The Art of Naming Characters…and Babies

Around here these days, we have our noses in the baby names book as our daughter and son-in-law debate the merits of various suggestions for my newest hero or heroine–aka their soon-to-be-born baby. 😀


I’ve suggested a few of my favorite fictional heroes’ names, but it doesn’t sound like any of them will fly. 😉

Have you ever thought about the names people choose for their children or that authors choose for their characters?

My daughter’s top criteria in no particular order include:

1) Has a good meaning.

2) The resulting initials won’t be anything they’ll be teased about.

3) No one else in the family already has the name. (It’s a big extended family so this is actually problematic)

4) Hubby doesn’t hate the name. (some surprising ones fell into that category!)

5) She likes it.

disgusted expression

As an author, my top criteria for choosing character names are:

1) Has an apropos meaning. My heroine in my new series is Serena. Her parents were hopeful she might live up to the name (i.e. be serene). You know where I’m going with this, right? 😎

2) Limit the number of names that start with the same letter or end the same way, to avoid confusion. (Ex. Bonnie, Betty, and Libby) It’s funny how similar sounding names creep in and add up and then I have to debate whether to change them or keep them.

For example, I’m currently juggling Tanner, Tyrone, Truman, Tasha and Ted. The first 3 are non-negotiable, but I really like the last two so I hate to change them just to get rid of two more “T” names!

What do you think? Too confusing?


3) The name needs to suit the personality. So a grumpy guy might be Mr. Bitterman. And a hero definitely needs to have a heroic sounding name, with all due apologies to the Leroys and Leonards out there. 😳

Single syllable guy names apparently resonate with me since my first 9 heroes were–Gabe (unpublished), Rick, Ethan (Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, need I say more?), Zach, Josh, Sam Steele (I really knew a guy by that name), Jake, Cole, Tom, and in my upcoming series…

The guy who eventually gets the girl might be Tanner or… it might be Nate. Time will tell. 😉

(and I hope a lot of readers will chime in, too!)

4) For villain names, it needs to sound slimy or sublimely innocent or creepy, depending on how astray I want to lead my readers. 😛

5) The names have to be easy to read. Nothing drives me crazier than not being able to pronounce names I’m reading in a book. I also try to avoid names that might confuse readers as to whether the person is male or female. (ex. Chris, Alex, Dale, Jamie)

Your Turn: What would be your top-pick names for a hero, heroine or bad guy? What kind of names confuse you in a story?

woman Image courtesy of anankkml at

confused boy Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Brainstorming Characters

What a whirlwind this month has been! Can you believe we’re already in the last week?

I want to send out a huge thank you to so many of you who have already read Blind Trust and taken the time to blog about or post reviews. I really appreciate your support!

As I await edits on the third, and last, book in the Port Aster series, I’m enjoying brainstorming characters for a new series.

jennifer-connelly-people-in-tv-photo-u47.jpg"}}}I’ve copied and pasted a slew of handsome male actors’ pics into my male characters’ file,  😆 and I think I’ve settled on Jennifer Connelly as the model for my heroine.

I love this part of writing, when ideas come fast and furious and it feels as if they’ll never stop.

I literally had to set a notepad and pen outside the shower, because all these punchy comebacks that I imagined she might say kept popping into my head. My notepad is now a tad soggy, but I’m not complaining!

Of course… the reality of publishing is that the Port Aster series needs to sell well for my publisher to want to start another with me. But I’m happily ignoring that minor detail at the moment.  😉

If you’re an aspiring writer and would like to learn a little more about how I create characters, join me at the Faith, Hope, Love blog on Monday where I’ll be sharing Keys to Creating Compelling Characters.

And I can’t resist sharing a pic of the biggest ‘character’ in my life these days–my soon-to-be-one grandson:

"Oh, nana, I know you just cleaned these all up, but I'm not tired enough to go to bed!"
“Oh, nana, I KNOW you just cleaned these all up, but I’m not tired enough to go to bed!”

Your Turn: What’s the most interesting character in your life these days? Real or imagined. 😀



Brainstorming a Book

By now you’ve probably figured out that I have a lot of fun doing research for my books. 


Yes, I let my children and their friends (whose faces have been smudged to protect the innocent 😉 ) believe I was taking them on a school trip to the fire station all those years ago, but really… in the far recesses of my mind, I must’ve known some day I’d write about a firefighter and want to know what it felt like to wear all that stuff!

And since I have so much fun brainstorming new books, I thought I’d let you in on the fun, too!

And…if your suggestion makes it into the book, you will be rewarded! 🙂

So here’s what I need:

1) A famous person, such as a celebrity, that resembles my hero Jake.

If you can give me a link to an image online, all the better. Jake is a firefighter who lives in a small town close to Seattle. He’s a widower with a four-year-old son, Tommy. Jake is tall and lanky. His brother Sam, looks like Mike Fisher (Carrie Underwood’s husband-to-be) and Jake looks nothing like him. Any suggestions? Update: I’m leaning toward Amber’s suggested Paul Walker, but still open to more suggestions.

