ASK EM — What’s in a name?

Keyboard with Tips and Tricks Button.

His name was Eustace Clarence Scrubbs…and he almost deserved it ~ The Chronicles of Narnia

Today’s question is: How do you come up with names?

Naming our kids is hard enough. Try naming hundreds of characters!

Well, I had 5 children. So I have 6 baby name books. During pregnancy, I had a lot of time to sit around and dream about names. Little did I know I’d be circling these names for future romance novel characters!

I desperately wanted a boy named Nathaniel. I would call him Nat, and he’d be totally geeky-cool, have skater-boy hair and probably skateboard everywhere. But in the end, this name didn’t fit my boys when they burst into the world. Therefore, Nathaniel is still on my master list. To this day, I have not found the character to bestow this name to either. Not yet.

Names are important. Would Sherlock Holmes have been a badass super-sleuth with a name like Hector Lamont? Probably not. And Watson couldn’t have been a superior sidekick with a name like Stubbins.

Count Dracula

Hannibal Lector

Huckleberry Finn

Jane Eyre

Could these characters have been anyone else?

With that said, let’s consider some popular names: Jacob, Sophia, Mason, Emma.

Some parents want unique names for their offspring. Some choose popular names and let their children make their own way among the other Jakes and Kailees of the world. Your characters are the same.

Places to find names:

school yearbook

name books

baby name sites

phone book

street names (Dr. Brant Foxfire from LIP LOCK came from a street name)

your family

I often ask friends to throw out names of their coworkers so I can steal these last names. In my region, if you’re not a Wolbert, you’re an Ochs. As a result, there are 9 pages of Ws and 12 pages of Os in my phone book. So phone books can be limiting. LOL.

With this said, it’s good to search common names in the region where your characters live. Look up popular last names in Oregon. I bet they’re quite different from your area. For believability, this is important shit.


Why do we love Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride? He says his name in an accent and looks the part. If he said…hello, my name is Jack Robbins, you killed my father, prepare to die…he wouldn’t be as cool. The location and heritage play important roles in naming a character.

Names can enhance your plot. And they’re a lot of fun. Every time I get to name a new character, I feel that rush of excitement. Who is this person? How does her name define her or make her fight to be an individual? Has she inherited her grandfather’s name?

Thanks for reading!


3 comments on “ASK EM — What’s in a name?

  1. I really kinda wish he’d been called Jack Robbins now though 😀

  2. I had several character names come to me all at once,which was nice. But every once in a while, a name would stump me. In a few cases, I thought of names which I’d not seen in books for a while; others I ‘stole’ from my yearbook or even my kids’ school roster. I mix and match, sometimes turning a more common 1st name into a last name.

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