Nov 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

I know many of us have spent hours/days/weeks—probably months!—choosing a beautiful name for our beautiful children. And why wouldn’t we? That child is going to wear his/her name for life (unless changed by deed poll, but unlikely).

The same can be said for authors who choose names for the characters in our books. Our heroes and heroines are stuck with their names for good, whether they (because our characters become real enough to have an opinon...right?) or the readers like it or not. Which begs the question—does a character’s name affect how a reader feels about the story, affect sales, even...?

Behind every name is a meaning. Example, Melissa means Honey Bee—I guess I could say I’m a great team worker, but still, a tad boring in my very ah, humble opinion! If I shorten that name to Mel (female) the meaning is quite a bit better, because suddenly I’m Dark Beauty. Sweet! It’s just what would suit any one of my characters!

I gave my own three girls, unisex names, (not deliberately, just names I loved) which I guess means I also gave them strong names, though the meanings behind them might suggest otherwise. Teagan = little poet. Shannon = wise one/old. Codi = helpful or cushion.

I wrote a list a while back with all my characters names, and realized on the whole I gave them strong and little used names. I like my heroes and heroines to be a little bit different, so I guess I try to give a title to suit.

Here is my list (a couple yet to be published/finished—I really want to get back to my first ms ‘Shadow Hunter’ and do some rewrites!)

Can you see any other themes to the names I’ve chosen for my characters?

Loretta and Cray

Celeste and Pascal (Yves)

Holly and Ricky

Kallie and Seth

Kia and Ronan

Lillian, Dar, Ezra and Maddox

Marina and James

Alexia and Blake

Elyse and Dane

Kyra and Altair


  1. I have about 6 baby name books on my resource shelf (makes for interesting conversation when someone doesn't make the connection between author & character's names).

    I like checking out meanings but usually end up bastardising and combining parts of names to form one. Sometime, but rarely, do I keep the original.

  2. Kylie, great idea!
    Sometimes I flick through baby lists, other times the names just happens without any fuss =)

  3. Hi Mel (or should I say Dark Beauty!)

    I often check out the baby name websites for character name ideas but most times I just "know" the name (if that makes any sense).

    A character's name can sometimes put me off when I'm reading but if I love the story and the character, by the end the name has usually grown on me.

    Btw, I'm busy searching for boys names since I found out I'm expecting a little boy!! Of course I had a girl's name picked out but no boy's name hubby and I can agree on 100%!!

  4. Hi Anna!!
    ***CONGRATS*** on you and your hubby having a little boy!!!!!!!!!!!
    I know you'll find the perfect name =)
    And like you, mostly I just know the name of my characters - thankfully!

  5. Mel, I spend ages going through baby name books too - the name has to be just right. =)

    Anna - it's a boy!! Congratulations!! And I'm sure you'll find the perfect name since you've had so much experience choosing character names. :)

  6. Oh, yes, baby name books! I spend ages looking through them, too -- great resource for a writer!

    For me, there are some names that just don't work for heroes or heroines, for example, I simply cannot visualise a hero called George (no offense intended to any Georges out there). I once read a book by Suzanne Brockmann where the hero was a George and I really struggled in the beginning with his name. (For some reason it makes me think of thick flannel pajamas and fussy ties and comb-overs.) But Brockmann's writing was so great that by halfway through the book, I thought George was quite a heroic name after all!

  7. Ah, there's a thought, Emily - the anti-hero/heroine names. I confess I'm not sure about Nigel or Maud. However, I always thought of Henrys in the same way you think of Georges until I read Time Traveler's Wife....Audrey did a great job in converting me.

    Anna - how exciting. You'll have to keep us posted now re names.

  8. Mel, I've got baby name books too. And I use some of the on-line lists too - especially where they tell you the popular names for a certain year. Just means that I'm less likely to make a real clanger by naming a character something inappropriate for their age. I find the lists really interesting to read and to see how they change decade to decade... er, but I wonder if that isn't a bit of a procrastination tool as well! ;)

    Anna, how exciting to have found out your baby's a little boy - gives you a head start to choose that perfect name! Murphy's Law, I guess, that you and your hubby had a girl's name agreed on but that you're still working on a boy's name since that's what you're having! I'm sure you'll come up with something you both love! Anyway, congratulations!


  9. Mel, you have a great list of names there. Oh dear, is this where I confess how utterly lazy I am and tell you that as often as possible I like to use three or four letter names because it means fewer keystrokes per manuscript (I've had a Sol, Kent, Kate, Jaz, Liam, Luke, Kit and Alex... and believe me, there's more in reserve).

    Ooh, a boy -- congratulations, Anna!

  10. Rachel,
    I could imagine you trawling the baby name books, our characters are very important to us! =)

  11. Emily,
    I can't imagine using George as a hero. I don't know, I guess it comes down to all the George people I've known before LOL!!

  12. Zana,
    I've yet to read Time Traveller's Wife, just another one on the list!
    Maud doesn't really do it for me either, or Henry...or Nigel BWG!

  13. Sharon,
    procrastination is my middle name! LOL. Guess it's lucky we don't write hisoricals =)

  14. Michelle - oh LOL!!! Having short names to save keystrokes/time - is something that hasn't ever crossed my mind! I'm guessing your time is very very precious =)