Friday, June 1, 2007


In my exhaustive search for the best southern name ever for a continuing character I plan to introduce in my next thriller, I ran across an article called “Namestorming” by Lisa Tribolo. It’s a great article and it reinforces the importance of choosing the right name for your characters. Like naming a baby, the moniker will follow that character for the rest of his or her life. But what I really loved was the whole concept of namestorming—brainstorming for the perfect name. Because let's face it, names do make an impression. A great name affects the reader on both a conscious and subconscious level. Even changing the spelling of a common name (like Emily, Emilie, Emilee) can create a completely different perception of the character.

Think of some of your favorite continuing characters and how their names help you perceive them. Could James Lee Burke’s alcoholic Cajun detective be called anything but Dave Robicheaux? You can almost smell the bayou when you say his name aloud. Or how about Amelia Peabody, the Victorian-era spinster daughter of a reclusive scholar created by Elizabeth Peters? Can you not picture Amelia serving tea in the drawing room of an English country estate (whilst secretly daydreaming about her next trip to Egypt)? The name suits her perfectly. As does Nina Zero, the ex-con, celebrity-paparazza protagonist in Robert M. Eversz's stylish noir punk series by the same name.

That’s why I’m agonizing long and hard over the name I give my continuing character because it’s my hope she’ll be around for a while. And I want my readers to remember her long after they finish the book.

What are some of your favorite character names?

Amanda Stevens


  1. One name from an Intrigue that has stuck with me over the years was from a Patricia Rosemoor book. The heroine's name was TAFFY DARLING. It sounded fake and blonde and spoiled. And on first glance, you might have thought the heroine was that way. But she turned out to have a lot of grit, some surprising skills and a huge, huge heart. An ironic twist. I loved her!

    The right name can have so much power--and can mean different things to different people. A name one reader associates with strength, another thinks is goofy. I have a recurring character in my Precinct books--District Attorney Dwight Powers. To me, DWIGHT is solid, no-nonsense, even Presidential!--and many readers share that thought. When Dwight was finally featured as the hero in his own story (SEARCH AND SEIZURE), I got all kinds of fan mail and email--some loved that I'd used an old-fashioned name and thought it sounded strong; others thought it was nerdy; one said it reminded her of her father and so she found it reassuring; one reader even said she almost didn't pick up the book because her family had a creepy gardener named Dwight, and she had a bad association with the name. She said she loved the story, though! Whew!

    Julie Miller
    UP AGAINST THE WALL--Aug. 2007

  2. **she almost didn't pick up the book because her family had a creepy gardener named Dwight**

    You just never know, do you?

    I spend a lot of time choosing names. I can't even start to plot if the name doesn't sound right to me.

  3. Names!
    When you've written over 100 novels and novellas, it gets to be difficult to find new names you like. I might re-use a name i like. Or a variation of a name. like Jake and Jacob. And one thing I do is look at the social security list of popular baby names. I thought long and hard about what to call my werewolf detective in KILLING MOON. He's Ross Marshall. Ross because it seemed different and I liked it. Marshall because I saw him as upholding the law. At the time,I didn't know that I was going to have a whole family of Marshall men.

  4. **At the time,I didn't know that I was going to have a whole family of Marshall men**

    Another good reason to choose a name you like!

  5. Speaking of the bayou... I have a character from my first Intrigue whom I still hope to feature in his own book some day. His name is Devereaux Gautier (Dev-a-row Go-shay). Of course that's not his real name. As a runaway boy of 12, he was given that name by the cop who found him and took him in (the cop's name was Thibaud (Tee-bow) Johnson btw.

    Dev's real name was John Devrow. And yes, I thought long and hard about his name too.

    For my book coming out in Jan 08, my hero's name is Geoffrey Archer. The heroine calls him Archer. I liked that name since it evokes the image of a man with his head high and his feet planted, drawing back the string on a bow.

    You can probably tell how much I love naming my characters!

  6. I love naming characters, too. Especially since I'm not going to be naming anymore babies!

    Devereaux Gautier is a wonderful name.