Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's In a Name?

Good Morning,

Sandra here with a large pot of Breakfast Blend coffee, fall flavored creamers such as gingerbread, pumpkin spice, caramel truffle and thick REAL cream. I don't need sweeteners dontcha know. Sweet enough. How about you??? smile

For you tea lovers, chai, green and the standard pekoe.

And steaming cups of Honey Graham and French Vanilla Hot Chocolate with whipped cream on top.

For those who want a bite to eat, we have waffles studded with apple slices, cinnamon and walnuts. There is a bowl of whipped butter and a crock pot full of hot maple syrup.

Now close your eyes and picture who would be sitting on a porch in the deep South with this tasty delight. Can you picture a hero and heroine? What are their names?

Now picture who would be heating precooked waffles over a campfire with a coffee pot hanging on a hook. Can you picture a hero and heroine? What are their names?

I bet you chose different names for the southern porch setting than you did for the campfire setting. I see Rett on the porch and Zach at the fire.

Names are critical in our novels. You want a name that matches the traits of your character. If you have a strong type A hero, you want a strong masculine name--probably with one syllable. His formal name might be long, but a nickname that fits works also.

If your hero is a nerd, think of a name that connects the reader to that image. If your hero is older, think of names popular in his generation. If your hero is a teen, think of names popular amongst current teens. (My crit partner nailed me the other day for confusing her with my characters because their names were not distinctive. She suggested I give the older woman a name you would associate or clue you to the fact we were reading about the older woman)

How do you find these names?

One fun way to think of a name is watch movies, television or read the tabloid magazines or TV Guide for the names of current movie and rock stars.

Famous ball players and sports heroes offer popular names. The public does associate certain characteristics with the names of these real life models.

And okay, its fun to stick in a relative or friend for secondary characters or someone you dislike as a villian, but for our main characters we need that name that says it all.

One source I use is the book You Are Your First Name by Ellin Dodge.

This book claims to be numerology which I don't subscribe to, but it gives characteristics positive and negative for the names as well as national and cultural origins of the name. So even if you don't subscribe to the numerology, it is fun to read all of the traits. It gives you good ideas of what flaws go with different strengths.

Another book of names has descriptions of characteristics is The Hidden Truth of Your Name: A Complete Guide to First Names and What They Say About You by Nomenology Project

Almost every ancient culture including those in the Bible name their sons and daughters by characteristics of that person. So it stands to reason that we associate characteristics to a name.

If you aren't sure about a name you have chosen, ask several people what type of person they think of when you mention _______ name.

So let's brainstorm ideas for how we find our names for our characters.

What methods or resources have you used?

Any helpful hints?

Those who offer helpful hints will be placed in a pool for a drawing of a book of their choice autographed by a Seeker. Leave your email addie if it isn't in your profile.

We'll post the winner on the weekend edition.

And Black Friday is coming up.
Remember books make great gifts and Seeker books even better.

Sandra who is called
San when hubby is endearing,
Sandy when she's with friends and
Sandra Lee when she is in trouble.


  1. cool. As a reader I do find it interesting some names. There are names I read but cant work out how to pronounce them. More are older or southern names.
    As a reader sometimes names to get associated with age. I have read a couple of books with Opal one a young person (in history) and the other comtempory but the charactor was about 80. We Know an Opal about the same age and I saw her as I read.
    I look forward to reading the tips to pic a name. I know in Australia historical names would be more like English names with Irish names for the convicts.

  2. I can't believe it's after 2am and I'm still online....but it's a good time for brainstorming! Names -- interesting subject... I have a friend who deliberated long and hard about the names of her three children. She was especially concerned about naming her daughter -- she didn't want her name to be "light weight"...so she chose "Vivian"...Vivian is now 17 years old...she's not what I would call a "lightweight," but her name doesn't seem to be a true reflection of who she is. So I agree that we often name our children (or characters) for the traits that we believe they will have, whether by natural creation or creation by the pen.

    But I think what really makes the difference is the nickname. I was born Julia, friends and family called me Julie as I was growing up, and my closest friends through the years somehow all nicknamed me "Jules." As an adult, wanting to be taken seriously, I reverted to the name Julia. My husband loves the sound of Julia, so that's what he's always used. Ironically, 30 years or so later, I've been feeling that I would like to go back to Julie....

    We all have perceptions about names...I think those perceptions come from books we have read and people we have known, either personally or from the public eye. The personality of the person with whom we're acquainted creates the traits that we associate wtih the name -- serious vs. lightweight (as my friend made her choice for her daughter); intellectual vs. playful; mischevious vs. dedicated; dark vs. light. I don't know that these are suggestions for our writing, but they're musings from my brain (sans caffeine) in the wee hours of the morning.... Nighty, night.....

