How do you pick the names of your characters?
Do you wait until you’ve formed the character either in your mind, or on paper before you give him or her a name? Although I’ve never waited to name a character, more than once I started off with one name, and then as the story progressed, it became evident that this was no Elizabeth. More of a Delilah.
Since I’m a panster, changing a name mid-way through the story is not so unusual for me. A regency I completed a few months ago, and is now in the hands of several publishers awaiting the dreaded decision, I changed the heroine’s name three times. And ended up with the name I started with – Olivia.
Recently I decided to use my daughter and nieces names in my books. For the married ones, as long as I don’t use their husbands’ names for the hero, I can write the love scenes without a problem. What is a problem, however, is my nieces, for the most part have ‘modern’ names. Tracey, Stacy, Kim, Dawne, and so forth. Since I write primarily historical, it becomes a challenge.
In a contemporary I wrote recently, I knocked out two nieces by using them for first and last names. Kerry Mackenzie. It’s rather cool that Mackenzie (in real life) is Kerry’s daughter.
I keep a rather extensive list of names I hear that seem different, or unusual. Most times I have the names of my hero and heroine before I start the book. It’s searching for the secondary characters in the story that drives me to the list.
Butlers’ names are fun. There aren’t a whole lot of John or Jim in regency butlers. They have unusual names, like Bonwich or Pembers. I’ve often wondered, is that their first, last, or butler name?
Some characters’ names become so entrenched with their authors, their names are almost synonymous. Who can think of Margaret Mitchell and not conjure up Scarlett O’Hara? How about J. Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes? Or Agatha Christie and Miss Marple? Or in a more modern vein, James Patterson and Alex Cross? Janet Evonovich and Stephanie Plum? J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter? E L James and Christine Grey?
We would probably all love to be so connected to one of our characters. The notoriety alone would sell books.
In my book that my publisher just released, A Prescription for Love, naming the characters was easy, since it’s the third book in a series. The hero’s name was already set, from the first two stories, but I had to find a character name for the heroine that fit her personality. Heidi just seemed to call to me. I lucked out when one of my critique partners questioned if that name would be used during that time. When I researched the book Heidi, I found out it was published right around the time my character would have been born. Whew!
So tell me how naming characters works for you. Easy? Hard? Do you change names as the character grows, or do you have it all plotted out before you start, so changing anything would unnerve you?
Callie has been making up stories since elementary school, and writing gave her a way to turn off the voices in her head. She’s had a number of articles and interviews published over the years, and about two years ago, decided to put her writing skills to the test and write a book.
Oklahoma is where she hangs her hat with her husband of thirty-six years, two young adult children, and three dogs.
You can catch her hanging out at Facebook, Twitter- @CallieHutton, and her home base, www.calliehutton.com. Stop by sometime and say hello.
Books by Callie Hutton:
Oklahoma Lovers series, #1, #2, #3
An Angel in the Mail
Miss Merry’s Christmas, October 31st
Daniel’s Desire, November 19th
All of Callie Hutton’s books can be found at www.Amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com.