Samantha Tonge says sometimes names suggest a hero or heroine, other names suit a character up to no good.

Picture 014Once I’ve thought up the general idea for my next project, and the title, the important job is to name the characters. And believe me, it is almost as challenging as naming your own children! For those of you who are parents, do the following statements bring back memories?

“I can’t call him/her that, I knew someone at school with that name, who I didn’t like.”

“Nope, that name reminds me of such-and-such infamous celebrity and is therefore highly inappropriate.”

“It’s got an unusual spelling – people won’t ever know how to pronounce it.”

“It doesn’t go with the surname.”

“So-and-so will think we’ve named the baby after them.”

At least with novel characters, the author has total authority – there is no partner to consult! Although, over the years, I’ve noticed that sometimes there is no rational whatsoever, to choosing a name – some simply feel right, for the character I have created.

Having sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines, I’ve had plenty of practice at picking names which doesn’t mean it gets any easier!

Several seem to recur – Deborah, for example, is a name I favour for kind-hearted women, the girl-next-door type, loyal and honest. Judy as well. Whereas Megan and Ashley – apologies to any reader of those names! – I’ve often allotted to characters who are up to no good. Marcus says ‘tall, dark, arrogant-but-handsome’ to me. Luke says ‘good-looking but easy-to-chat to and trustworthy’.

Sometimes I’ve almost tried to write a book around a character, I have loved a name so much. Acacia was one as I adore its shortened version, Casey. *shakes head* – I actually created a character called Acacia Honey!

Another time, I wrote a book based in Ancient Egypt and choosing those names required a lot of research but was huge fun. They needed to be easy to say and spell, Banafrit being a favourite one as it made me think of banana fritters!

For the characters in my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, some of the decisions were taken out of my hands – first of all, I had to have an Abbey. Then the names for the aristocrats needed to be traditional, so that made the choice a bit easier. The heroine’s name, Gemma, partly came from the fact her mum used to call her a little gem, and that has meaning later in the story. TV presenter Charlie Chingo is a larger-than-life fun character and I stumbled across that interesting surname on Facebook! And the director’s assistant is called Roxy as that, to me, suits the glamorous media world.

So how about you? Any names that instantly make you think of a villain or hero? Next time you read a book, why not analyse the names and see if you can work out why the author chose them. I wonder if Bridget Jones had a well-known surname because she is someone many women can relate to…

Doubting Abbey Xmas CoverPizza waitress Gemma must pass herself off as aristocratic Abbey Croxley for two weeks, in order to help struggling Applebridge Hall win the reality show Million Dollar Mansion. With the right clothes and accent, anyone could pull that off, right?

Except that she wasn’t counting on arrogant Lord Edward pulling her heartstrings – nor a most unexpected person unravelling her web of lies…

Will the truth be revealed before the show’s final and destroy Applebridge Hall’s future, along with a secret romance?

6 comments on “What’s In A Name?”

  1. I like simple names, but they do have to fit, especially when writing in a certain era. For my contemporary work it’s a little bit easier. I have Richard and Laura, both simple, strong names in my contemp series, but when working on my historicals I have to consider class and likelihood of names even being around then, never mind appropriate. I also have to think about nicknames, used quite a lot in my chosen era.

    I have a massive Oxford Names Companion under my coffee table (where I write) but more often find myself looking over at my DVD collection for inspiration!
    Nice post, Sam 🙂

  2. Thanks, Lisa! Yes, i thought it was suitabley over the top 🙂 and a little bit 80s, somehow.

    Thanks, Terri! Good idea bout the DVDs! I find FB useful for surnames and then i work out my character’s year of birth and then google that year for popular baby names..

    It isn’t always easy though! 🙂

  3. I do like to use names of people I know. If I do, then the character is nothing like them in real life (with the exception of one character who was named something different, and my friend insisted I change that character’s name). If there is something unsavory or not likable about a character, but I still want to use the name, I ask the person first, just so they are not offended. I tell them upfront that this character is ______ so they are prepared. I have found that the people in my life like having characters named after them, even if they are the villain.

    In my third book, which was my nano project, the character’s name came first, and it came out of a spam e-mail that I apparently sent my best friend’s husband. After we finished laughing about the name, the whole back story just came to me like a lightening bolt. So I ran with it. The whole book became set because of this spam e-mail!

  4. That is a great story, Kathryn! I’d love to know what that inspiring name was! Glad to know that one spam cloud had a silver lining!

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