  3. PS Rereading my post....the nickname can give greater nuance to the personality of the character... An intial impression of a name can be modified by the nickame... There--that's a little more succinct.t.t,,,,,..zzz...zzzz..zzzzz

  4. Hey with such a great breakfast waiting it is no wonder I'm up so early.
    Names are a tough one for me. I decided to change one of my main characters when I was over half way done with my ms(it is such a pain to comb through my whole ms and I know that I missed at least one) It does really make a difference though and I liked the hero better after it.
    Well off to see if I can get some sleep,

  5. With my last manuscript, I changed the name of both my heroine and my villain several times. It was frustrating. However, for my villain, I finally found a name that sounds like it has double meanings in both Japanese and English.

    As for interesting name stories, when I lived in Japan and taught at a Japanese junior high school, my boss had four names for me.

    Walt - talking to me directly.
    Walt-san - when talking to other teachers about me at the school.
    Mr. Walt - when talking to students about me
    Walt-sensei - when talking about me to people on the phone

    Time to enjoy breakfast. Did I hear waffles mentioned?

  6. Breakfast looks great! This is the time of year I use those flavored creamers too. Yum!

    I have found so far that my character names come out after about 20 seconds' thought. I've changed my current hero's name because the first one was unusual (I made it up after all) and I had a contest judge say it was feminine to her. Nuff said. SO I tested three names out on my friends. "What do these names evoke?" And went with their choice.

  7. Hi Sandy ;-)
    I get out the baby name book, for sure, and look for meanings that work. My newest character, Ashleigh's name, derived from Ash tree and faery stories - so there's a lot of perfect folklore that fits my heroine.

    Names have to be melodic to my story too. If I don't like 'saying' them, then they will probably go with a character who is annoying...and nicknames mean a lot too. They automatically show the depth of a friendship without saying, "oh, she's my friend."

    If I have a gentle-natured individual, the name has to 'feel' gentle (if that makes any sense).

    Anyway, good morning and I'll grab some of that hot chocolate before I start my day. Thanks, Sandra.

    Btw, my name...well, weird enough
    Pepper - to most everyone
    Mrs. Basham - to my grad students ;-)
    Pep to my mom
    and my Granny has always called me Flipper :-)

  8. Each of my characters' names need to fit the story. In my current WIP, my hero is a cop named Stephen Chase....get it cop/Chase...moving on. :) My heroine is Lindsey Porter and she owns an inn. Stephen's first name means crown. In my head, I've twisted that to mean he's a prince...the son of a King, but he doesn't really feel like one, so it adds an emotional layer to the story. Lindsey means From the Lake Settlement Island...huh? Not very romantic...however, in the story, she left home five years ago with a broken heart, but she's back to the place of her birth, which adds to her emotional conflict.

    In my women's fiction, my main character is a forty-year-old woman named Paulina. Paulina always hated her name because it sounds old-fashioned, but it means small. She was born premmie and all her life, she has felt insignificant. A character in my second women's fiction is Karin. Karin means pure, but my Karin is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse so she feels anything but pure.

    When I'm creating a story, I begin with characters and their names. I use online resources like www.babynames.com, www.behindthename.com, and www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/

    Great post, Sandra!

  9. I'm definitely ready for breakfast. It's 6:59 a.m. as I write, so bring it on.

    It's interesting that you would write about names now. Last evening, I was reading an article in the latest Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' newsletter about the same topic. Further, I was wrestling with names for my second mid-grade novel ms. I knew that my protagonist's first name would be Leah, but I needed a middle and last name. My daughter wanted "Pepper." That didn't fit for me. I ended up with "Bright." Then when I conducted my character interview, Leah herself told me why her mother named her Bright. I went with the last name of Maxwell because Kirk was my maiden name. In Scotland, the Kirk's owed fealty to Maxwells and Clarks. I often use family-related surnames.

    Thanks for the article.

  10. Good morning, everyone, and thanks for the yummy hot chocolate, Sandra.

    I love naming my characters! Many times their names seem to come out of nowhere but usually feel right. I like names with meanings that tie in with the character's personality or situation, even if my readers don't make the connection.

    I'll have to check out some of the books you suggested. Though it is fun to see hubby's slight panic attack when he realizes I'm flipping through the baby names book and thinks I might have some news to share. :-)

  11. Wow, a bunch of early birds this am. I'm out west so its early for me but you all have been up for ages. smile

    Ausjenny- Now that name lets me know that you are Australian so that explains your early hour. Its great how we associate people we know with the characters in books

  12. Julia, when you wake up, I'm waving at you. Have some coffee. smile

    Yes, nicknames can help modify the character. That is why it is important to choose your names carefully.

  13. Morning Heather, Glad you like the breakfast. I hiked 7 miles around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in the Sedona area yesterday so am starving this morning. The waffles taste yummy to me too.

    Glad you changed your hero's name. Isn't that funny how you liked him better after doing that?

  14. Walt-san Don't you love the replace element in Word?
    Multicultural names are a bigger challenge. And you need to make it readable as Ausjenny commented.

    Enjoy the waffles.

