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.)

However, in my latest work-in-progress my heroine has not co-operated with me. She won’t tell me her freaking name.

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.

A Rose by any other name
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13 thoughts on “A Rose by any other name

  • August 7, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Good luck!

  • August 7, 2009 at 6:08 am

    My niece and her boyfriend are going through this now.They can't agree on any name.

    here are some names:

    Elizabeth (lots of possibilities for nicknames)

    I like unusual names.

  • August 7, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Oooh – there are some names here I've never heard before.

    Elaing8 – I like unusual names too (as long as a reader can figure out how to pronounce them just from looking at them.) If son #2 had been a girl, he was going to be Bryanna … you've given a lot of choices – so hard to choose.

  • August 7, 2009 at 6:16 am


    Or spell it how you will, but add "le-tee" to alycia.

    Names are hard, I agree. I have a thing for the letter J, especially for my men.

  • August 7, 2009 at 6:24 am

    I never even thought about the complexities of naming a character. And could Alicia Keys be any more beautiful?

    Funny that you love the C names. My 3 boys are Conner, Cody and Cole! My daughter is the odd man (or girl) out. Her name is Emme. Kind of different. We call her Em for short, not that Emme is a long name.

    I also love the name Grace, but I don't know how to make that any shorter.

    I am going to keep thinking about this though, and maybe come up with something good!

    Have a wonderful day~
    Amy M

  • August 7, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Ooh, naming is tricky, Leah! I need to wait until I have more time to think about this–I'll come back later with my thinking cap on!

  • August 7, 2009 at 8:20 am

    The other posters have a great list of names going. I'd add:

    Kathleen – Kat
    Margaret – Maggie
    Danica – Dani

  • August 7, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Ok…I will put on my thinking hat….

    I guess I am just not good enough



    hmmm I will have to think on this

  • August 7, 2009 at 11:20 am


    Not very good at this naming thing.

  • August 7, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    argh. I really like Charley.

  • August 7, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    A co-worker's name is

    NeeShay – Shay

    I like

    Shaylena – either Shay or Lee or Lena

  • August 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Even though it's a "C" name, how about Charmaine/Char? You could also spell it with an "S" (Sharmaine/Shar).

    Then there is also Morgan/Mo, courtesy of a friend of mine, whose name I "borrowed" for this!

    Good luck with it all!



  • August 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Wow, so many to choose from. (Estella, I think I'll forego naming my heroine after myself LOL)

    Lynne – Changing it from Charley to Sharmaine. That's an idea I hadn't considered even though I'd used that technique for Kris's name. Sharley doesn't work, but it gives me something to play with …

    I think I'll narrow it down a bit and put up a poll later.

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