I had no trouble coming up with the names for Protecting Parker. Parker Cotton came first. I needed a name for a woman that could be confused for a male name and Parker worked. Cotton simply appeared on the page as I started to type. Gray Townsend was another matter. Gray was a name I’d heard at some point and thought was cool; it was also not a name you saw every day. However, he started out as a Jenkins, but one of my friends who read the first chapters told me how much she hated the name and I swapped it to Townsend.
As for the names in Blood Link, once again, I always knew who they were. As I created the team, their names came to me. Samantha Elliott was in honor of my favorite gravelly-voiced actor, Sam Elliott. Jay Evans needed a name that was simple and strong. His nickname of Cowboy was how I saw the character – the romantic ideal of the quiet cowboy who saves the girl and loves her forever. Captain George Bigelow has the names of two officers that I worked with years ago. George from Colonel George Zaniewski and Bigelow from Lt. Col Richard Bigelow. Both were officers I respected and admired. The character is known as Bee because most of the enlisted personnel wouldn’t call him by his first name, so he would have started out as Captain Bigelow, than as they grew closer, Capt B and finally just Bee, but his parents and girlfriend would naturally call him by his given name of George.
Choosing a name for your character might be an easy item on your To-Do List, or it could be an onerous task. I do fine when I plan my book. I have a feeling about the character and a name often comes to mind. When I really run into trouble is in the middle of writing when I want to apply a name to someone I’ve given no previous thought to. The character simply appears in my head and now I need a name. The problem is that I don’t know at that moment how important or unimportant this unexpected person might be.
In writing Saving Emily, I ran into the situation that I mentioned previously – Janice goes to the gym and meets an ex-SEAL who trains personal protection specialists. I’m writing away and suddenly here is this man on my page, and he has a role to play in my primary characters development. All I had was the opening moments of their conversation on the page when I realized that I couldn’t just refer to him as “the man” or “the gym owner.” I needed a name. The character is Hispanic, handsome, tough as nails, and of course, compassionate. I didn’t want to use the what might be considered a stereotypical name such as Juan, and I couldn’t use my favorite of Diego – he’s a character in my Blood Link series.
I live in Tucson, Arizona – you’d think this would be easy, but it wasn’t.
I resorted to my favorite trick for finding a name. My friends on Facebook. One of my closest friends has the maiden name of Islas, so I stole it. I’ve always liked this name – for the non-Spanish speakers it sounds like “Eas-Las.” It’s not as generic as Hernandez or Morales and has the added bonus of being short and easy to type! For the first name, I hit her friends list and found the name Oscar. While unusual and old-fashioned as an Anglo name, Oscar is quite popular among Hispanics. I love to hear my friend pronounce it – “Oh-score” but you have to roll that “r” just the right way. Oscar Islas took off like a rocket in my head. In fact, once Oscar had a name, he suddenly had a personality and a back story. I realized that Oscar had a real role in this book and adjustments were made to accommodate his presence.
Several of my Facebook friends have large numbers of friends, so I sometimes roll in and scroll the names. I’ll pick first names from one friends list, and then go to another friend and hijack the last names from them. I hit one of my younger friends lists when I’m looking for the names for twenty-somethings.
One of the things I do is look at the most popular names for babies in the year my character was born. This is how Emily got her name.
The other place I get names is from my genealogy work. The last names of several characters have come from Mr. Scott’s family tree. Lawton, MacKenzie, and Jamison are just a few of the ones I’ve used so far. Sometimes as I’m looking at a census record from the 1850s a name jumps off the page and an entire life story pops into my head. I jot those names down for later use.
More on names to come…