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Monday, April 7, 2014

Name Those Characters! (Please)

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, or coming up against the fact that I apparently have a finite ability to think of good character names in a short period of time.

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 who don't cause me problems. 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 places. 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 Sentinels 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 embarrass his bad self and provide something 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 master 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.

Therefore, my new 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 others 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, from a wealthy background, with a former job as an accountant; “girl” is from Chicago, about 26, from a poor background, and is working toward her PhD in history. If I choose your names, you’ll get a mention in the book’s acknowledgment page!


  1. Nice post about the names. So glad Randa became Randa.

  2. I don't have any suggestions for names, but I feel your pain. I realized that I name all random male characters who only pop in for a scene or two Bill. I think I have two Bills in my first book!

  3. All right Guy names: Beau, Tibodeaux, Remy, Theodore
    Girl Names: Breen, Brooklyn, Madeline (Maddie), Danica

    Those are my suggestion. Good luck on the names.

  4. Girl names: Katarina(Katie), Isabella(Bella), antoinetee(Tony), Elizabeth(Liz),
    Guy names: Claude, Nathan, Jason, Ambrus, Stefan, Andrew, James

  5. i took sometimes to think of some because american name differe from european ones ( but perhaps they had family here ^^)

    guy: Marshal, maximilian, Michel, Michael, Christian, Timothy
    Girl: Lydie, Meg, Megan, Margareth ( Meg), Samatha, Rose- Mary,Alaine

    ^^ i searched some with M first^^;;

    5 novels in 9months really i admire you i'm sure my imagination would have required a lot more time^^

  6. This is a great problem to have. : )
    My suggestions: Becca (Rebecca), Diane , Kim///Roy, Jason, Zach

    Good luck choosing.

  7. Name suggestions
    Boy - Brax, Brett, Bogart, Chase, Jeremy, Lance, Logan, Myles
    Girl - Arabella, Bree, Lacey, Maggie, Maxie, Michelle, Murphy

  8. Boy: Marcus, Boone, Grady
    Girl: Whitney, Cameran, Jenna, Damaris, Augusta

  9. Boy - Lawrence, Matthew, Brett, Drew
    Girl - Kristin, Olivia, Sophia, Becca

  10. I've always had a horrible time coming up with names! :)
    Boy- Keegan, Ty, Kaden
    Girl- Saige, Kylie, Grace

  11. That would be my hardest challenge writing.
    Boy- Charles, Isaac, Leon, Thaddee- all Acadian names
    Girl- Adelle, Brenna, Evelyn, Lizzy, Gabby

  12. Ooh....I've been in meetings the past day or so but thanks for all the great suggestions! I see some great possibilities. I'll add to my list on my blog on Thursday, and then announce the final decision there on Sunday!