  15. Debra, Great idea to test out the names on your friends. I bet it was interesting to hear the traits they associated with each name.

  16. Hi Pepper, Love your name btw, and would love to know how Grandma came up with Flipper.

    I love the way you spell Ashleigh. An unusual spelling can make a common name romantic.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Wow Lisa, You've done your research already. Great names and I like how you determined their fit.

    Thanks too for the great websites. I always forget to use the Internet. Shows my age. LOL

  18. Hi Sharon, I'll have to look up that article.

    Writer's journals are great resources folks. You can find articles on every subject for writing and often the tips cross genres.

  19. Leigh, ROFLOL, I can just picture your hubby. You are a naughty girl. I think I'd stick to the baby books just for the fun.

  20. Morning Sandra!!

    I am in coffee hog heaven.

    Look!!! It's Ausjenny!!! Hi there to our down under buddy.

    My name came from a Perry Como song popular in the..cough, cough, 1950's called Tina Marie..thus my name.

  21. Fun post, Sandra! Calling us by our full name when we're in trouble must be universal. :-)

    I love naming characters. We had the fun of naming babies twice, but as a writer, I get the privilege often.

    I have a tendency to use the same letters when naming characters and don't even realize it. My cp lets me know it's confusing. When changing character names, I use find and replace, but I've learned I can't count on it to change them all. Hitting find is safer. Don't forget the possessive form.

    To write historicals I go online as Lisa recommends for the most popular names of the period.

    The Bible is also a great resource for naming characters. No worries that the name didn't exist in the time period of my historicals.

    It's fun to use names that fit the personality, plot or job of the character. I named the hero in Courting the Doctor's Daughter Luke. The heroine is honked off that the peddler of a home remedy is named after the doctor of Scripture--only to find out he is a doctor.

    As for my name, most friends call me Janet, but a few call me Jan. Some of my family call me Jay or JK.

    I brought cinnamon raisin toast and fruit this morning.


  22. Tina Marie, I remember that song. My mother loved Perry Como.

    I hated my name when I was a kid because I didn't know any Sandy's except boys with that name.

    Now I know lots of Sandy's and there are even authors with my name which is why I use my maiden name for children's books and I combined my middle and last name for the adult novels I hope to publish as Sandra Leesmith.

  23. Morning JK,

    Thanks for reminding us that historical writers have to be sure the names they choose were used in that time period.

    Thanks for the advice on replacing a name. I know I've used replace and then find the name plural or possessive unchanged. Good suggestiion.

    And sometimes if your name is short like San, then every word with san in it gets changed like sandwich. yikes

  24. I've read a few novels where I've had no idea how to pronounce the name. I would just skim over the name everytime it was mentioned. I couldn't connect with the character.

    I was named after my maternal Great-Grandmother.

    Colletta- proper name
    Lettie- family nickname
    Lettie Boo- nickname when I was little.

    (oh, and my dad also called me "super-spiller".

    I love hearing about names. Thanks for the post.

  25. interesting topics !

    i searched my son's name from internet :) He's name is Kiral. in turkish means King.
    baby's book names, my mom, my families.

    and for the last name is my name and my hubby name, we combined it together.

    uniquas at ymail dot com

  26. I was doing this very thing at 10 last night! I like my book of baby names that I used with my kids (some names still have circles around them on the ones we were considering). It gives the meaning and time period. Right now I decided on Eve for my character but it could change...hmmm we shall see!

    I like names that can be turned into nicknames! I thought of Gabrielle to use as Gabby or Abigail for Abs or Abby. I like that personal touch!

    I need to admit as a reader I get irked when I can't prounounce a name...unless it's a fantasy read.

    Fun topic! I can't wait to read the comments!


  27. Oh I have to add this as it came to me after I just posted.

    I have trouble finding that perfect last name that fits. I resorted to flipping through the telephone book!

    I would love to know if anyone has tips for this!


  28. I'm writing a series set in the Deep South in the 1880's, and it's fun choosing names. I went to a really huge, really old cemetery in Huntsville a while back and wrote down fun Southern names from the tombstones from that era. Who says contemporary writers have more fun?!

    Speaking of which, I hope I can find that list! I'm gonna need it and I'm horribly disorganized. I have no idea where I put that.

    Anyway, I also had fun naming my characters for my medieval. I found, online, a census from that period of time and that exact area in Europe. Isn't that amazing? Actually, I think my friend April found it and gave me the link. It's great to have good friends who are really good researchers!

    Those are my suggestions, cemeteries and the internet!

  29. Love this topic! Names fascinate me.

    For some reason, I give every main character in my stories the exact same name until I find out what she's like and then I change it.

    It irks me when names in historical books don't fit the time and place....for example, a Viking princess named "Jasmine". Research and accuracy are important. (Not that I would know the *proper* name for a Viking princess--LOL--!)


