What’s in a Name?


The other day a reader posted a review that did not reflect a very high opinion of one of my books.

If a reviewer has a legitimate complaint about something I’ve written, bring it on.  But this review had nothing to do with my writing style, character development, plot, or anything you’d expect from a review.

It was all about how much she hated the name of the heroine.

Apparently, she hated it so much, she’ll never read another one of my books, which is probably for the best.

Her comments really made me think about the names writers choose for characters.

I can’t speak for other writers, but I can tell you this – selecting names for characters in my stories, particularly the lead characters, is something I take very seriously.

To have someone express how much they hated a name… well, honestly, I can only compare it to some wretched woman running up to a mother at the grocery store and screaming at the top of her lungs what a stupid name she has bestowed upon the child.

Character names are more than just some moniker. Those names help define the character, give the readers a hint of what lies beneath the surface.

So for those of you who don’t like creative, interesting, unusual names, I’ll state right now, you won’t like the names of my lead characters.

There isn’t a Jane or Mary in the bunch.

Not that there is anything wrong with those names. They’re perfectly fine names. Names I frequently use  for secondary characters.

I really don’t have a thing against common names. I even used fairly common names for the lead characters in Not His Type  – Jake and Anna – because the names fit the characters.

My goal is for the main characters in my stories  to have memorable names. Names that stick with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. Names that fit their character perfectly.

I remember reading a book in high school. It was about one of the ladies-in-waiting during the reign of Henry VIII. One of the characters was named Lettice and for the longest time, I decided if I had a daughter, that was going to be her name. It was an unusual name, one that stuck with me. One that I still remember all these years later.

Each character we develop, every story we write is unique and so very different, which is precisely why I try to find unique and different names for my characters. If I’m writing a story set in the past, you can bet I’m looking up names that would have been used in that time period. Even if the name isn’t common, it is one that is realistic for that character to have.

The characters I create aren’t just pretend people will odd names – they are little pieces of my heart and soul captured in print.

In response to that particular reviewer’s comments – I know the exact heritage and history of the name I chose. It fits not only the era, but also the character. I can’t imagine giving her any other name and having it fit so well. The name represents who, at the heart of the story, she really is.

If anyone tells you a name is too “out there,” don’t listen to them. If it’s a name you love, go for it.

Just picture the lunatic screeching in the grocery store and know you’re right. Those who want to screech will do it anyway, regardless of what you do.

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