I feel a lot of pressure when naming things. In the early stages of writing, I tend to change names quite a bit until they really ‘take root’. Characters are particularly bad; if I make a mistake, I’ll have to write this character’s name for another 100,000 words. What if it doesn’t suit them? What if it just sounds silly?
Thankfully, Kael and Alessia (from Parasites) seemed to ‘fit’ quite nicely. Alhambro sounds suitably respectable (and vaguely piratical) and Basteel is such a solid-sounding name that I was happy with it straightaway. I generally felt that the Lyrans were a pretty straightforward people, so that (in general) shorter names were pretty practical. There aren’t a lot of them left, so why bother with long, flowery names (none of them have middle names, for example).
I initially had a few issues with naming the characters in Wild Court – more on this closer to release. I find places a bit easier and take inspiration from a lot of different sources; the logic-defying space station in Parasites, Carthusian, is from the wonderfully named Carthusian Street near the Barbican in London (and does originally refer to a religious order, rather fittingly).
The ‘dull’ planet names in Parasites were something of a relief to me – it’s terribly convenient that the explorers of Lyra chose such boring labels! But again, they work and make sense to me and perhaps more importantly, to the wider plot of a very logical, time-poor people.
I guess all writers have hang-ups; I’ve always found the first paragraph of anything the hardest, so will sometimes skip it, write the second onwards and take the pressure off (and then come back to write it once I’m in the flow). It sounds bizarre, but sometimes that first paragraph just gets stuck in your head and doesn’t quite want to come out!