  30. Oh, fun topic, Sandra!!

    And SO true that the name MUST fit the character! I have to laugh at my original names for some of the characters in A Passion Most Pure, which I began writing when I was 12. Faith, Patrick and Marcy O'Connor were the original names I'd chosen back then, but oh my, Collin and Charity's names were disasters!! Collin was originally ... are you ready? Bart!! And all because I was in love with Bart Maverick from the Maverick TV show back then. Charity's name was Del (short for Delathea), and I have NO earthly idea how I came up with that monstrosity.

    Since then, thank God, I consult various online lists for Irish names, which reallllly helps!

    And, ironically, when I named Elizabeth O'Connor Beth in book 1, I really didn't know at the time I'd be writing a series, so I didn't think too much about the names at that point. But when it came time to write Beth's story, Beth was so sweet and shy and quiet that I felt I needed to jazz her up to stir my interest in her, so I gave her a crazy friend who renamed her Lizzie to match the excitement of The Roaring 20s. Ah ... much better!! :)


  31. Collettakay, I like the two names together.

    And I agree with you. I don't like names I can't pronounce. Seems like there are several comments along that line.

    So authors think about that when you name your characters. Make it a name we can pronounce. smile

  32. Hi Mariska, Ohh I like the name Kiral. And a king. He'll have a lot to live up to. What site on the Internet did you use?

  33. CK the telephone book is a great idea, esp for last names. Thanks for the tip,.

  34. Melanie, You're tooooooo funny. Searching the cemetary--but hey, that's a terrific idea. I bet you were even able to pick up some inspiration for story ideas.

    And the census for the time period. Great idea.


  35. Mary, What an interesting concept to name the heroine the same name every time until her personality develops. Great idea. I might try that sometime.

  36. Good post Sandra! I need to work harder at giving my characters distinctive names.

  37. Julie, I loved Bart too. What a great series. Which goes to show that you can come up with names from the media.

    But I'm glad you changed it to Collin. Loved that name and it sounded so Irish.

  38. What a fun conversation!

    I just love naming my characters. Every once in a while a characters name will come first and then I know I have to write about her/him.

    I'm an amateur genealogist and I get my character names often from censuses (many time periods available), cemetery lists that are published online, a walk in the cemetery, and other genealogy resources that include names. That way I'm feeding both my writer muse and my love of genealogy. I writie historicals so this works well for me!

    carlagade [at] gmail [dot] com

  39. Hi Carla, Sounds like you'd be a great source for names. How interesting to study geneology.

  40. Hi Jessica, Thanks for joining us.

    Spelled genealogy wrong. yikes.

    I'm off to Phoenix which is about a two hour drive from the Sedona area so will check back with you in a couple hours.

    Have fun with those names. Great ideas so far.

  41. LOL...Julie!!!
    Bart? Oh my goodness. Yep, that doesn't quite fit the picture on the front of your book - or the guy. Collin is MUCH better.

    My Granny gets a 'feel' for names. I don't know if it's an Appalachian thing or a granny thing, but my guess is that Flipper (or Flip) sounded a lot like Pepper. Who knows. She just says..."Well, it fit ya."

    Granny has some of the best quotes in the world.

    My mom's name is Ginger, so I guess we're like the original 'spice girls' ;-) I wanted to name one of my daughters, Sage, but my hubby wouldn't go for it. Too weird.

    Names are so important - to me anyway.

  42. Hi, Sandra! Thought-provoking post! Coming up with character names is always a fun and interesting challenge for me. I keep baby name books close at hand, and I have one in particular that I like because it groups the names by ethnicity. It's the Writers Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook.

    Another source I have used is the local newspaper's obituary page. You'll find a wide variety of interesting name combinations, and often some biographical information in the writeup that will spark additional story ideas. Even not knowing these people, it can be fascinating to read about their careers, family connections, and personal interests.

  43. Hi Sandra:

    I find names to be very important. I sight read (I don’t pronounce the words to myself as I read) so I like characters to have names that begin with different first letters.

    I also want names to be appropriate for the times and characters. BTW, it’s not enough to be right, the name also has to be perceived as being right by the reader.

    For example, I began reading a historical romance set in ancient Rome (my favorite time period) expecting a great read. However, the lead character, a gladiator, is named ‘Carlos’. I have never heard of an ancient Roman named Carlos. To me it is a current popular Spanish name. I found this name so annoying that I gave up on reading this book. (I don’t think I’ll go back and finish the book.)

    There may have been ancient Romans called ‘Carlos’ but I can’t remember ever reading about one.

    I’m also leery of authors who sell the right to name characters in their books. That’s like an author saying ‘names don’t count’.

    What do you think about authors selling the right to name characters?

    Thanks for your post. I think names are very important from the reader’s POV.


  44. Hmm, choices, choices, choices.

    I think I'll take strong coffee with pumpkin spice creamer, no, pass the REAL cream. Love the frothy mustache : )

    Sandra, I love names other people come up with. Me? Not so much.

    Hero names come easy to me, but heroine names?? Hardest part about writing a novel is associating a name with the personality, especially a woman.

