Character of the Week: A Humorous Name with Derring-Do

My husband asked me to help him with a name. He enjoys drawing and needed a name for a “headline” in his latest.

He described the character thusly: “He’s an adventurer, the kind who might go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, mid-30s in 1890 or so.”

So I jumped to the task. I looked up names on the Social Security Baby Names List, cut out those that sounded too “average Joe”, or nerdy, or “cowboy”. I sought a name that had derring-do, a name with some charm and some humor (his drawings are almost always humorous), and a name with three parts. My husband specifically wanted a full name.

I cut down the list of names to 11 names that I liked for the man, after looking at name meanings and saying the names out loud, and then I tried putting them together in my head. While the names were all used as given names in the late 1800s, some are also family names and I used them alternatingly as first, middle, or last in my examples.

You try. The names list was:

  • Oscar
  • Willie
  • Rufus
  • Roscoe
  • Mose
  • Fletcher
  • Volney
  • Esau
  • Fleming
  • Hudson
  • Judd

I tried a few name combinations out. I didn’t want to confuse him by offering him the whole list to choose from, or giving him a list of examples. I just decided to toss out a few of the names that stood out to me.

The first name combo stuck.

Rufus Fletcher Fleming

My husband loved how amusing the combo of Fletcher Fleming was, and he said he’d considered Rufus already. He didn’t even want to hear any more of the names I’d selected, because my first choice was “perfect”.

While I obviously know my husband and his tastes, that did not come into play in this naming. It was the characteristics of the character—the birth period, the derring-do, the requisite humor—that helped me discover the name that he felt was perfect. And it is the characteristics of your characters that will help you discover their perfect names as well.

Character of the Week: Paranormal Horror Names

This was e-mailed to me this week.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 17, Contemporary

Born and raised in upstate New York (near the PA/NY border).

Mother is a housewife, ~45 yrs. old; Father owns computer business, ~49 yrs. old.

Parents have no names now; Brother: Louis (Loo-Eee), 15; Sister: Anne, 24.

Her friends are all currently unnamed: 3 guys (all her age-ish, are her closest friends), 3 girls, 1 other who is undecided in gender.

She is a senior in high school. Long brown hair, blue-grey eyes, wears glasses, average build/height. Bisexual (open to either gender). Quick to smile, quick to fight, die-hard loyal, is the person you’d go to for advice without a second thought, addictive personality, empathic (can basically read minds, very charming/convincing, see auras), stubborn, tough outside but is actually really sensitive/easily insulted/hurt, can’t handle problems alone (needs constant support—I guess you could call her “needy,” but she hates being that way and tries not to be).

Paranormal Horror

 Extra information about the plot: Basically, 8 teenagers go exploring in a house to learn about spirits, etc. The main 4 (main protagonist, 3 boys) are all empathic and have specific abilities. The house and whatever’s inside literally draws them in through visions/vibes. (It’s irresistible!) Inside, they face unimaginable horrors, torture of body and mind, and see their friends die at the hands of a gruesome shadow monster. Whether they escape the house in one piece is a mystery, even to me at this point.

Side note: I wanted to tell this writer that readers are likely to read Louis as Loo-iss, and if it matters to the story that he is a Loo-Eee she’ll need to have him pronounce it early on. Though even then readers will read it how they want. Then I looked into the name and learned that younger readers, mostly One Direction fans, may now think of this name as being pronounced in the French way. And yet, I still believe readers will read it how they want. If this writer cares that readers will read it differently, then I would suggest choosing a different name. (A lesson I try to keep in mind with my own name choices.)

When searching for this character’s name I had a few directions to go in. First, I looked at the names the writer had already chosen and the area where the character was born for inspiration; second, I looked at the character’s birth year on the SSA database for inspiration (less helpful than usual); third, I looked at the Baby Name Wizard for inspiration; and fourth, I looked at 20,000 Names for inspiration (searching for “female emotion names”).

