Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Character Names...

You think naming characters is easy? Let me tell you it is far from easy. First off, I try to avoid using the first names of living family members. I have 16 brothers/sisters/inlaws; I have a grandfather, my inlaws, parents, and 21 nieces/nephews, 2 great nieces/nephews, and my own nuclear (certainly explosive) family.

You want to use names that evoke the type of character you're writing. Larry Dropbottom wouldn't fit a romance hero. There's more latitude with female character names, but again you want the name and personality to mesh. I also need names that don't make me cringe. No Randys or Mirandas or Blairs (apologies to people with those names--it's not you, it's me). It sounds easy to name a few fictional people. I mean writers do it all the time, right?

So, I'm working on a story. I decided to write a trilogy about 3 cop brothers of Irish descent.
I started with the name Cal and then because my heroine assumes a new identity I go with Tori (short for Victoria, her mother's name) who changes it to Rhea (VictoRHEA) in witness protection. And then I remembered that Cal and Rhea (Rhea Torres) are both characters in LIE TO ME (bangs head on desk). So. Scratch Rhea. I picked Reece Butler instead. And then I couldn't shake the fact that Cal isn't Irish, no matter how I twist it, so I changed that to Declan. But now I discovered Reece Butler is the name of a romance author I'd never heard of (too weird) and so I changed it to Reece Bamford (because I saw James Bamford's book on the NSA on my shelves, not because of the family friends...see, see!!).

Ugh. Then we had secondary characters. I had a dirty (or is he?) cop called Marty, but then in one particular scene I have two other secondary characters called Markov and Martini!!!!  Three MAR sounds in one scene--confused readers anyone????  (Rips out hair). So I changed Marty to Harry.

My baddy was called Alexi, but I hate that. I've tried calling him Lex but it isn't doing it for me either. So he needs a new name (for the love of God this should be easier than this!). And on top of these considerations I have the future books planned and need the names I pick now to work with the projected future cast of characters. 

All this for books that might never be sold....


  1. LOL - I feel your pain. I find names challenging too, because I need the perfect name before I start writing.

    I often scan the closing credits of movies and TV programs for names. SPAM male is often good for villain names. The phone book is also great inspiration, especially for regional/country surnames.

    Good luck with your Irish characters :)

  2. Wow, Toni, you really do have an issue with all of those family names you're trying to avoid! But you've always loved a challenge-which is what makes you an awesome writer! :-) Too funny about Reece Butler. And Shelley, I love your idea about scanning movie credits!