(Paraphrasing from Shakespeare: ‘Would a Rose sound as sweet.’)
With eight published novels, (number nine is at the editing stage and number ten is in embryonic form), and five short stories…finding names for characters is becoming something of an art form.
I now have a spreadsheet with all the names I’ve used. I don’t like to use the same name twice, particularly for the main protagonists. For the benefit of readers as well as myself, it’s good to have different names in each book to keep track of who’s who.
I did have to change one character’s name in Christmas at Winterbourne. The backstory for that novel was written many years before and not published. One of the main characters was called Jamie – a name I like. But then I used it in The Circle Dance as it seemed to fit the personality of that particular person.
Sometimes I’ll change a name during the editing stage. Usually only when there are two names that look or sound similar, or even just start with the same letter. Less confusion all round.
Another thing I’ve learned to watch out for is avoiding names that are easy to trip over when reading aloud. There’s a character called Laurel in The Circle Dance. That shouldn’t be too hard to say, you would think. However, I wished I’d used Laura instead as I kept stumbling over it.
In Changing Perspectives, I deliberately chose Camila with this spelling as I wanted her name to have a Spanish pronunciation…Ca-mee-ya. Again, when it came to doing a podcast, I thought maybe should have stuck with the English version and I suspect readers will be interpreting it as Ca-mill-a (as in the Duchess of Cornwall) anyway.
The other thing I’ve noticed about my naming convention, if I can call it that, is the tendency to use androgynous names for butch characters and more feminine ones for femmes. So it’s a bit of clue for readers if a couple gets together and the names don’t match this way. For example: in Running From Love, Lydia and Beth clearly aren’t going to make it in a long-term relationship. So is Beth going to end up with Jordan or Sam?
It’s also a good idea to be flexible. Sometimes halfway through a novel, I’ll think a name isn’t working, as the character develops and grows into the story. Or I see two names starting with the same letter or sound, so I’ll change one of them.
I do enjoy the process of naming. All part of the fun starting a new book and finding out who these people are whose stories are going to be revealed. (I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, so that’s always a mystery until about half way in.)
On another note:
My publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications, is doing flash sales every month from their back catalogue of books by their authors. Sign up for the Affinity newsletter to receive notifications of these bargain prices, plus upcoming releases and author news. (October newsletter)
The site also offers a selection of free ebooks including my first ever published short story, There Was A Time.
The Starling Hill Trilogy: