Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N is for Names...How do you choose them for your characters?

N is for Names

Day 14 of the A to Z Challenge and I’m still (partially)  blogging about Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84.

How does a novelist choose names for the characters in their writing?  The answer is likely to be very variable and what works for one writer, might not for another.

Personally I love ‘Baby Name' sites! Sometimes I use the ‘Baby Name’ sites- like ‘Celtic/ Gaelic Boys and Girls Names’  to ensure I use a traditional name, but I’m also pretty anal in that I tend to like the names of some of my characters to have a connection to their character traits. The sites which show a meaning to the traditional name are great for this.

Lorcan-  www.123rf.com

My historical novels are particularly spattered with names which reflect a strength or mannerism. In my historical adventure THE BELTANE CHOICE I named my Celtic hero - Lorcan.  

Lorcan means ‘the fierce one’ and though he isn’t really fierce all the time it seemed a great Celtic name to use. Fergal is a name I’ve used which means ‘man of strength’. Brennus is also one which means ‘power/ force’ so he was my Celtic tribal champion. My current writing has a female child called Kaydee which means 'first born'.

In my sequel to The Beltane Choice I have many characters who are Roman. I’ve had great fun finding names which reflect their job or their personalities. I know that unless I add a names section to the back of the book a reader will probably never realise my intention but it matters to me!

One roman guard is named Velius which means ‘concealed’. For me this is great as his loyalty is suspect, a bit of a shifty guy with his nose in too many pies. Another name I love is Onesiphorus –which means ‘in charge of goods’. Is it any surprise that I’ve given him a role as a chief ‘Supply Officer’, a character who is very good at organising everyone?  

I tend to choose male and female character names from 'Baby Name' sites for my contemporay novels as well- though others I've used are names that have had some meaning to me in my own life.

In my fun contemporary mystery TAKE ME NOW my hero is a guy from Scotland who is based in a castle on a fictitious island. Nairn Malcolm as a name works very well for me since the island is near Oban on the west coast of Scotland- the Malcolm clan name quite popular in that area.

In my second contemporary ancestral mystery, TOPAZ EYES, the story revolves around a family tree that originates in Amsterdam in the1880s - the story involving the progeny of Geertje Hoogeveen. I needed a whole heap of names which would seem genuine for the locations mentioned in Holland, Germany and Austria. Thank goodness for those baby naming sites for Dutch and German names!

Choosing names hasn’t always worked, though, since a name ‘invented by me’ in my first published novel bounced back and hit me in the butt.

My debut contemporary novel is an ancestral mystery called MONOGAMY TWIST- a Dickensian style bequest of a dilapidated house and estate in Yorkshire, England. My inheritor for this is a guy of Italian and Australian extraction. I called him Bosco Salieri- the word bosco in Italian meaning ‘wood’. I chose this since it was meant to be a throwback name to the Greywood family who had owned the estate in England. Sounds fine but when that novel was accepted by The Wild Rose Press for publication my senior editor ‘suggested’ a name change since there was a character in one of the American soaps/ serials called Bosco who was perhaps not ‘hero’ material. I’d never watched the programme so changed the name to Luke instead.

I've got another Roman name I've really loved using in my sequel to The Beltane Choice but I'm keeping that surprise for another day and another A to Z blog hop post.

If you’re also a novelist how do you choose the names of your characters? I’d love to know…



  1. Sometimes I do pick names based on character traits. Otherwise, I just pick based on what sounds right for a character. :-)

    My Writing Blog
    My Life Blog

  2. It is a nightmare. OK in my magical ones as they tend to come from nowhere! But in my modern day genre I often have to resort to a random name generator for incidental characters and then write long lists as I always forget who they are!

    1. Ailsa- I have to make lists, too, in my historical novels as they tend to have far more characters in them.


Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)