For those of you who don’t know, the character’s original name was Merin. The change was a very hard decision because the history of Way of Kings goes back so far. I started writing about and working on Merin as a character in the year 2000, so he’d been around for almost a decade in my head as who he was.
A couple of things sparked the change. Number one, even though I’d never really been pleased with the name. I had been doggedly attached to it My alpha readers on the Way of Kings Prime said, “This sounds like a girl’s name.” I’m like, “Well…you know, sometimes in different cultures names sound like girls’ names. I’ve recently discovered that Bilbo and Frodo’s actual names are “Bilba” and “Froda”. Those are their actual names; that’s what they say in-world and in the appendices. Tolkien in one of his appendices said, “I English-ized them to make them sound more more masculine for the ‘translation’ of the Lord of the Rings books, but they would actually call themselves Bilba and Froda.” So, anyway, Merin sounded a little bit feminine, but still I dug in my heels.
Another consideration is that In Way of Kings Prime he makes a decision and in The Way of Kings I wanted to have him make the opposite decision. So, point number two was that I started to feel he’s changed so much as a person I can no longer think of him as the same character.
Point number three was that, after working on The Wheel of Time, having a character whose name sounded a lot like Perrin started to be problem to me. I felt I wanted the main character of this book to have a much stronger, perhaps a little more mythic name. I tried lots and lots of names before I eventually settled on “Kaladin”.
It’s a much better name. I’m very happy we did it, but we changed it on like the last draft, so it was very surprising to my editor and to my writing group when all of a sudden he changed to a different name.