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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

THE NAME GAME

By Caroline Clemmons

Who knew choosing names for characters was such a big deal?

When I first began publishing, choosing a name wasn’t so hard. I looked for strong names for men and era appropriate names for women. For villains, I used names of people who had, historically, caused my family harm. As my list of books grew, so did the difficulty of choosing character names.
I have to admit I’ve goofed a few times. I have two stories in which the heroine is named Beth, short for Elizabeth, because that’s a name I love and one which repeats in my family. In two books, I use McDonald as the hero’s surname although the books are not linked in any way.

For each series, I keep a bible (not as in The Bible) of facts and characters. Each character’s name includes a brief description and occupation if important. You’d think this would keep me on target, but I still goofed on the Stone Mountain (Texas) series. A deputy sheriff started with the nickname Buster (named for my wonderful late brother-in-law Buster Reed) and suddenly appeared as Sheriff Butch Parrish in a later book. Oops! I’d plead temporary befuzzlement because I’d just written a post on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for another blog, but that’s really no excuse.

Now I keep a list of each book’s title plus names of hero and heroine and heroine’s hair and eye color. Since my personal hero has dark hair and blue eyes, so do my storybook heroes unless I need (rarely) to vary the pattern. I did for Eduardo Montoya in the Stone Mountain (Texas) series and Nathaniel Bartholomew in the Kincaid series.  For historical names, I rely on my ancestry. Our family used some names that are real doozies, but I love unusual names of each period—Parmelia, Delthene, Atheline, Venice.

One year I attended a seminar at a Romance Writers of America Conference on naming characters. The presenter suggested using names with strong consonants with a hard sound of K, D, and T for a hero. Also, she suggested strong mental images for a hero's name. I hope I’ve done that for the surnames of Stone, Hunter, Kinkaid, McClintock, Knight, and others.

Authors of numerous books face this challenge. I’m sure of this because on author-only loops I see posts asking for name suggestions. Eventually we become stumped.

Sometimes, we let readers choose a name as part of a contest. I did that for O’NEILL’S TEXAS BRIDE, McClintocks book 2. Linda Clayton won naming rights but couldn’t decide between Stella and Nettie Sue Clayton for the heroine. I made Stella Clayton the heroine of that book and the heroine of McCLINTOCK’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, McClintock’s book 3, became Nettie Sue Clayton.

That was fun, so I thought I’d do that again. Someone who leaves a comment on this posts can choose the name for the heroine of an upcoming book—IF I haven’t already used the name. Upcoming books include a heroine in 1887. 

Any suggestions? If so, please leave them in a comment. In addition to character naming rights, the winner gets a $20 Amazon card.


54 comments:

  1. Keeping the names straight would be tough without keeping records.

    A fun contest thank you.

    I have always loved Clementine as a name.

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    Replies
    1. That's a good name, Mary. Makes me want to sing the song, but I don't want to scare anyone. LOL

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  2. Conradine
    Martha
    Jasmine
    Charlotte
    Pamela, keeping with the A on the end of name.
    Emila
    Avery
    Kaly
    Choosing a name is hard to do. I waited until I saw my babies to name them. To get a sense of their personalities.

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  3. Replies
    1. I love that. Wish I'd known it a couple of books ago because there is Polish man in the Bride Brigade series who has sent for his fiancee in Poland.

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  4. Daisy or Ophelia? Rose or Delilah? That's all I can think of right now.

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  5. Destiny Louise.....Mable Ann

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    Replies
    1. Those are both good suggestions. Thank you.

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  6. Alma, Lula, Stella or Agnes. My grandmother and her sisters all born late 1880's

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  7. Ethel, Fannie, Bethelda, Tamalthy, Darcus, Emeline, Bethal, Sylvany. Zilphy (I like this one).

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    Replies
    1. I like Zilphy, too, Pam. I've never heard it used, which is good.

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  8. Replies
    1. I know someone named India. I like Zonie.

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  9. Zella maternal​ great grandma
    Louise paternal great grandma


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  10. I love names that stick out or are extremely unique.... I have always thought Delphine was beautiful and Darley.... Norelle...

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    Replies
    1. Delphine is a great name! Sounds elegant and mysterious, doesn't it?

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  11. Priscilla (Prissy)(Cilla)
    Naoma
    Ruby
    Adrianna
    Gia
    Vanessa (Van)(Nessa)
    Darlene (Dar)
    Keziah
    Abigail
    Opal
    Scarlet
    Kristie
    Jenna
    Pearl

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    Replies
    1. Wow, you have some great names here!

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    2. Thank you, these are all family names.

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  12. Ok, you asked for it! Lol! I went through 1800s names and there were so many I loved that I'm going to list them all (even if it feels like I'm cheating here). So here goes: Catherine, Julia, Eva, Mattie, Lillie, Lucille (or Lucy), Leila, Sadie, Florie (what we called my aunt Florence), Lydia, Lottie, Georgia, Emily, Charlotte, Pauline, Evelyn, Birdie, Sylvia, Dollie, Loretta, Winnie, Adeline, Abbie and Flossie. Phew! :-)

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    Replies
    1. Judy, you listed some great names, a few of which I've used, but most haven't been used. I've used Catherine but with a K, Lydia, Charlotte, Birdie, and Abbie. Still leaves a lot to work with.

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  13. Corinne, Marguerite, Madge, Alathea
    These are all family names. The first two were my grandmothers, the next is a great aunt (never married, died at 100) and the last was my husband's grandmother.

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    Replies
    1. Lovely names. I've always thought Corinne sounded elegant and can't think why I haven't used it. Thanks for commenting.

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  14. I kind of like Virginia, its an old name.

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    Replies
    1. I like it too, but I used it for a secondary character. Thanks for commenting.

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  15. I like Arabella can be Bella or Bell for short or simpler names like Jean or Nora are good.

    Annetta Sweetko

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    Replies
    1. Arabella, called Belle, was an important secondary character in the first two Kincaid books. My cousin's name is Belle, named after her paternal grandmother. Lovely name.

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  16. Super post. I really get into my name choices, too. Have used a lot of family ones myself. Glad Beth is a favorite with you. :)
    Names are so important. I can't begin a story until the main character(s) have a name.

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    1. Beth, character names are really important to set the mood of the book.

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  17. This is a fun post. How about Ivy or Magdeline/Magdelena lots of nicknames here Maggie, Del, Lena.

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  18. Penelope, Mable, Ariana, Alessandra. Good luck with your name search

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    Replies
    1. Oh, those are good names. I'm already using Penelope in a time travel I'm writing, named for my sister-in-law Penny.

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  19. My grandmother's name was Luella. Old Scandinavian name. This is fun seeing all the choices.

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    Replies
    1. Isn't it amazing how many great names have been suggested?

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  20. What a difficult decision! I chose vmcbride77 as winner of the $20 gift card and Judy Loughman as runner up for a $10 gift card. I'm saving the list of names and of those who suggested them for the future. If I use a name you suggested, I'll send you a gift card. Thanks to everyone who played!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, Thank you for choosing me as your winner!

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    2. You need to send me your email so I can send you the gift card.

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    3. Reply and IM sent. Thank you.

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  21. My grandmother, Margaret Nottingham, was born in San Antonio in 1886. She was called "Maggie" and after she married my grandfather, George Ben Silcock, she was known as Maggie Silcock.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, I had an aunt Margaret called Mag.

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  22. How about Pauline? My grandmothers name

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