Names have to be one of the hardest things for me to come up with when I’m writing a story. For me, a name has to reflect that character — who they are, what they were called when they were a kid, how they feel about themselves. Some characters come to me fully formed. Sam Watson from Private Property and Personal Protection walked into the room and introduced himself fully formed. God, I loved Sam. (That Sam bears a striking resemblance to Dwayne Johnson is just a coincidence. Honest.)
Others? Some–most–of the others weren’t as easy. Jodi Tyler, the heroine from Private Property? She went through a couple first names before I settled on Jodi. Oh, Jodi was the name I wrote on the very first draft, but then I waffled because frankly I don’t like the name Jodi. I think it’s a hard name. So I tried a few other names on her before giving up and admitting she’s “Jodi.” It suits her. She’s a tough kick-ass former cop-turned-security expert. Where the name came from, I haven’t a clue. I still don’t like it, but it’s her name and I have to accept it.
When I’m trying to decide upon a name I have a baby name book that I flip through, I have links to quite a few online naming sites. I look at its geographical origins, its meaning, its diminutives, alternative spellings. I google them to make sure I’m not taking the name of someone famous. Can you imagine reading a book where the hero is someone named Stephen King? As a reader, I think it would pull me out of the story every time I saw the name as I’d flash to a mental image of the author which is probably not what I envisioned for my hero. (No offense to Mr. King, but I’d rather my characters be unique.)
I’ve discovered I also have a tendency to choose names that start with the letter C. Why? I haven’t a clue. In Personal Protection, I originally had Chad, Chris and Cooper. One of my critique partners was having trouble keeping them straight. Luckily all I had to do was change the spelling of Chris’ name to Kris. (He is another that came to me already named as when I think of him I think of Chris O’Donnell. Actually most of the characters in Personal Protection came to me with their identities in place.)
She started out as Ann (without an e, thank you.) A very proper British lady who swears like a sailor. Then I thought. Ann and Andy, Andy and Ann. Raggedy Ann and Andy. Nah, too comic book. Besides Ann was originally created for Chad but when I decided Andy’s story needed to come next in the series I made the mistake of trying to force her onto Andy thinking, hey, Andy doesn’t swear, wouldn’t it be funny if his heroine swears like a sailor? Except she didn’t get along with Andy, so bye bye Ann, hello Charlene/Charley.
Ooops, another C. (It took me 6 months to notice this fact though.)
So recently I changed her name to Natasha/Tasha for short. Except that name’s not working either. You see when I think Tasha, I think Russian.I think of umblemished ivory skin that has never seen a heavy sun but is used to lots of snow.) Or of course, the beautiful late Natasha Richardson. But Andy’s heroine’s mother is African-American though her father’s not, and the name just doesn’t fit.
So I figured I’d put it out there and let you toss out some suggestions for favorite names. Here’s what you probably should know about Charley/Natasha/whoever …
As I said above, her mother is African-American, her father is not. When I think of her, I think of Alicia Keyes. She’s tall – 5’10, 5’11. She keeps her hair in braids most times, and it’s about the same length as Alicia’s is in the picture to the right. She’s an only child. She’s strong, but she’s got secrets – not her own but other people’s secrets that she’s promised to protect. She’s a lawyer. She knows what she wants and goes after it, although that fact gets her into trouble at the very start of the book when she and Andy … well, you’ll have to wait until I finish the book, get my editor to buy it and it gets released to find out what she does.
Her name can’t start with an A (because I’ve already got Andy.) And it can’t start with a C because Chad and Cooper figure prominently in this book and a lot of readers get confused by names that start with the same letter. Other characters names to bear in mind? Scott, Roger, Danita, Sandy, Sam, Rosie, Kris, and Troy. Wow, I just noticed — apparently I like names that start with S too!
Oh, I’d like a name that has a short form, a diminutive that the guys (Andy and his brother Daniel — yes, it’s a menage story) call her where others might refer to her by her more formal name (Charley vs Charlene.)
(Have I mentioned how much I really like the name Charley and how much I think it fits her? And how much it’s killing me to have to change her name? But I really do think it has to go unfortunately.)
So help me name my heroine.