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.

Name Theory: Tonality

Sometimes character naming can come down to “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

Sometimes it needs something a little less tangible.

While re-reading this week’s character naming I felt like I was missing something. The writer had given me the information I asked for, but not anything more. I don’t know anything about the plot, anything about the world, or even enough of the writer’s naming style to fake it.

There is something about this writer’s book that I especially could have used when I attempted to name this character—the novel’s tone.

How does this writer plan to pursue this novel? Who are the target readers? How does this writer hope to get across the theme of this novel?

Is this going to be a dark paranormal romance, or a coming-of-age story couched in fantasy clothing, or a fantastical adventure story?

Is this story going to be humorous, or have elements of horror? Is this a “normal” world with fantasy elements, or is this a fantasy world hidden among us?

What did the character and/or her mother know of the fantasy elements before the story begins?

Any and all of this information would have given me a better understanding of what types of names would be most appropriate to the story. If her mother, for instance, was naming a girl who she knew would be a white tigers then the name Bianca would have been a way of trait naming. There are many “if”s that all relate back to the novel’s tone. Without it I was left to offer a range of options that may have been perfect and may have been off mark. With the tone I could have narrowed my search and came up with a better set of names that would give readers a feeling for the story, the character, and her arc.

If you are stuck on naming a character, think about your novel’s tone. Consider how different types of names might feel to your target readers and aim to choose a name that will resonate with your tone.

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.

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.

Name Theory: Vamping for Names

Vampires aren’t as big as they used to be.

For a while werewolves were making a run for the money, but that went to the dogs. Then came zombies, and they are still rambling along. Angels were big for about a moment, but then they flew away. Aliens were tried, but never really landed. Fairies are still trying to take off.

Still vampires creep around in the darkness. They are not favorites of agents and publishers, but they still hold some of the market. And they are very much alive and well in self-publishing.

Readers are still enthralled with paranormal. Readers of romance especially have always been looking for a bit of fantasy mixed with their real-life aspirations, so these larger than life paranormal characters still attract those readers. And, you must remember, romance readers can be voracious.

Some may believe paranormal is trite, but as long as vampires sell I will name them. Send me your blood-drinkers, your demons, and fiends. They are much more exciting to name than every Tom, Dick, or Harry.

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.

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.

Character of the Week: Teenage Witch Names

I’ve been watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately, so I felt like finding a paranormal teen to name.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 17-19 (born 50 years in the future)
Constantly traveling, never really has stayed in one place. Parents work for the government, and they strongly believe in their work. Uh, haven’t thought about any of this quite yet.
Her friends are Blair Summers, Trevor Felton, Char Jones, and Eden Russe.
Bounty Hunter/Witch

See there? Even this witch’s friend is named Blair Summers. So I had to look for a Willow Rosenberg-type name for her. Except, this one’s the heroine (instead of the friend).

My Reply to the Writer

  • Miryam Stuart
  • Alannah Stuart
  • Tabitha Stuart
  • Alexie Stuart
  • Rachelle Stuart

The writer never replied to me so I don’t know if any of these names were chosen. I do feel like these names fit the same feel as the other names this writer chose, but with a little more cool.

As I’m reading them now, however, I’m wondering about my first choice. Miryam is a name that I think of as cool/sexy/alternative—but that could be because I knew a girl who changed her name to Miryam who fit that description.

Character of the Week: Alternate Time Names

This naming, character, and plot, raises many questions for me.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, somewhere between 17 and 25, Contemporary
Raised in a big city, but not sure which one. It’s in the US though. It’s like an alternate universe. Humans know the existence of magic and magical creatures.
I don’t know much about her parents, I just know they have connections…
I think she is an only child. Love interest is undetermined right now, but it might be this guy Julius or Colton (Colt).
Other characters: Patrick (Trick), Camryn (Cam), Josephina (Josie), Maximilian (Maxxie), Rinyl (a talking lion companion for Trick… cooler than it sounds, I hope), Roxy (her companion cat).
Quiet unless she has something to add, independent, is stronger than she looks (takes some sort of martial arts I think).
Urban Fantasy

For this character in an alternate reality, I looked for names that are in use now, but which I imagine might be more popular in a world where magic and magical creatures exist.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Eva
  • Reverie
  • Paisley
  • Morgana
  • Kali

The writer replied: I really like the name Kali for her, but I am second guessing myself because I have a lot of names with the “K” sound: Cam, Colt, and Trick. It’s silly, I know, but I want some variation. I also like Morgana too, so maybe I’ll go with that. And is Reverie pronounced as Rev-eh-ree or Rev-ree?

I think this character has a name, but I’m not sure. The writer was still trying to decide a lot of things about this character, like where she’s from, and I think all that was needed was a little confidence in choices. There are a lot of character names with K sounds (which is why Kali was the last name on my list), Morgana is a good name but doesn’t quite fit the other names, and Reverie is a different name if you think readers might pronounce it Rev-uh-ree vs. Rev-ree. (Personally I would use the first pronunciation, and I like that name more every time I consider it for this character.)

Character of the Week: German Demon Names

To me, Horror seems to be about juxtaposing the “normal” with the “terrifying”. If I wrote Horror, I wouldn’t want to give away too much with the character’s names.

