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.

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: 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.

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: Royalist Names

I think this character would be better off as a Young Adult heroine finding herself and trying to make her world better along the way.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, about 20
She was born in the Spring, in a very modern day-esque period in the Population, that is to say a city. My world is based upon Earth, but like an alternate version of Earth that may end up having a totally different name than Earth and some other qualities Earth doesn’t have or more of a quality than what Earth does.
Info about parents: They are “Royal followers” so I suppose that would be like the red coats, they disapprove of their daughter’s “Liberal” views and protests against Royalty etc. Father is one of the royal guard therefore they live near the palace and SHE has met the queen and several royals, and is ear to several crown secrets. Mother is one of the royal seamstresses. Because of this SHE is let off easily whereas other protesters get harsher punishments. Some of her fellow rebels don’t trust HER or give HER a hard time about this.
Parents are Richard and Tracy Whithelm. (Richard comes from a noble family, like Duke/Dutchess relative.) She has no siblings, but the palace family of servants, tailors, cooks, etc. was like her family growing up. Maddox Thorn (another “rebel”/leader) is her love interest at the start of the story, but I’m not sure if that continues through the story.
Other characters: Denver Stephen Zevil, the Queen (Delilah), the King (Morrison as in Morri’s son Morri being a Royal name.) My characters do not like revealing their names.
She is a ”rebel” but before that she was studying to be a Vet for the Reserve. Her parents highly disapprove of this career choice and her mother tries several times to groom her to be a royal seamstress, or cook. Her father even tries to get her involved with the guard. She’s very stubborn and spoiled, but she realizes how much of her growing up was a lie and feels like she has to do something about it. She is impatient and wants action now, instead of thinking it through or peaceful protest. She wants to storm the borders, lead the troops, but realizes she doesn’t have the rebels support so she uses Maddox as a puppet at times, though he doesn’t subsume to her suggestions often. Just once is all it takes though to lead the rebels into strange waters.

For this character I looked for names that were a bit frilliana, and almost royal—assuming her parents would want to honor a favorite royal through naming, or just want to use a name with aspirational connections.

My Reply to the Writer

I chose names I thought Royal followers might choose.

  • Iliana Whithelm
  • Karina Whithelm
  • Claire Whithelm
  • Gloriana Whithelm
  • Victoria Whithelm

The writer replied: Thanks for the suggestions, I quite like Karina and think I will use that, thank you.

I’m glad this writer liked one of my names. Looking at the choices I gave, I almost wonder if I didn’t go far enough in offering “aspirational” names. I’m especially glad, however, that I didn’t go too far.

Character of the Week: Busker Names

This one always made me think of Justin Bieber.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 18
Born and raised in a big city (I’m considering Chicago or Detroit).
Single mom, worked two full time jobs to support him, as a waitress and a secretary. Dad was never a part of the boy’s life.
Mom: Erica Simms; Dad: Charlie Jacobs; Love Interest: Alexia; Other characters: Erica, John, Aaron, Michael.
Plays guitar, usually just on the streets but has a rock band that occasionally gets gigs.
Realistic Fiction

Since this busker with a single mother reminded me of “the Biebs”, I looked for a name that felt similar to me. I went with common names that weren’t too popular or trendy—something normal and accessible that went with the surname Simms.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Dakota Simms
  • Brett Simms
  • Bryan Simms
  • Wyatt Simms
  • Adam Simms

The writer didn’t reply to me, so I don’t know if any of these names was chosen.

This was a simple naming, yet I see the character clearly and still wonder about his story.

Character of the Week: Cook Names

This one makes me hungry. Or maybe that’s just because it’s almost lunch time.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 25-30
Secondary character
Lives in large city (undecided)/never run into the same people twice.
Overworked, drinks too much, huge emphasis on cooking, loves trying recipes out on his wife (main character), doesn’t pay her much attention otherwise.
English decent. Scruffy, rugged appearance, dresses quite nicely but still loves his socks with sandals.
Not overly goal orientated, satisfied with life in general.

I got a really strong image of this character when I read this, and I felt like I knew someone like him (or a few someones like him). I set out to find names that fit the image in my head, and came up with some winners.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Kale
  • Ryne
  • Barrett
  • Jess
  • Lyle

The writer replied: Thanks! Jess and Barrett have made the short list. We’ll see how they fit as the character develops!

Since this character is a home-cook, I played with words a bit in my name choices. Kale is the obvious one—and I bet this character would love the vegetable! Ryne was chosen because it reminded me of the word “rind”, which is also food related. As you know I don’t particularly like choosing names based on their meanings, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like some word play now and again.

This writer ix-nayed my play, and went for more serious names on my list. This was almost certainly the right choice for this story—and the better choice for most stories overall.

Character of the Week: California Girl Names

This one was a quick naming.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, about 22
Raised in California.
Her father was a rich business man, she was definitely a daddy’s girl. Mother is a socialite who loves her wealth. Both parents don’t really care about what FMC does, as long as she doesn’t obtain a bad reputation.
Her parents are Frank and Valerie, no siblings, her boyfriend’s name is Louis.
She doesn’t have a job (yet). FMC is a bubbly, typical LA-girl. She’s outgoing and carefree, bitchy at times.

I was inspired by the feminine name of this character’s mother and the fact that she is a daddy’s girl. I saw her as a California princess.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Olivia
  • Gabriela
  • Kayla
  • Ava
  • Kristen

The writer replied: Thank you a lot! I’m going for Olivia I think!

I didn’t overthink this one, and the writer didn’t either. This writer quickly replied to say which name was chosen. Easy peasy.

Name Theory: The New Normal in Names

Names have changed a lot over the last 30+ years. Not only have the most popular names changed, but the amount of their popularity has changed as well.

When this week’s character was in preschool, the popular names were very popular and would have been worn by multiple students. I remember knowing kids who went by their first name and last initial. Jennifers, Jasons, Katies and Chrises had to share their names with one or more other students in their class. Having an unusual name was very unusual.

Today, the name landscape is very different. In my son’s pre-school, where there are 6 class rooms of 12 children, I have only noticed three names being repeated in the 3+ years he’s been there: Mason, Kaiden, and Caleb. In none of these cases were the students in the same class, or even the same age. Very few students there even have popular names, and some of the names have been surprising even to me.

This is the new normal, where children wear a wide variety of names and they think it’s odd and notable when “friends” share the same or even similar names (like Luke and Lucas, or Marcus and Marcos). Instead of there being Mason O. and Mason S., there is Big Mason (a tall boy who will soon be off to kindergarten) and Little Mason (a quiet toddler who often tries to play with the big boys). “Big” and “Little” because they are different ages and only see each other just before afternoon pickup, these boys may never be in a class with another student with their top 2 name.

It all makes my son, with his rare name, not stand out as odd—unlike when I wore my odd name to school many years ago. I felt different, outside, and strange among my peers, not only because of my name but probably in part due to it. He feels as normal and average as Alex and Chloe, because while they wear popular names they are the only people with those names he has ever met!

What does all of this rhapsodizing about preschooler names have to do with your characters? Well, while you are not likely to be naming many (if any) characters this young, you most likely are naming characters in a modern world (or a future world, or a fantasy world) where a wide range of names is possible and probable. So challenge yourself to give your characters a wide range of names. There is no reason why you should have characters named Stephen and Stephanie, when you could have characters named Zaimen and Serenity.

Character of the Week: Artist Names (and Appreciation)

[Please excuse this blog’s lateness. My computer wasn’t cooperating with me yesterday.]

Remember last week when I said writing—and naming—were work. This writer understood that fact.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 23 or 24 (born August 30, 1988)

She grew up in a nice if not well-off neighborhood tucked away in the back roads of Dayton, Ohio. Well-educated, super-smart, public schooling, and graduated from Stanford with a degree in art. She now lives in a posh part of London, with her partner, Julian.

Her mother, Peyton, was a stay-at-home mom, living off her previous husband’s life insurance. Her Father, Neal Archer, was coaching little league baseball, when they fell in love. 

She has one ex-husband, Michael, who cheated on her with her sister, Isobel, and his secretary, Mira Caprice.

Other characters are: Julian Lazarus, Michael Anderson, Pamela Jenkins, and Vivian Michaels.

Art is her passion, and she often spends hours painting portraits of landscapes, messy colors. Blunt, kind, caring, lacks modern day society etiquette skills, sensible fashion taste, disagreeable, hot-tempered. She doesn’t like to take crap from anyone. She has brown eyes, layered, golden-blond hair, and an angular face, with high-cheekbones, and a lightly glossed mouth.


Female, 29-32 (born March 2)

This second character is a high-strung, middle-class woman, approximately. 

She has no romantic interest yet, but she had a long-term boyfriend, Henry, who had an affair and left her heart-broken. She was raised in a small town in New Hampshire, and graduated top of her class, both in high-school and from college (graduated with a medical degree).

All we know about her parents is that they were both doctors and disliked her from birth, not bothering to name her or even leave a note when they left her on the side of the road.

What no one knows is that she has a hardened heart because of the tragedies she’s faced, and can be very emotionally detached in situations dealing with emotion and truths.

She is supposed to make my MC jealous. Very pretty, curly, auburn hair, emerald eyes, and a white smile that knocks your socks off.

Despite my feeling like I didn’t quite understand this story, since the writer only gave me what I needed and didn’t give me the whole plot, this was a simple naming. Probably because the writer gave me what I needed.

As a young divorced woman in a Romance, I felt the first character needed a strong and sexy name—coupled with her return to her maiden name (if she ever gave it up to begin with).

The second woman, who is not the main main, got a more straight-forward name. I saw her as a hard ass with potential for a gooey core (I’ve known a few of these in my day).

My Reply to the Writer

  • Claudia Archer
  • Gabriella Archer
  • Alexis Archer
  • Alyssa Archer
  • Marisol Archer
  • Courtney
  • Chelsea
  • Heidi
  • Heather
  • Lauren

The writer replied: I’m going with Marisol and Lauren for my two mains. Thanks so much. Your names were helpful, and it was very fulfilling to know someone cared enough to do this. I appreciate it.

To this writer I say, You’re Welcome and Thanks for the Thanks.