Name Those Characters! (and get mentioned in my book!)

When I committed myself last fall to completing five full-length novels over a nine-month period (on top of a more-than-full-time day job), I knew I was flirting with all kinds of disastrous things like burnout and sleep deprivation.

What I hadn’t thought about was a name crisis.

I think all authors get asked: How do you come up with your character names? I have a variety of methods, not counting historical figures such as Louis Armstrong and the pirate Jean Lafitte, who play themselves. (Hey, I write paranormals; we can do that kind of thing.)

·        The names come to me out of the blue with no rhyme or reason. I’m always grateful for those nice characters. Gillian Campbell, Gloriana Cummings, John Kennedy “Jack” Keller, Gerald St. Simon, and Nik Dimitrou are examples of “out of the blue” names that stuck.

·        The characters are named for friends or family members or omegaplaces. I was into family genealogy for a while, so I have a goldmine of family names on which to draw, even after I discard the Berthas, Idas and Busters. My pen name, Susannah Sandlin, is that of my gggg-grandmother. Drusilla Jane (DJ) Jaco is a mashup of two great-grandmothers, the Delachaise family is named after a street near my home in New Orleans, Will Ludlam is named after my best friend’s ggg grandfather, and then there’s the book Lovely, Dark, and Deep, in which most of the characters are named after my and my friends’ pets.

·        The names are deliberately chosen for meaning. I wanted a strong name for the stubborn, sexy Enforcer (think: supernatural assassin) in my elysian fieldsSentinels series, so I took the rare, for me, step of consulting a name dictionary, and it was from those pages that Alexander Warin was born. (Just to soften him up and give him a point for my heroine to make fun of, I gave him a nice Cajun name, Basile, as his middle name.) For my elves, I knew the four clans were of the elements earth, fire, water, and air, so I wanted names from nature. Quince, Mace Banyan, Betony, Vervain, and Lily came from that tact. In my most recent WIP, I needed some faery names that were exotic but not unpronounceable. So far, I have Sabine, Christof, and Florian.

So what was my name crisis? I had two lovely names for the hero and heroine of my new WIP—Julian and Charlie (short for Charlotte). I was happily working along when it occurred to me that maybe I’d used the name Julian before. This led to a two-day jaunt through my books to make a list of names I’d used before. To my horror, I had two Julians already and two Charlies—three, if you count the elven staff in the Sentinels series.

My characters are currently named “boy” and “girl.” This is not very inspiring.

I wish I could say this is the first name crisis I’ve had, but it isn’t. When I wrote Redemption, I got as far as final edits with my hero Galen Murphy and my heroine Beth…until my alpha reader (who has always hated the name Galen) showed me research to prove the name was not in use in Ireland at the time my 400-year-old vampire was born. One of my crit partners pointed out that Beth was Wrath’s partner in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. So Galen and Beth became Aidan and Krys.

Then there was my “M” phase a couple of years ago. Mirren, Mark, Matthias and Melissa all became major characters in the Penton series but it was only when I added Miranda and Marcus that I realized I’d gone M-nuts. So Miranda and Marcus became Randa and Cage.

Such is the life of an author, I guess, although I wonder if other authors have such issues. Now I’m off to find a name for “boy” and “girl.” Maybe I can find some names that start with M! (Or not.)

Got any good hero/heroine name suggestions? They’re both Americans. “Boy” is from Louisiana and about 33; “girl” is from Chicago, about 26. If I choose your names, you’ll get a mention in the book’s acknowledgment page!


17 thoughts on “Name Those Characters! (and get mentioned in my book!)

  1. I’ve always thought David was a strong male name. Also, there’s Lukus, For women, there’s Annessa (pronounced Ann-EEE-sa), Ariana, and Trinda.

  2. This chick needs a name = Sandy [Sandra] [Alexandra] [Cassandra]
    The guy = Sebastian [Seb]

  3. I usually pick names I like the sound of, or for a fantasy story I picked Roman names for the demons and jewish names for the humans.

    for your characters: Nicholas, Darius, Marek, Kane and Tamara, Oda, Haylan, Moira

  4. Thinking of names is horribly difficult. So far, I have only seen the name Aurian in one series (the one I took it from, my favourite at the time). I also like Ariane, Heather, Kimberly, Karen. For a man I like strong and short names, like Dave/David, Mike/Michael, Tom/Thomas, Duncan, Richard/Rick.
    But well, every name has been used time and again, so if you like Beth, use it. JR Ward was certainly not the first one to use her for a heroine.

  5. Male – Lawrence, Brett, Drew, David
    Female – Lauren, Kristin, Olivia, Sophia

  6. My pick for names would be Nathaniel (or Lathaniel) for “boy” and Christine or Amanda for “girl”

  7. I already left my list of names at the Lady Scribes blog, but I’m adding Andrei and Antoine for male names and Megan and Trish or Patricia for female names.

  8. i’ve already answered at ladysccribe and i must say that i didn’t think of more but i will add them as soon as ^possible if i do think of some more^^

  9. They may not all be American names, but I love them anyway. Valkari and Naudia, Jericho and Abigail, Liam and Monique, Mekael and Bryn.

  10. Thanks for the suggestions here and over at Lady Scribes this week! My staff retreat has ended so I should actually get back to some kind of normal (albeit way way behind with my work) schedule tomorrow. I’ll announce my character name decisions on Sunday!

  11. I’ve always loved the name Connor. Also, Sean, Daniel, Lucas, Parker, and Nathan.

    For girls, I’ve always been partial to the name Kairi but it might not sound very typical American. I’ve always liked Nicole, Marla, Nora, Tessa, and Paige as well.

  12. Men: Benoit, Vaughn, Hugo, Bishop, Niall, Auguste, Honore, Zacharie
    Women: Beatrice, Viola, Mira, Isabella, Sophie, Molly, Siobhan, Aislinn