Guest blog by Lynnette Austin, author of Can't Stop Lovin' You
Think of some of the great characters in your favorite books. Would Darcy have been Darcy if he’d been given the name Maynard or Jethro? Would Agent 007 appear as debonair if Ian Fleming had called him Egbert Humphrey instead of Bond, James Bond? What about the daydreaming, flighty Prissy in Gone with the Wind? If her name had been Sydney or Helen we’d have lost some of her special flair and flavor, wouldn’t we?
A character’s name should reveal something about him or her, should help paint that all-important picture for the reader. Locale, profession, character traits, a character’s age, ethnic origin all have to be considered. Sometimes it’s a physical characteristic. If a character is named Rusty, he’d better have red hair. Ebony? Raven? Both evoke a beautiful woman with flowing black tresses. Even the name of inanimate objects can take on great importance. Can anyone ever forget Wilson in Cast Away with Tom Hanks?
When I start a story, it absolutely refuses to flow until I get those names right. A Lucy doesn’t behave the same as a Lucille or a Lena. When I was still teaching, I had the sweetest, shyest little girl imaginable in my class. Her name? Rebel. This might work in a story if I deliberately wanted a name that was the antithesis of my character, maybe even as a forewarning of a character change to come. But the name sets up certain expectations, doesn’t it?
My new Maverick Junction series takes place in Texas, and my men are...sigh…sexy cowboys. Their names had to fit this persona. No Percy or Norman or Julian for these guys. Not in these books. My guys needed to be rough-and-tumble and ready to hop onto the back of a racing stallion in their worn jeans and Stetsons. Meet Cash Hardeman, Ty Rawlins, and Brawley Odell. Strong men, strong names.
And their women? In Somebody Like You, the first of the Maverick Junction books, Annelise Elizabeth Katherine Montjoy is a beyond-wealthy heiress, the next thing to royalty, and her name needed the ring of that. To her family, her business associates, and the ever-present press, she’s Annelise. However, when she arrives in Maverick Junction, Texas, she wants to leave all that behind, and she becomes Annie. Just Annie. A small name change; a huge difference. Annelise is hounded by the paparazzi; Annie can enjoy pizza and beer at Bubba’s Roadhouse, muck out Cash’s stables, and redo her rented apartment with second-hand furniture and a few gallons of paint. She needed a name that could be transformed, and I think this one worked. Regal Annelise. Down-home Annie.
Ty’s lady in Nearest Thing to Heaven is a sophisticated city-dweller, a believer in fairies and magic, a woman with a very soft center. She needed a classy name. One that radiated cool and calm. A quiet name. Sophie London. Feminine, but strong enough to take on a widower and his four-year-old triplets—while running her own business.
Can't Stop Lovin' You features Brawly Odell and Maggie Sullivan. Yep. Both very strong-willed with tempers to match. When these ex-high-school-sweethearts tangle, it’s fireworks time.
Mel is the owner, editor, and reporter of small-town Maverick Junction’s newspaper. I’d been very careful to give my main male characters very manly names. Mel, though, was never intended as anything more than a secondary character. But I really like Mel and think he deserves his own story, his very own happily-ever-after. So what do I do? I’ve boxed myself into a corner. Or have I? I never disclosed his last name. I decided on Ryker, and all of a sudden, my scholarly, somewhat weak-sounding Mel becomes Mel Ryker, a force to be reckoned with. By choosing a hard-sounding last name, Mel became hero material.
Haunt character and baby name websites, scour those “name your baby” books—of which there are many! Mine is so worn, I really need to consider replacing it soon. But having met so many great friends between its covers, I’m reluctant to do that. J
I also have a fantastic book titled Don’t Call Me Rover: 5,001 Names for Your Pet by Rita Blockton to help find that just-right moniker for pets because they, too, become important characters. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book without giving at least one of my characters a four-legged friend. And then, of course, we have fish and birds and… I could go on and on.
The right name completes your character. All by itself, it conveys so much about him or her to the reader. Take the time up-front to get this right, and it’ll pay huge dividends.
What’s your favorite character’s name? Why?
Lynnette Austin loves Starbucks, Peppermint Patties, and long rides with the windows down and the music cranked up! One of the great things about writing is thatdaydreaming is not only permissible but encouraged. Somebody Like You, Nearest Thing to Heaven, and Can't Stop Lovin' You are the first three books in her Maverick Junction series, contemporary romances set in Texas.
Come visit me at my website www.authorlynnetteaustin.com
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Check out www.lynnettehallberg.com for my non-Maverick Junction books.