From the ROYAL STREET files: Character Names

The process of naming characters is a funny thing. I’ve used baby name books; bursts of inspiration from nowhere; and the old standby, family names. When Royal Street was a work-in-progress and I had some different readers looking at it, I had a couple say: Can’t you name your character something else?

Well, there are times I wish I had, but somehow, once DJ had her name, it stuck.

So, meet the Royal Street cast, and where their names came from.

*Drusilla Jane Jaco–aka DJ–is a Green Congress wizard. Greenies are the geeks of the wizarding world, specializing in ritual magic. DJ was this character’s name from the start, and even though SHE doesn’t like her name (because she was named after her great aunt Dru, a licentious woman, by all accounts), she’s stuck with it. I can’t imagine her with another name at this point. Where did the name come from? DJ is a nod to my maternal great-grandmothers, whom I never knew: Drusilla Jane Harris and Ida Jaco. I always thought Drusilla was a perfectly gothic name, and Jaco came from a stray Yankee in the family.

* Gerald St. Simon–Gerry–is a Red Congress wizard. Reds are the warrior class of wizard, specializing in physical magic. He’s British by birth, but has lived in New Orleans for almost thirty years when the events of Royal Street take place. His name came out of the air. I have no clue. It came in the first draft, and it stuck.

* Alexander Warin and his cousin, Jacob Warin–Alex and Jake are first cousins who grew up in Picayune, Mississippi, about an hour north of New Orleans. They have a first-class rivalry. Alex’s mom, Norma, is from a Cajun family near Lafayette, but his dad, Thomas, and Jake’s dad, Edward, own a hardware store in Picayune and are of German descent. I used Alexander and Jacob as their given names for no other reason than because I like those names–they’re strong and sexy. “Warin” I chose after an exhaustive search through a list of surnames. It means “strong.” And they are, in different ways.

* Jean Lafitte–well, I had no part in naming Jean since he’s a historical figure. He’s French, he’s a pirate, he’s too smart for his own good, he’s morally ambiguous. Sounds like a romantic figure to me!

A few others you might run across in the book:
Eugenie Dupre…DJ’s bff. “Eugenie” is a pretty name you hear a bit around New Orleans, and “Dupre” is the street my friend Dave lives on and is also the name of his dog.

Ken Hachette…Jake’s friend on the NOPD. Ken changed ethnicity during the writing of the book, from Asian to African-American, but he never changed names–another one that got pulled from thin air.

Peter Jaco…DJ’s dad in Alabama. Another family name–Ida’s uncle.

Do you have names you particularly like or don’t like in some of the series you read? Weigh in. How important are names?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate’s Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man’s Curse) releases April 2016).

7 thoughts on “From the ROYAL STREET files: Character Names

  1. I love that you put so much thought into your characters’ names. I do the same thing. Every character name I use has some significance either to the story or for me personally. I think names can say a lot about the characters if you choose them carefully. 🙂

  2. Names are important – nick-names are great. If I read Drusilla Jane Jaco my mind would convert it to DJ. I do the same thing with Kim Harrison – when I read Algaliarept I convert it to Al. Al loves to use full names for people which is fun to read.

  3. I worry a lot about character names…I live in KY and actuall know people named things like Estill, Floyd and Homer–but my heroes seem to be pretty basic and biblical (both old and new testament)…John, David, Exodus (that last one was a joke)…

  4. Thanks for the comments! Teri, I have some of those same relatives (are we related?), whose names will not be used. Like my uncles Bill and Billy Ray…who are brothers. Think Grandma ran out of names there by kid #9.

  5. Character names are important, and I think an author should sometimes investigate what the translation is of an unusual name. I have come across some that have meaning in Dutch, and not a good one. Which makes reading the book a bit difficult.