Frankly, I looked in too many places because none of the sources gave me enough inspiration, but then I was left with more names than would be helpful. Cutting the list down was very hard.

My Reply to the Writer

I went in several directions when looking for this character’s name. I looked at names with “emotion” meanings, at names that were popularly used in the mid to late nineties, names that fit with the sibling names, and names that just felt right for the character. I’m offering you a cross-section of the names that stood out to me.

  • Rowena
  • Felice
  • Haley
  • Renee
  • Emily: Means Emulating

The writer replied: I’m going with Rowena; it’s not one I’ve heard very often, but it really seems to fit my writing. I never would have thought of this one. Thank you!

I’m glad this writer liked the name I liked the best, and glad that this character is named. There are so many wonderful names in the world, and I love how each one gives a character a slightly different personality.

Character of the Week: White Tiger Names

We had a cat-tastrophe in my house this morning, hence the lateness of this post. Also, hence the inspiration.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 14-15, probably a winter birthday, present day
She was raised in an average town in an average state, maybe NY. Her mom turns out to be evil (name like Veronica or some such), and is not at home much. They have a fairly distant relationship.
Her best friends are Aoife and Vivianne.
No career yet, besides student. Darkish auburn hair, dark grey eyes, average height. Can turn into white tiger. Exceptional endurance and fighting skills, fairly quick temper, very knowledgeable.
Fantasy

Don’t you love how the writer just slips in there that the character can turn into a white tiger? Now I’d really like to know more of the plot.

I do like how she has made the “white tiger” a girl who has dark/redish hair and dark eyes, rather than having her with platinum hair and yellow almond-shaped eyes. Still I thought I might give one name that means “white”, along with a variety of choices that each have their own feel.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Bianca
  • Teagan
  • Wendy
  • Kali
  • Lia

This writer never replied to me, so I don’t know what name this white tiger ended up with. I do wonder about her still. So many possibilities, if only I’d known a bit of the plot so I could have refined my choices.

Character of the Week: “Being” Names

­Yesterday I was thinking about my name, what it means to me, how it has affected me—how being Marlo has made me who I am.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 18 (born October 1994; story set from November 2012 onwards)
Born/raised in England, some small town.
Older sister Charlotte (Charlie usually); Friend possibly called Dave or similar, friend’s little sister Sadie. Then much later, gets caught up with such people as Ithobaal and Hannibal and so on (possibly not their real names though).
Struggling at college, girl he has a crush on shows no interest, then finds himself technically an adult, never had a job or serious relationship. Then, finds himself developing strange magical powers, and much later gets slowly drawn into battle between good and evil. Supernatural/magic/good vs. evil and so on.
Paranormal

Also, I am rather hoping for a name that comes in different varieties, one that most people call him, a related nickname used only by close friends and a longer form for his parents/teachers when they are annoyed. Also, tentatively the book is titled “Being [whatever his name is]”, so something that fits that phrase would be ideal.

 

My Reply to the Writer

It’s very hard to find current British names that are long enough to have one or two nicknames. I did my best. If not for that I would like to go with a name with more bite, like Rhys.

  • Cameron (Cam)
  • Brandon (Brand)
  • Dominic (Dom and Nic)
  • Lucas (Luca and Luc)
  • Nathaniel (Nat and Nate)
  • Maxwell (Max)

This writer never replied to me, so I can only assume that none of these names was chosen. This was a difficult naming in that the writer had a list of qualities desired for the name beyond the character’s description. I also felt there was something nebulous and unsaid that the writer really wanted from the name.

I get it, though. Names have more meanings than letters. I’ll discuss mine on Wednesday.

