I’ve been thinking about names—real and fictional—a lot lately. On the real side, my dear parents, for some reason known only to them, named me and my brother after themselves. Maybe this was routine years ago just as in the South people often use family surnames for their children’s first names. I’m not sure, and I like the Southern way better, but we always felt like “juniors,” and I had several nicknames to differentiate me from my mother. So, as young adults my brother and I both dropped our first names, preferring to use our middle names. No problem, I thought, and this went on for decades until…
A few months ago, I made a long-distance move, and the state of Arizona and the federal government didn’t like the fact that I’d stopped using my first name. This necessitated a second try to get my new driver’s license. Everything had to agree (post 9/11, I suppose) with my passport, which was based on my birth certificate. Yes, with that “old” first name. Honestly? It was a weird experience, as if I’d suddenly reverted to being that child from decades back. I still use my middle name Leigh for most other things, but it’s like I now have two identities instead of one.
Thank goodness, fiction is simpler. Most of the time. Spending a few—or many—hours trying to find the perfect name for a new character, like naming a real baby, can be fun, although I’m not always in control there either. In a cowboy book some years ago, I called my heroine Erin. A friend didn’t like that name, so I considered changing it, but guess what? Erin had actually named herself in the very first sentence I wrote, and she wasn’t about to give it up—or the hero, her estranged husband.
In other people’s work, I’m somehow drawn to antagonists’ names. Cruella de Vil. Hannibal Lecter. Scrooge, although he gets redeemed in the end, and then there’s Smee, my personal favorite character name, good or bad, which always makes me smile. I’m glad their authors chose them.
In sweet romance nasty villains don’t crop up much, but I just finished writing the newest book in my Kansas Cowboys series in which the now-hero, Hadley Smith, was the bad boy in the previous novel. He already had that name, but obviously, before he deserved his HEA he needed to be reformed, and he’s helped in that as a single dad with twins. How could I hate this guy? The book comes out in December.
In the meantime, the next in the series before that, THE RANCHER’s SECOND CHANCE, will be available in May. Take a look at this cover for Nell and Cooper’s story. It’s very different from the others, and I really like it too.
In full disclosure, I chose ALL the names in these two books—if not, as it turned out, my own!
What’s your favorite character name?