Monday, January 18, 2010


Didn’t Tracy do a great job last week? I can’t promise as much excitement, but I want to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart: character names. (I’ll be speaking on this subject at OCFW in February.)

Romeo Montague may have told Juliet Capulet “"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but the same does not hold true for the characters in our fiction.

For instance, can you imagine if the characters in Gone With the Wind exchanged names? If Melanie was the husband stealer instead of Scarlett, or if Rhett was the milquetoast instead of Ashley? Would the characters be as memorable with such mismatched names?

The right name can convey a lot about your character:
1) Family values—from “Prudence” among Puritans to “Moonshine” among Hippies, some names reveal significant information about your character’s background.
2) National heritage: Both first and last names convey a sense of the national heritage of the character. Consider Bridget, Guadalupe, LaShondra; or how about Schmidt, Lee (Li), Jones.
3) Sex: Although there are names that defy categorization.
4) Generation: More so for women than for men. Most popular names shift from year to year. “Linda” was the most popular girl’s name from 1950-1952; it had dropped off the top ten list by 1966.
5) Family relationships. Is he a junior? Or a 4th? Was she named for a relative who died?

Come back for Part 2, when I discuss some nuts and bolts of “how to” name characters. What went into naming my characters Lucy Ames, Cici Wilde, Magda Grace Mallory, Joey Carpenter and Judith Morrison?

For now, share the names of your favorite characters and let us know why you like the name.


  1. This is a great topic. Thanks, Darlene. Let's see . . . names of my favorite characters. One of my favorite books is Pride & Prejudice. I love Elizabeth's name and how they call her Lizzy. It brings out her carefree side. As for Mr. Darcy. Hmmm? I'll always associate any "Mr. Darcy" as the Mr. Darcy in P&P, but I've always felt that name could have been stronger. Maybe that's because "Darcy" in today's world would belong to a girl, and Mr. Darcy's character was so stern.

    In my current WIP my main character is named Alexander. That name came on its own, but it suits him well. It means "defender of mankind," and that's what he (in a sense) ends up doing in the story, so it's a name that really "fit." Alexander is such a mouthful, though. So, the one closest to him calls him Zander. She never could say his name when she was little, and well, it just stuck.

    As for that girl's name, she's called Elianna. It's Hebrew for "God answers prayers." There's a lot of meaning behind that name as well, but I won't get into it here. You all will just have to read the book. :-)

    Thanks for such a great topic, Darlene!

  2. Character names are a major deal with me when writing - I can't seem to get into my story until the characters have the correct names. I once had to change the name of one of my secondary characters because a new book written by someone else hit the stands as I was writing the book - and her main character was the same name as my secondary one!

    Great topic - can't wait to see part 2.

  3. That's better than me giving characters in two different books the same name! I'll discuss that more in my next post. At least two of us in the Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! Club named the resident doctor "Dr. Barber."

    I agree about the name "Darcy." "Heathcliff" and "Rochester" stand the test of time as strong masculine names; but not Darcy.