Character of the Week: Dead Girl Names

Remember how I said that I belong to a Jane Austen book club.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, mid-20s
She was born and raised in a small town in the Northeastern portion of New York state.
Her father was an auto mechanic and overall a shady character. He abandoned their family when the FMC was around ten and hasn’t been heard from much since. Her mother is a photographer and dreamed of escaping her small town, but never did. She’s incredibly quiet and is an avid reader of romance novels. She was born in Texas, lived in Germany for a time, and ended up in the same town where the FMC was born when she was a teenager. Both parents are in their mid- to late-40s.
Father – Roger, Mother – Anne, Sister – Lydia
Nathaniel – the MMC that the story is centered around, close friends and romantic interest of FMC though he was not aware of the fact; Penelope – FMC’s very self-centered best friend; Scott – Penny’s husband
When she was alive (because she actually dies just prior to the events in the novel), she was an interior decorator (I think, though that might change) and also dabbled in photography like her mother. She was a very compassionate and caring individual, very nurturing. She was, despite outward appearances that claimed otherwise, a very sad and lonely girl.
Literary Fiction

When I’m naming contemporary characters, I take some influence from the character’s personality and background and mix it with my personal experience. Here I noted that the mother is an avid reader of Romances and that the sister is named Lydia. I decided to offer another Jane Austen name for this character, along with other names I felt could fit for this lonely and artistic young woman.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Katherine (Kitty or Kit): Pride and Prejudice reference
  • Naomi
  • Abigail (Abs)
  • Lizette
  • Monica

The writer replied: Thanks so much for this. I had actually considered Katherine before, but I think this just cemented the idea. I really appreciate the help.

Maybe this writer is also a Jane Austen fan, or maybe I just stumbled on a name that fit her sensibilities. I do find it interesting how names can resonate with people for different reasons.

Character of the Week: South England Names

I can guess why this writer never replied.

The Writer Describes the Character

Thanks for doing this, it could be useful 🙂

Female, born around 1982
Born in a posh area in Southern England. Parents were rich and posh; so far they’re called Andrew and Harriet.
Siblings names: Sapphire, Henry.
Love interest: Harry (clear distinction from other’s name)
Friends: Madeline and Brooklyn, fun, hyperactive young girls around 17/18
She is shy, humble, gentle and caring.
Romance

I usually delete the “pre-Thanks” that people put into their requests, for a variety of reasons, but between this being Thanksgiving week and that tacked on “it could be useful” I thought you should see it this week. While that tack could be sarcastic, meaning that the writer was certain it would be useful, it could also be an indication that the writer didn’t care for any opinions beyond his or her own.

I think the second is even more likely given the writer stating that Harry is a “clear distinction from other’s name”. Even if the characters are clearly distinct, the names are NOT. In fact Harry is both a nickname for Henry and for Harriet, a fact that any Brit or Britophile would be aware of given that Prince Harry is truly named Prince Henry.

I suggested some beautiful names used in England for this character, but only after giving my real opinion.

My Reply to the Writer

Harriet, Henry and Harry are way too close in sound and style for any story to handle. You have to kill two of those names. I’m going to suggest (practically beg) you to change Harriet, because it is so old fashioned that it would be more appropriate for the grandmother than for the mother. I offer Fiona or Pauline as replacements. Then change either the boyfriend’s name or the brother’s name, because you don’t want readers mixing them up.

  • Imogen
  • Gemma
  • Sian
  • Clover
  • Jemima

I stand by my advice that you NEVER want readers to confuse your main character’s brother with her love interest or vice versa. Even if one name wasn’t the well-known and oft used nickname of the other, a fast reader is likely to read the two names as the same.

Please readers, this week especially be thankful for the advice you receive from others because they can often see what you don’t see.

Character of the Week: Enlightenment Vampire Names

Short and to the point.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, born in the mid-1700s England
Parents are from either Holland or England.
Names of other characters are: Francis, Noelle, and Victor.
Professional stalker, vampire, likes mind games.
Horror

Not a ton to go on here, but the birth era of the character is an inspiration. I found some interesting choices for this mind game playing-vampire. I looked for less popular yet not rare, cool-sounding choices that give a sense of age.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Piers
  • Rowland
  • Mathias
  • Cuthbert
  • Valentine

The writer replied: After much deliberation, I have decided to use Valentine as the Character’s name.

The vampire Valentine. I like it.