daughter, “It means night,” he said. My mind began to wander, a name meaning night, it was the perfect name for a young witch. The family name Mercer also came from a coworker; it’s Melissa’s last name at the office.
Next I had to create a series of characters that matched the history and ethnicity of the families in town. Most of them are Irish so I made a list of names I liked and looked up the meanings. But some of the names carried a bit more weight with me, and so I delved into researching the origins and meanings of certain character’s names.
Hana is one that I took the most care with besides Lyla. She has a brooding spirit, quiet intelligence, and an undying dedication to her family, so she needed a substantial name. Mohana is the one I picked for her; it means bewitching, and shortened to Hana it’s still modern enough for current day readers.
Next came Hana’s older sister, Sage. She has experienced tremendous loss, must learn to overcome their differences and is ultimately responsible for to fighting to save her family. Her name may seem cliché, but she holds the family’s wisdom, is gentle, and kind. These characters may not be real, but I hope that they come to life on the pages of my book. And I hope that I chose well when searching for their names. Some of the characters are named after people that I love (Leah) some are variations of cats that intrigue me (Henry), and some were just born on the pages of A Marked Past (Birdie).
For all the writers out there, chose your character’s names based on a feeling. It may sound normal to you (Veranda) but no one else, but if it works, then keep it. After all, I was completely obsessed with Hermione for years and I’d never heard of her name before picking up Harry Potter.