    Men are easy and straightforward. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. Just like my husband : )

    Women? Very complex creatures. Gotta be strong, yet vulnerable. Capable, yet uncertain. What a mess.

    In the mss I just revised, I think I changed the heroine's name 4 times. What does that say about me??

    My mom wanted to name Gigi (think French pronounciation)
    or Pandora (think Flying Dutchman)

    Luckily, I was born in a storm and Audra means storms in Lithuanian.

    Thank you, Lord.

  45. Vince, you bring up a great point! How in the world can you let a stranger name the most precious cast of characters you're currently working with while they don't know a thing about them?

    I may have a tough time naming my heroines, but I don't want anyone else doing it!!!

  46. I love names, too. In one book, I had to change my hero's name because it was too similar to the heroine (Shelby & Shane). That was hard because in my mind he was Shane. But he became Ian - kind of similar and I adapted. LOL.

    I, too, like to get names from the cemetery or when I'm doing my on-line ancestry research. Lots of interesting ones there! I also use the obits in the newspaper. Hubby thinks I'm crazy to always read the deaths, but hey, I like reading about peoples' lives.

    We writers are a 'unique' bunch!

    Have a great day.

    sbmason (at) sympatico (dot ca

  47. I just posted an email on the ACFW e-loop this morning on this very topic! :-) When I'm stuck on a character name, I turn to the book The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg. I bought this book when I was pregnant, but it has been soooo great for character names too!

    It has detail for each name, like nicknames, brother and sister name suggestions, popularity graphs, etc. Then the last half of the book has names listed in categories, like Country & Western, Antique Charm, Mid-Century, Surfer Sixties, and dozens of others. So for my current WIP, I was trying to think of a name for the old man who gossips at the local restaurant. I turned to the category Long Gone and quickly settled on Arvil.

    I highly recommend this book!

    forgravebooks at gmail dot com

  48. Loved reading this post and the comments! :) Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of starting a new story. To me, I can't really connect with the character until I know his/her name. I go to baby naming websites for name ideas, and also write down unusual or attractive names I hear for future reference.

    For me the name has to fit the time period the character was born in, fit their personality and looks, and finally just sound right :)


  49. Great post. What fun.

    When I'm writing, I usually leave it black everywhere the character's name shows up until I can find one that I like.

    Depends on how my characters develop as I write the story. Sometimes I know the names, sometimes I have to think about it. I've even run a contest on my blog to get help with finding names.

    This was fun to read. Thanks!

  50. Hi Myra, Great ideas for name gathering.

    Pepper, Your Grandma is tooooo funny. I bet she was fun to grow up with. My grandma was too. She called me her honeybunch.

  51. Hello,

    We have a lovely FAA inspection for Repair Station to look forward to after Thanksgiving. Yay.Sure could use the prayer for that and some business as well.

    Now on to to the post at hand.

    I have used baby name books and researched names that I want to use. But I don't always worry about the meaning, it depends on the place and era where the story takes place.

    And the time I really pushed for the usage of names and their meanings for the base of a story line, I'm not altogether if people got it.

    Oh well.

    My Name is Tina, mom didn't want to call me Christina-- the popular name when I was born-- but everyone thought I was still Christina.

    As I got older... People kept calling me Lisa or Tina Marie
    don't know why Lisa was so ingrained in their minds.

    Frankly, I wanted to be Elizabeth, my middle name, it could have so many nicknames.

    Tink-- is the nick name my husband uses.
    Auntie Pooh Pinson-- is the endearment from one of my nieces

    Grandma and Bamma are what my grandchildren call me.

    Most people just call me Her Royal Highness...LOL

  52. As a side note...

    I have also walked through cemetaries, read obits, and looked through census reports to find names that were prevalent for the time.

    Or if I hear someone with a name I like I can use that too.

  53. Hi, Sandra. Slow checking in today. I know I have a sort of hang up with names, especially Men's names, one syllable, and/or long vowel sounds.

    I'm fighting it. But I guess that sounds STRONG to me.

    YEESH, I've written a lot of books, haven't I?

    From Cowboy Christmas...Elijah...called Walker was one of the more fun, and kind of difficult names I've ever picked because...as part of the character development...I had his mom call him Eli, the rest of the world call him Walker and the heroine call him Elijah...mainly to annoy him because he didn't want her to call him that.

    Trouble with that cutesy wootsy idea, it was hard to remember.

    Also I wanted to name a hero Skye, but Ruthy wouldn't let me.
    His name is now LOGAN.

    I think I need a RAFE, DAVE, MACE, PAYTON, JASON, JADEN, GAGE(hey, I like GAGE, that the next hero's name for sure). All of these could work.

  54. Wow Vince, I've never heard of authors selling names. Do you mean the whole name of one of their characters? I can't imagine how you could sell a first or last name.

    How do they do that?