2) A name for the community program he wants to start to help Single Parents get through the Christmas holidays (things such as men helping put out Christmas lights or bring in a Christmas tree for single moms or women baking for single dads–stereotypical, I know, but they do tend to be the areas that each struggle with). This was his wife’s brainchild and he wants to name it something that will honor her memory. Her name (at the moment) is Stacey. Although if another name lends to a better name for the program, I can change it. If you have additional suggestions for the program that would be great, too!  I’ve decided to play with a variation of Dianna’s suggestion in the comments for this one!

3) A Title for the story. The heroine is hiding out in Jake’s town (under witness protection). She was a kindergarten teacher and dog trainer, but now she works in a library. The threat of being found by the person she’ll be testifying against (kidnapper of a child) hangs over her head throughout the story. The story takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas in a small town called Stalwart. Update: I’m still collecting great title ideas! Thank you to those who emailed me additional suggestions.  😉

Your Turn: Let your creativity run wild! The more off-the-wall the suggestion, the more intriguing twists it sparks.




Fun Friday – When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

I like to watch people when I’m traveling. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gain character ideas.

I struck gold on my flight home from the ACFW conference this past Sunday.

When the plane stopped, a six foot, broad-shouldered guy sitting in the seat in front of me jumped into the narrow aisle and began tugging his carry-on luggage out of the overhead compartment.

At the same time, the woman across the aisle from him rose to retrieve her bag.

The next thing we know she’s gasping for air!

The man’s shoulder has her face pinned to the overhead compartment. I’m talking her cheek smushed against the plastic, her body shoved halfway underneath.

And he doesn’t realize it!

Neither does her husband who is still in his seat texting on his cell phone!!

My seatmate laughed so hard she cried. (After the woman was unpinned, of course. Then we were wishing we’d gotten it on video!)

This is definitely proof that broad-shouldered men do not necessarily a hero make. 😀

Your Turn: Have you witnessed an unbelievably bizarre or comedic moment?

Let’s Create our Heroine ~ Brainstorming Wednesday

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been illustrating how I
build stories by involving you in brainstorming a new one. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, I hope you’re having
as much fun as I am following the comments and throwing in your ideas. 

As promised, today we’ll work on the heroine, but in
addition to exploring the lie she believes, I’d like to include another
important element in the dialogue—her goals. What is she after? What does she
want to accomplish and why? And how is that going to bring her into conflict
with the hero?

Last week, we decided our hero fireman, Jack, believes maybe
his mom was right all along that he’s not cut out to be a fireman. He’s
struggling with his emotions over failing to save the villain’s wife from the
fire. Yet, his fellow firemen’s razzing makes him more determined than ever not
to quit. 

We’ve also given him a faithful Australian Shepherd that he rescued
from a fire. (Great idea, Kav.) Blind in one eye, and singed around the corners, the dog doesn’t
take to too many people. But he’ll adore our heroine who we’ve decided to call

We’ve decided that perhaps she’s a nurse and that’s how she
met the fireman. Or… depending on which villain scenario we ultimately run with,
that her home has simply been mistaken for the hero’s and she’ll fall victim to
a revenge plot intended against the hero.

This kind of vague uncertainty of which path to take is
common in the early stages of plotting a story—at least for me. I like to
explore a number of different paths before settling on one. 

Your turn: What
should be our heroine’s goal? What lie does she believe?

For those who have been following the Wednesday
brainstorming sessions from the beginning, you’ll remember we talked about the possibility
that her dad had left her as a child. Not sure if we’ll go with that scenario,
but that kind of traumatic childhood experience is excellent breeding ground
for lies.

We’re Talking Character

Okay, so this blog is about characters… And I have a real one in my house. 
The dog. 
She’s graduated from ripping apart rubber boots to gnawing on my hubcaps! 
Now, in fairness to the poor puppy, it’s not as if she ripped them off my car. 
If she had I’d be signing her up for the next movie spoof on street crime in Harlem.
No, she snatched them from the garage. But really…what was my son thinking not putting them back on the car when he changed out the snow tires?
We’re talking puppy here. And well…hubcaps they look like giant Frisbees. Don’t you think?
She apparently thinks they’re the greatest thing since—well—rubber boots.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Hubcaps are metal. How much damage could one little puppy do? I mean she’s so sweet she flops over dead if you so much as say bang— unless you don’t have a visible treat, then she moans a lot on the way down. Come to think of it, maybe the movies is where she really needs to be…
But back to my hubcaps. Did you know hubcaps have these little plastic tabs that hold them in place. Plastic! What teething pup could resist plastic?
I must say to her credit that as soon as you tell her not to chew something, she stops and won’t do it again. She has lots of perfectly sound chew toys to prove it. My mistake was in only telling her not to chew hubcap number one!
Your turn: What’s the funniest, cutest or most annoying thing your pet has ever done? Click on “Comments” to share.