On The Bench

Playing the name game — which one do you like?

authors and character names

Naming a new character is sometimes as difficult as naming a new baby. What character’s name have you realized a few books into a series just doesn’t fit, but it’s too late to make a change?
  • Terry Ambrose:

    I actually don’t stress out over names of secondary characters, which includes the suspects. For them, I use a random name generator. It’s easy enough to change those names as the book goes through draft after draft, but by the end I’m almost always satisfied. By the way, thank goodness my mother had the presence of mind to tell my father he could not name me Tex!

  • Nancy J. Cohen:

    My names usually suit the character. I have more of a problem with starting too many names with the same first letter. I’ll forget about the recurrent characters when I’m devising my suspect list and then all of a sudden, I’ll have three names starting with a “D.”

  • Debra H. Goldstein:

    In my Sarah Blair series, a recurring nemesis is named “Jane.” In retrospect, I wish I’d given her a more sexy name – one that conjured up something other than plain Jane in one’s mind.

  • Cheryl Hollon:

    Thank goodness, it’s not too late. I’m working on a proposal for a new series about a woman photographer who was a forensic specialist. I named her Juliana and proceeded to write about ten chapters. It just wasn’t working. Dialogue was stiff. I was having difficulty connecting with her, so readers wouldn’t either. I changed her name to Christie and magically found her voice, her sassiness, and vulnerabilities. The right name for a character is EVERYTHING!

  • Diane A.S. Stuckart:

    In my Black Cat Bookshop mysteries written as Ali Brandon, my protagonist’s buddy is ex-cop Jacqueline “Jake” Martelli. I made a point of mentioning her extreme Italian heritage; however, it wasn’t until after the third book that my editor pointed out that technically the letter “J” wasn’t part of the Italian alphabet. And so Jake would more appropriately be named something like Giacoma. After doing a fair imitation of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” I then did a bit of brainstorming. Next book, I had my protagonist, Darla, wonder where Jake’s decidedly non-Italian name had come from, only to have her friend reveal that her grandmother was of French ancestry and Jake was named after her. Problem solved.

  • Maggie Toussaint:

    My books are character-driven, so I spend a good deal of upfront time figuring out who they are. However, one thing that my critique partner helped me with recently was realizing that the sisters in my new series are not merely siblings but fraternal twins. That knowledge suddenly made things that had seemed too-knowing make perfect sense. Luckily this was in the first draft of writing the book, so I edited that nugget into the story world.

  • Lois Winston

    I’m not sure I’d want to change any character’s name. I spend considerable time figuring out the perfect name for each of the characters in my books. I may change a name several times as I’m writing the book, but once it’s finished, I’m happy with the names I’ve chosen.



2 thoughts on “Playing the name game — which one do you like?

  1. Actually, I’m perfectly happy with my name which is Virginia Ann Perkins Healy. I never use the Ann, but usually use Virginia Perkins Healy. My mother wanted to name me Linda after my great grandmother, but my father disliked the name because of someone he knew. My mother’s middle name was Virginia and everyone know her as Ginny. She never used her first name which was Olive, but would sign as O. Virginia.

  2. My pet peeve is when authors use too many similar names, such as Charity, Charles, Channing, Chastity. One book had over twenty “C” names or places. I had to keep a scorecard!

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