  55. Hi Audra, Love your name and how neat to be stormy. Now there's a name I like also. Stormy

    I'm with you. Male characters are easy for me, but the females. I was told it was because I didn't want to give away too much of myself. Well could be????

  56. Susan, You are so right on. We writer's are unique and that is why I love hanging with them. I think we're interesting too because we are always observant--looking for that next idea.

  57. Sarah, Thanks for the great resource. That sounds like one I should get. I love all the extra information.

    Arianna, I love the name gathering part also. Once I have a name in mind, the character really starts to gel.

  58. Hi Lynn, What a fun idea to run a contest on your blog. Gives you something to blog about too.

  59. Hi Mary, I loved Elijah and loved that she called him that to annoy him. LOL

    Your heroes do have terrific names and they're very masculine heroes too.

    I'm so glad you didn't choose Skye because that is one of the names of one of my wip heroine's. Her parents were hippies. I love that name.

  60. Names! A topic dear to my heart. :-) I love unusual names and like to "collect" them.

    CK Farm, a good resource for surnames is "What's In A Name" by LaReina Rule. It lists hundreds of common surnames, their meanings and country of origin. Some of them have short histories of the family and even coats of arms!

    Melanie's right, some of the best places to find historical names are from cemetary and church records from the time period and place your story is set.

    When naming your characters, also think about their parents, since people tend to name their children according to their own beliefs and value systems and the things they hold dear. My current hero's father was a preacher and named his three sons after Old Testament prophets that had special meaning to him. In the 60's and 70's, a time of protest, a lot of people named their kids unusual names to make them stand out from the "establishment" and often named them after nature. When "Roots" came out in the late 70's-early 80's, and genealogy became popular, people started naming their kids with ancestral family names or names from their country of origin, especially African-Americans. Whether the child keeps the name, modifies it, or replaces it with a nickname tells a lot about both the child and the parents and their relationship.

    I always hated my name because I felt it was too common. But it's also one of the most versatile names ever!

    Full name: Elizabeth
    Family and most friends call me Betty
    Maternal grandparents called me Betsy because they couldn't pronounce Betty with their accent
    At work and to some of Dad's family I'm Liz (after my Aunt Liz)
    A couple of friends called me Beth
    Neighbor boy called me Elizabetty to annoy me
    I never got called by all of my full names because they were all so long I could be halfway around the block before my mom got them all out!
    And my mom originally wanted to name my older sister Betty Ann but then she found out Dad had an old girlfriend named Betty Ann so she waited a few years so said girlfriend wouldn't think Dad had named his daughter after her!

  61. As you can see, I made it to Phoenix in great time. No traffic. Whew!!! But now I'm off to do all the errands I came down here to do.

    At least its warmer here. It was 28 degrees this morning in Sedona. yikes.

    I'll be back in a bit. I'm off to mail a requested manuscript. Isn't that exciting?

  62. Yay, Sandra!!

    Send that manuscript special delivery!!

    Proud of you and prayers are flying!

  63. I have a baby name book I use a lot. It gives ethnic origins of names and also meanings. It's helpful if you're writing a foreign character, so you can find just the right foreign name.

    I also use the phone book. I love last names for first names.

    My hero and heroine get intersting, different names and secondary characters get common names, unless the secondary character will get a book of her own.

    stvannatter at yahoo.com

  64. Hi Sandra:

    From an article in USAToday: “Stephen King joins Lemony Snicket, Michael Chabon and 11 other best-selling writers who will auction the right to name characters in their new novels on eBay”.

    I have also read about some other authors who do this and have a set price but I don’t think it would work very well unless you were a best selling author. Ideally the buyer would want the book to be a best seller and it would help if the buyer had an uncommon name. The buyer could then say, “You know that Valdo Marlovich character in the novel is named after me.”

    Who knows? People buy vanity license plates all the time.

    ANOTHER QUESTION: I don’t like it when twins have names with the same first initial. I think it is too cute by half and overdone. What do you think?


  65. Hi Mary:

    You forgot Cliff. He’s a very memorable character that we never got to meet.


  66. I love names and always have a lot of fun naming my characters.

    I have a couple of baby name books, but I've been known to refer to the phone book and sports rosters.

    Mary: I've already used Gage.

    Pepper: My daughter is Ginger.

    As for my own name, my brother used to think it was cool to attach an a and call me Helena, Montana. Other than that I didn't have any nicknames--and don't particularly hanker for any. You see, there's this custom of shortening names to make nicknames. Please don't do that to my name!


  67. Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for the tip on the surname book. I just love those books that tell all that history with a name.

    And great insight into thinking what the parents are going through. Loved your examples because that will deepen the characters already with just a name.

    I laughed when I pictured your mom yelling out all those names and you running around the block. LOL

  68. Thanks Audra.

    Hey just swung by my favorite Mexican Restaurant in the Valley. Serrano's. I brought us a huge bowl of their special corn chips and bowls of the best bean dip in the west. They also have two kinds of salsa -mild and HOT. Thought you might like an afternoon munchie. Nice tall glasses of iced tea with lemon and lime to go with.

