Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What's In A Name?

If you have children, you know choosing names is not easy. It's the same for authors when naming characters, only—dare I say it—harder. You see, we need to name all the characters in each book, and give them surnames too.

Personally, I agonize over this with every book I write. We tend to be biased against and in favour of names if we know people who have them. Names that I once considered lovely have been forever ruined for me because I met horrible people who answer to them.

My criteria for choosing names? First, I have to like it. Even the villain's name has to be one that I don't cringe at. Next, it has to be appropriate. While I love the idea of names that are original and not over-used, I think calling your contemporary hero Cobra is akin to abuse. You're just opening yourself and your book to ridicule. Unless, of course, you have a great backstory to explain it. I'll leave it to you to come up with one for Cobra!

So, we've got likeability, appropriateness, and thirdly, we do need some originality. If you have a habit of calling your male characters by names beginning with the letter J—John, Jack, Jake, Jason, James...I could go on—then eventually readers are going to lose track of who's who.

Lastly, and most importantly, don't pick names that everyone else has already used a million times. Once I've chosen my names, I pick five paperbacks at random from my bookshelves, and five ebooks from my reader. If any of my characters' names come up more than once, I rethink them.

My biggest problem? Surnames. For some obscure reason, I tend to gravitate to the letter H. Hammond, Hampton, Hardy, Hall... I now have a rule about H names. I can't use them. It's really hard (oops, H!) though, because even when I search the phone book, it seems to naturally open to the H pages.

The name I had the most fun choosing is Jess's from Catch a Shooting Star.

Social misfit Jessamy James pays the bills with a cleaning job so she can do what she really loves: tell stories to children. She meets NFL superstar Nathan Powell when she cleans his house. He’s intrigued by her reclusive attitude, and she’s drawn to his open personality and lack of defensive walls. It doesn’t take long for attraction to set in, and for a relationship to blossom.
When Nathan is accused of dealing drugs, Jess is caught up in the media storm and finds her own vocation slipping through her fingers. They struggle together to clear his name and rescue both their careers.

The name Jessamy is unusual, but shortened to Jess becomes much more accessible, and pairing it with James for her surname makes it easy to remember. What do you think? Win or Fail?

You can find more details on my books at www.oliviaventura.netFriend and Like me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. I'll be receiving a shipment of swag soon, so giveaways are on the horizon!

I'd like to thank Olivia for posting today, and for providing one of her books for me to review. I asked for Miss Fix-It because I loved the cute cover. You can find my review for this book immediately below this post. Thank you all for visiting!

James L. Hatch


  1. Nice post, Olivia, but I think I might be cautious about a cleaning person with a name that will be remembered as "Jesse James" (hide the valuables). Okay, just trying to be funny. Actually, I loved the title of your new book and can see how it relates to the story. I also want to thank you for allowing me to review "Miss Fix-It." Cute. Very cute.

  2. Thats great advice Olivia...enjoyed your post.

  3. Thanks for hosting me, James! And thanks, Mary - have fun choosing names for your next WIP!