Friday, April 27, 2012

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name? Absolutely everything! I mean, come on. Who doesn’t hear a particular name, for example Damon Salvatore, and begin to drool? I immediately picture Ian Somerhalder playing the role, thanks to the WB.  Debut author Lisa Burstein went so far as to title her novel Pretty Amy, after her main character. Being an Amy myself, I get it. This name really gives you a clue to the character’s personality.

So when I recently saw the summary on Goodreads for Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, I was devastated. The name I agonized over for one of my characters was right there in front of me, but in someone else’s book. For reasons beyond my comprehension, I was initially devastated.  How could someone else use that name? Would anyone ever read my story because I used the same name?

With all of these questions swarming in my mind, I reached out to the Twitter world. All I did was ask, “Should I change my character’s name?” Heather M. White, rock star author of Redheads are Soulless, quickly responded to me. She reminded me “it’s (almost) impossible to use a name that someone else hasn’t used yet.”


Duh! Just like that, I stopped hyperventilating and realized how ridiculous I was being. With this part out of the way, Heather and I then discussed names that we really cannot use anymore. I mean, Edward and Bella? No one hears these two names anymore without thinking about Twilight.  

Choosing names for your characters can be difficult. All writers want to use fresh, new names. Personally, the names I chose to use for my WIP kind of came from the characters themselves. I could NEVER change their names now, even if I wanted to. My characters would revolt. I know them inside and out. To me, they are friends. I live with them day in and day out. Changing their names would mean taking something away from who they are.

All of this just made me curious about how other writers come up with their character’s names. Heather M. White had some really interesting ideas like changing the spelling of a name or using the name of a friend or loved one.  My characters shout their names into my ears (yes, they are very bossy). Now tell me, how do you come up with names for your characters?

*Yes, I am being a little evasive as to the names of my characters. I just am not ready to put them out there yet. Soon, I hope to introduce them to the world;)

**Thanks to Heather M. White for giving me permission to share with you our little discussion. You rock girl!


  1. I obsess over names, too. Before internet sites made it so easy, I'd flip through Baby Name books at B&N. Little did bystanders realize that the life I was creating was on paper.

    I get that way with book titles, too. I wrote a historical romance and came up with the absolute best name: "Pride and Pleasure" only to see it in an ad the very next month in my copy of Romance Writers of America.

    Latest obsession: That someone will find and reuse my cover stock image. Mine!

  2. I actually googled the two names I have in mind for my WIP. One, of course has been used countless times. One, it seems has never been a book title. Again, keeping those names close to the vest:)

    BTW, I have added your books to my TBR pile. I love the names of your characters:)

  3. I have the bad habit of using very similar names for characters in my books, and then having to change them... I have a particular fixation on boys' names that start with J. I have a "Jonah" in one of my series and a "Jamey" in one of my contemporary novels. Jamey's cousin was originally named Jason, but I changed that pretty quickly. In my scheduled May release, the main character was originally named Jesse, until it occurred to me that it was coming from the same publisher as Jamey's book and the name was just too close. So he's Chris now...

    I've given up on making sure I don't use the same names as other authors, though I definitely avoid really popular names like Edward and Bella. I just try to make sure I don't use the same/similar names in my own books!

  4. I really hope I'm more than a name. That's why I'm "only" S when I'm blogging.

    S / http://

  5. I'm a longtime name nerd, and my taste in names tends towards the classical eccentric and classical unusual. I usually only use common or trendy names for secondary characters. I love Behind the Name and Name Nerds, and have used some other naming sites and books in the past. I also pick them up from works of literature and other places.