  69. Shannon, Great point to give your main characters the interesting names and the secondary the common names. Good idea.

    Thanks for the tips too.

  70. Thanks Vince for the info. Really, what people will spend their hard earned money on. Since I'm not famous--yet, I won't have to worry about that issue. smile

    I agree on the twins. Its difficult already to tell them apart physically, esp if dressed alike so PLEASE give them distinctive names.

    But then again, its what the parents want so I guess that is what is important.

    But then again, I bet you're referring to characters in books. Hey if they give them names that start with the same letter, just rename them A and B.

  71. Sandra, oh my gosh, woman, this is so true! The name is a hUUUUUUge thing...

    We 'envision' people because of their names and you gave great examples.


    Zach by the campfire, Rett on the porch. :)

    I used meanings when naming our kids, but for characters in a book I look for that good match that makes sense for the genre, the town, the ethnicity, the feel.

    And I'm loving the chocolate coffee. Need it badly. Late night tonight and early morning writing this AM, so I've got to pretend to be awake and alert.

    Maybe they'll turn the lights down and I can doze off like all old ladies do. :)


  72. Oh my Helen, we definitely will not shorten your name.

  73. Oops, forgot...

    Ruthy by everybody and their brother...

    Ru by my Goddaughter and Beth...

    Ruth Marie -- my mother

    No one ever calls me Ruth except my husband, and that's only when he's referring to me, not talking to me, as in 'Ruth did this, Ruth likes that...'. I think he generally uses 'hey, you' or something like that. Shoot, it should be something wonderful and romantic, shouldn't it????

    Now I'm mad.

  74. Just read Vince's comment...

    Dude! Are you reading Carla Capshaw's The Gladiator????

    Ah, Vince... We both need our glasses, my friend. His name is "Caros"... No 'L'...

    Not like in Christmas "Noelle", but in no letter "l" in his name because you're right, it would have been Hispanic.

    I'm loving the book. How about you????

  75. I have a relative whose last name is Gale. They named their daughter Stormy. A bit much, huh?


  76. Hero names I've used

    (and YES I bossed Mary around about Skye... Are you stinkin' kidding me???? Gag. Not for a guy!!! So the "Logan" is a wonderful change, LOL!!! And if Missy gets brave, I think I made her change a name too, but I'm not sure if she's done it yet. She's probably afraid to tell me... fear is a powerful weapon, my friends...)

    My heroes:

    Marc DeHollander - beef farmer, DeHollander Hereford Holdings and the DeHollander Feed and Grain...

    Craig Macklin, DVM, beta hero who comes from a North Country hunting family, but couldn't shoot an animal to save his life. Loves his job saving animals, all except sheep because they're too stupid for words.

    Captain Brooks Harriman, U.S. Army, former Delta Commander from (you guessed it) Baltimore, O's fan, baseball fan, named for Brooks Robinson, legendary Hall of Fame 3rd baseman.

    Brant Westmore, lawyer and land developer, Westmoreland Properties

    Ian McCrary, thriller writer, NYT bestseller, hates small towns and pets.

    Jed Knowles, high school science teacher and varsity football coach.

    Mitchell Sanderson, District Attorney, well-to-do family, man of law and order.

    Conor Bradstreet, wealthy partner of prestigious lower Manhattan law firm, specialist in mergers and acquisitions.

    Jacobi Jacomo, NYPD detective, 'Jake', strong Italian ethnic family, NYPD blue runs in their veins, multi-generation NY cops...

    So much fun naming all of them!!!!

    Ruthy .... again...

  77. Hi Ruthy, You forgot to mention all the nicknames like ruthless, terminator, etc. we won't tell all of them. LOL

    REading all your hero's names brought back great memories of great reads. I'm so happy they will be published so others can enjoy them.

  78. Helen, Stormy Gale? Oh my

    I have a friend named Echo because the first child in each generation gets that name.

  79. Hi Ruth:

    I guess the reader is not always right. I went back and checked and the hero in “The Gladiator” is Caros and not Carlos as I was reading it for many pages.

    It still bothers me however because I can’t remember any Roman names that ended in ‘os’. I don’t think there is a nominative ‘os’ ending in the regular declensions. So I was seeing what I expected to see.

    Also, the author’s name is Carla. I think she named the hero after herself which is a clever twist on Roman daughters taking their father's name but in the feminine. In any event, I would have preferred a stronger name like Brutus. (To me Caros means 'dear one'.)

    I will go back now and finish the book because other than the name driving me crazy, the story was fine.

    Is it OK if I call you Ruth? : )


  80. Hi Sandra:

    You wrote, "Hey if they give them names that start with the same letter, just rename them A and B.”

    To do that I’d have to remember which was which in order to rename them A and B. It would double my problem.

