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Monday, September 14, 2015

What's in a Name?

It's fairly common knowledge in the writing world that characterization is the most important part of a story, especially if you write romances where a relationship between the hero and heroine is the plot.

In the stories I write, I mostly fit a story around a character rather than fitting a character into a story.  Sometimes a character of a particular stripe calls for a certain story.(Does this make sense?)

So naming a character or characters is of the utmost importance. Sometimes I start with one name, but by the time I'm a quarter of the way into the story, I've switched to another name. I'm always on the lookout for the name that "fits" my guy or gal.

I take into consideration ancestry, ethnic background if it applies. For sure, that information affects a hero or heroine's last name. I want his or her last name to hint of family's history. In THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN, the heroine's parents were French Canadian, so I used the French spelling of her name, Isabelle. ..... In SWEET RETURN, the hero is part Comanche and distantly related to Quannah Parker, so it seemed fitting to give him the last name of Parker.
In the book I'm writing now, THE HORSEMAN,  I have a particular challenge in that the hero is part Hispanic, but his last name is Rattigan. Confusing. I would change it, but the book is #3 of a trilogy and his name is already well established in the previous 2 books. So I still have to figure out how to deal with that situation.
I've written several chapters and I still haven't settled on the heroine's name, which is distracting and annoying. In one chapter, I'm calling her Chloe. In another, I'm calling her Shiloh and in yet another I'm calling her Skye. 
Here's the cover, by the way. Designed by Kim Killion. What do you think?
 
All of my heroes are tall and handsome and alpha. I've named them all sorts of names, but the ones I like most are names that sound strong, pronounced with a hard C or K or T. For example, Luke, Cable, Tack, Jake, Parker, etc,.....You get the idea.

For heroines, I like feminine-sounding names. My heroines are quietly strong. They are alpha women, but also beautiful and feminine. Think Scarlett O'Hara who was tougher than a boiled owl, but an incredibly feminine woman. For heroines, I like soft-sounding names, i.e., Amanda, Dahlia, Joanna, Isabelle. ..... In the Dixie Cash book I'm working on, I've name the heroine after someone I know. This is the first time I've ever done that.  

To say that I spend a lot of times on naming by story people is an understatement. I'm always open to suggestions.


9 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your blog, Anna. It's very interesting how you come up with the names for the heroes and heroines! I love you're books!

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    1. Thank you, Karren! It appears to be a hit or miss process, but in my head, I think I know where I'm going.

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  2. From the cover, I'd say your heroine looks like a Shiloh. ;)

    I agree, names have to fit the character or it's hard to write their stories. I changed the name of my male detective in my mysteries three times before I was happy with his name. Usually with the romance books, I have the hero and heroine in my head and their names by the time I put the first word on the first page of the story. I do a lot of stewing and brewing over a story before I even start writing it. Good luck with your name search!

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    1. Thanks, Paty. I like Shiloh. I'm waiting for it to hit me. :-) Her age is 26, so she could be a Shiloh. :-)

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  3. I agree - names are important. In addition to considering the character's ethnicity, I think it's also important to remember the time in which the story takes places. It seems unlikely that anyone named Tiffany or Kaylee would live during the early 1800s, though Ida or Mattie might. I'd have to do research to make sure! In my first book, the characters are baby boomers, so their names are ones that were common during that time: Peggy, June, and Kathleen (nicknamed Kiki).

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Sandra. For sure, names were more formal during the 19th century. And it seems there were a lot fewer names. In my DH's family bible, every other woman is named Mary. Also a lot of Elizabeths. Nowadays, people call their kids all sorts of unusual names, but the two most common ones are still Michael and Michelle. Those two have been in the top ten for years.

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  4. I believe character names are very important to the impression we want our characters to make on our readers. Since most of my books are historical, I use names popular at that time and often get them from my family ancestry. Several villains were named after people who harmed my family in some way. For contemporaries, names are more complicated.

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  5. I agree with all of that, Caroline. :-) Thanks for commenting.

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  6. I so relate to your article. I've changed a name also after writing half a story and realizing I had the wrong one-- fortunately not in an earlier book. Right now, the next story I should be writing has been stymied because i cannot come up with the heroine's name. I wanted it to fit with the other two women Taggert brothers married but may have to give that idea up. I agree with what you said, the characters' names are soooooo important in getting a handle on their character.

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