The Writer Describes the Character

Male, 72 (born 4 years before WWII)

Born in the country side of Germany in a village with no contact outside of the village (this is in a world that demons and monsters do exist but hide from humans). Spent the first 4 years of his life living in the village; after that he lived by himself off in the wilds of Germany and crossed into a few other countries until a British unit caught him for only a few months before heading off on his own again. After the war ended he was captured and was sold into fighting underground matches, body guarding, hitman. Has little real friendly interaction.

Father was a village leader; he lived during the WWI and managed to keep his village safe. Mother had no special rank; lived and survived WWI. Both parents were killed in WWII. The father was first; he died to protect the village and his family. The mother sacrificed herself; after hiding her children in a barn she was killed by the troops when she tried to lead them away.

Father: Falk; Mother: Ina; Older Brother: Shen; British Soldier (Medic): William Hawkworth (drags him back to base to get fixed up/ out of the war zone); Owners: Richard, Ciel, Lady Mongu, Holand, Monty, Charles (Cash).

Moral lifter (back with Medic William Hawkworth), underground fighter (was given drugs), hitman (after some brainwashing), body guard. He only takes orders in and understands German (his native village tongue has been lost) and understands a few words of English. He does not age the same way humans do. After being owned by Charles (Cash) he was freed and returned to Germany where he currently lives far away from humans. Has a number of scars and wounds; he’s a tired yet lost person and he is a type of German demon.


While this story is a Paranormal Horror, the world is one in which humans do not know about the demons around them. Even if he was born a demon (which is not clear from this description), his people probably would have hidden that fact and given the children “normal” names.

I chose strong sounding names of German origin that I felt could fit a demon/killer such as this character, but which also sounded “average” and “normal” thereby making his actions less expected and more disturbing. I also chose names that were used during that era in time.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Bastian Eberhardt
  • Rolf Eberhardt
  • Ernst Eberhardt
  • Kurt Eberhardt
  • Dieter Eberhardt

The writer replied: Thank you for giving me some names and allowing me to use them. I’ll be using Dieter Eberhardt.

There is a difference in naming characters for a Paranormal Horror vs. ones for a Paranormal Fantasy. Fantasy may have aspects of Horror, and Horror can be Fantastic, but readers of these genres are looking for different things from their stories.

Character of the Week: 1980s Preschooler Names

As my own preschooler is in his last two weeks before starting kindergarten, I thought I should write some of my thoughts on children’s names this week.

The Writer Describes the Character

Female, 4 at the beginning of the story (born in the early 1980s)

She was raised in a small, close suburban neighborhood in the Midwest. Not country, but not crime-riddled either.

Parents are very minor characters. Mostly uninterested, suburban parents. They think she’s more of a ‘strange child’ than anything else.

The parents will probably remain unnamed. Only child. 

Named characters so far: Mallory and Melody, twins that are her best friends as a child. 

She’s brown haired and brown eyed. Blind. Able to see things beyond what is actually there. Possibly a “Firestarter” type of girl, who may be able to make things happen just by wishing they would. Loner, but is not socially challenged. Her other senses are very heightened due to be being born without sight.

Genre: I’m going with Horror/Supernatural. But nothing modern.

When seeking names for this ‘80s child, I focused on names that were similar in style to the twins—that is, on names that were typically ‘80s. I did, as usual, seek a name that was less popular than her friends’ names.

My Reply to the Writer

  • Darci
  • Caryn
  • Lia
  • Lora
  • Alice

The writer replied: Thank you for coming up with these names for me. I really appreciate the time and effort. Unfortunately, I decided on the name Beth. I was leaning towards using Alice, but the more I thought about it, the more it smacked of weird little Goth girls. Not that it’s a bad name. Just didn’t want my character to be portrayed incorrectly. Thanks again and Happy Writing!

As I looked for less common names than those the writer chose for this character’s friends, I think the writer was looking for more common names. Since this is a paranormal/horror kind of story, it is natural that the writer would use a “normal” name to help ground the readers in reality.

Name Theory: Names Revisited

In naming, as in life, sometimes you wish you could have a do-over. I don’t plan to re-contact the writer of this week’s character, but I want to show you my new thinking on naming Regency characters, even if they are Fantasy Regency characters.

If I were a Historical novelist, I would do a lot of research to find names that were in use at the time, and to avoid names that were too well-known. While I have read that Jane Austen used names that referenced real people, she was writing social commentary of her time. Modern writers should go for references that modern readers will connect to.

I have also read that Austen may have chosen names that sounded like the kind of character she was writing (Knightly as the Knight in shining armor). While I don’t usually recommend this type of naming, I admit that for a mixed genre story that seems somewhat referential to other works referential names may be in order.

While this character will need a Christian name (what they would have called a given name in the Regency period), I think her surname should be chosen first since she will mostly be called Miss Surname throughout the story. I also think that by keeping the Historical parts of the novel accurate, the Fantasy parts will seem even more fantastic.

My new recommended names for this character are:

  • Miss Hewie: Meaning Heart/Mind/Spirit
  • Miss Baines: Meaning Bone/Leg or Strait/Direct or Bath
  • Miss Godwin: Referencing Gothic writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley nee Godwin
  • Miss Hartwell: Meaning the place where deer drink, symbolically meaning full of love
  • Miss Ember: Meaning Spark, and a reference to Austen’s Emma (who this character reminds me of)

I am much happier with my new choices for this character, and I’m happy to be putting together my thoughts on Regency names. As I learn more about that era, I wonder if I will discover a Regency Historical novel in me.

Or maybe I’ll just put my thoughts on the Regency into a new blog.