    I like it when twins have associated names that do not start with the same letter like: Hope and Faith, April and May, Mars and Venus, and so on. This lets you know at once that the character is one of the twins but still makes it easy to tell them apart. This also works when there are a lot of sisters in the same family.


  81. oooooohhhhh Vince, Great names for our next wip. Except Julie has already taken Hope and Faith.

    But I love April and May, Mars and Venus for a boy girl twin.

  82. Vince, dearest, you may call me Ruth, Ruthy, Ruthinator, Tyrant, sigh....

    Oh, Vince!!!

    I'm SO misunderstood!!!

    And isn't that hero Greek in origin??? I remember thinking that but I have to go to choir and can't check right now. Where's Carla Capshaw when I need her????


    Come to Seekerville!!! ;)

    And Sandra, thank you for the shout out on my heroes...

    sigh... heroes... yum... :)

  83. Carla named her hero after herself?


    Carla needs to speak up.

  84. Thanks Tina,

    Yes Sandra im an aussie as there are so many jennys I added the aus to distinguish me.

    Mary you need a Gilbert can be called Gil or Gilly.

    I was actually named by my brother after another jennifer (if i was a boy i would have been michael henry.)

    Mary you wont find a lot of the following in Australia
    Wade (I do know of one who is a cricketer)

  85. Ahhhh Tyrant, that was the nickname I was trying to remember.

    Truthfully, a lovable tyrant.

    And a helpful one, I must admit.

    Mary, you're tooo funny.

    Hey folks, I'm about to draw for todays winner. Any more comments? Helpful suggestions?

    Who's been baking pumpkin pie? I have some on the sideboard so help yourself to a late night snack. In our family we smother it with whipped cream and then dribble wildflower honey on it. YUMMMM And we always have some before thanksgiving because we're too full after dinner.

  86. Ausjenny, Is it morning over there? I love pumpkin pie in the morning too. With coffee.

    I love the ausjenny as it does tell us something about you. smile

  87. This comment has been removed by the author.

  88. Sandra its lunch time 12.40pm.
    I made cookies with a cookie press im happy to share.

  89. Hi Vince and Ruthie,

    Just got back from Thanksgiving shopping after a long day at work and saw an email telling me I should come say "hi" today. First, thank you for discussing my book, The Gladiator. Second, no, I didn't name Caros after me. LOL I wish I had, that would have been very clever of me. ;-) Third, Caros (the man) *is* from from Spain, but Caros is not a modern hispanic name. When I did my research, I discovered it was a name used in ancient Iberia (present day Spain and Portugal). It means 'One who fought the Romans'. As you read, Pelonia teases him about having a non-Roman name, but it's a point of pride in his family that he has a name from his homeland. Also, as I'm sure you know, gladiators were from all over the Roman world (especially in 81AD), since they were usually slaves brought back from countries crushed by the Roman legions. So, contrary to a lot of movies and books that want to use Latin names to sound authentic, in reality very few of them probably had Roman names.

    Vince, thanks for giving Gladiator another try. I really hope you do enjoy it. :-)

    Hugs to you, Ruthie! And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. :-)

  90. Oh, and Ruthie, I meant to say in my other post that Alexius is the Greek your thinking of in Gladiator. :-)

  91. Carla, Thanks for joining us. Glad you substantiated your name Caros. How interesting and now I want to go get your book and read it. Hooray.

  92. Ausjenny, Lunch hmmmm. Thanks for sharing the cookies from down under.

  93. That makes me extremely happy, Sandra. Thank you!!

  94. Hi Carla:

    Thanks for posting tonight. I will start “The Gladiator” from the beginning again keeping what you have said in mind. Roman romances are so rare that sometimes, like a kid on Christmas, I just jump in and read too fast.


  95. No worries, Vince. I spend a lot of time researching my settings and details because I love writing about the history almost as much as I love writing the romance--almost. :-) Like you, ancient Rome is one of my favorites. It's so full of color, intrigue and danger--perfect for a romance setting. Besides, I can't think of a whole lot of places more romantic than Italy.

    I spent 3 weeks in Italy while I was writing The Gladiator, doing research and hoping to give the book as much of an authentic feel as I could.

    If you end up liking Gladitor, I hope you'll look for my sequel, The Protector out in July 2010. :-)

  96. Thanks everyone for joining us today.

    Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

    As Debby brought to our attention last week, we all have much to be thankful for. Writer friends are top on my list.

  97. have to say I loved the Gladiator and thanks for the info on the name.

  98. About Carla Capshaw's The Gladiator and the hero Caros----I haven't read it, yet; it's in my waiting to be read pile---but one of my favorite movies "Gladiator" indicates that gladiators were from all over the known-world, not just Rome. Russell Crowe's character was called "The Spaniard" because, obviously he was from Spain. Can't wait to read this one!

  99. Ausjenny said: "I know in Australia historical names would be more like English names with Irish names for the convicts."


    This makes perfect since for historicals, but I would never have thought of it if you hadn't pointed it out.

    Thanks for sharing that little tidbit.