My assignment was to memorize the names of the stars.”

“Which stars?”

“All of them.”

“You mean all the stars, in all the galaxies?”

“Yes. If he calls for one of them, someone has to know which one he means. Anyhow, they like it; there aren’t many who know them all by name, and if your name isn’t known, then it’s a very lonely feeling.”

-A conversation between Meg and Proginoskes in A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L’Engle

I wonder if my characters feel lonely until I’ve named them? How patient the characters must be whose names I keep changing! Sometimes I forget how much they depend on me, for everything.

Proginoskes and Meg are both Namers. Here’s something else Proginoskes says: “When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job.”

Here’s a FAQ about Fire. (In case you’re completely spoiler-phobic: since I’m talking about the reasons for characters’ names, I do refer to the general natures of some of my characters. Proceed at your own peril!)

How did you come up with the names in Fire?
Hm. Well, ever since rereading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, I’ve wanted to name a tall, handsome man Archer. I think Archer may have grown from his name, actually; his name (which is a nickname) is how I realized he was so good at archery. My sister, secret codename: Cordelia, has always despised the name Nash for various reasons, but I’ve always kind of liked it, so I decided to reclaim it and prove to her that it was worthwhile. Nax seemed like the perfect variation for Nash’s no good father. Cansrel… a dear aunt was dying of cancer around the time I started writing Fire. The similarity between the two words is not a coincidence.

Musa was a dancer on So You Think You Can Dance whose name I liked. Mila was my dear friends’ dog. Larch converted well to the thing I needed it to convert to ;). Brocker, Roen, Tess, Gentian, Neel — they just felt right. Mydogg and Murgda… well, don’t they just sound unpleasant? The horses… again, the names just felt right.

Clara, Garan, Hanna, and Brigan. I loved the way these names sounded when extended to their full royal titles: Claradell, Garandell, Hannadell, Brigandell. I particularly liked the way Claradell sounded like Clarabelle, but wasn’t, and the way Hannadell sounded like Annabel, but wasn’t. And Brigan’s name was always Brigan (just like Archer’s was always Archer’s), because it sounds like brigand, and that’s how I thought of him in his early appearances in the book.

I don’t remember thinking up Fire‘s name. I think I must have always known it.

Here’s a question for YOU: Do you like your own name? What would you name yourself if you could choose?

(To hear me and other authors talking about our own names, go here. ^_^)

(Oh! And to see me, Suzanne Collins, Justine Larbalestier, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and Michael Grant, go to Books of Wonder tomorrow, November 10, from 6-8pm, at 18 West 18th Street in Manhattan!)