The Art & Mystery of Naming Characters
Sometimes choosing a name for a fictional person can prove as difficult as selecting your child’s name. Sometimes it’s even more difficult. After all, the writer must take into account the time period, setting, and type of story—considerations most parents need not worry about with their new baby. But my babies, my characters, arise as fully formed beings with thoughts and feelings and personalities. Their names must reflect who they are and how they fit into the story.
To demonstrate the intricacies of naming characters, I’ll show you five of my favorite names from my books (current and upcoming) and briefly explain why I chose these names.
- Lachlan MacTaggart. This hot Scot is from my upcoming book Dangerous in a Kilt, a contemporary erotic romance. Lachlan is Scottish, of course, and he hails from a small Highland village, but time spent in London gave him a broader view of the world. He’s become a successful businessman with the heart of a warrior. I wanted his name to be quintessentially Scottish, but also strong and sexy, like the man himself. Lachlan means “warring,” which suggests both his battle for the heroine’s heart and his struggle to overcome his own demons.
- David Ransom. Meet the hero of Willpower and Intuition, a hunk with secrets and a driving need to protect the heroine, Grace. His name needed to be modern, yet imply strength and determination. David is a biblical name taken from the boy who defeated a giant and went on to become king of Israel. Ransom sounds mysterious, which suits David perfectly. The man can disappear at will, after all!
- Lindsey Porter. This heroine took center stage in my short story The Falls and will again in my upcoming novel The Mortal Falls. I wanted her to have a normal first name, because she lives in the normal, mundane world. In the short story, her last name was never given. In the novel, she at last has a surname and it plays an important role in the story. I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing the connection, but I will say I chose her last name carefully.
- Skeiron. This is the bad guy from The Mortal Falls. As an immortal and rather insane being, he needed an uncommon name. Because the realm of the immortals is inextricably linked to the human world in the story, I decided to give most of the immortal characters names from mythology. Skeiron comes from Greek mythology; he was the god of the northwest wind. Since my Skeiron has power over air and weather, this seemed appropriate. I also thought the name looked cool and since, as far as I’ve determined it’s generally pronounced “skee-ron,” it also sounds cool and creepy.
- Dawn. The heroine of the Reborn series starts out with no name—because she has total amnesia. Her hero, Jake, chooses a name for her, which makes Dawn an unusual character in more ways than one. Not many characters in novels have a name chosen by their love interest. I wouldn’t want to ruin the story for you by explaining why Jake chose this name, but it’s highly appropriate for her. She is reborn, after all—awakened to a new day and a new life. But her name holds another meaning that’s revealed in Reborn to Die.
Names matter in fiction. Would we love Star Wars so much if Luke Skywalker and Han Solo had been called John Schmidt and Hank Jones? Maybe, but the names chosen for them tell us immediately what kind of movie we’re watching and what kind of men they are. In romance, names matter just as much. If I’d called my hero Fred Smith instead of David Ransom, it would’ve changed the atmosphere of the story in a subtle, but vital, way.
Anna Durand is an award-winning writer, a freelance librarian, and an audiobook addict. She specializes in sexy romances, both paranormal and contemporary, featuring spunky heroines and hunky heroes. As a member of Romance Writers of America, she volunteers for two of its chapters—as membership chair for Hearts Through History and social media chair for Outreach International. In her previous life as a librarian, she haunted the stacks of public libraries but never met any hot vampires hunting for magical books.
Torn apart by their haunted pasts, Grace Powell and her fiancé David Ransom are struggling to reclaim their passionate bond and build a normal life — one without danger and paranormal powers. But David can’t renounce his obsession with hunting down Karl Tesler, who abducts and tortures psychics. David endured Tesler’s tactics himself, but despite what Grace believes, he’s not out for revenge.
Tesler covets her unprecedented abilities and her mysterious connection to a source of limitless psychic power. David will do anything — even abandon and lie to her — to protect Grace from Tesler.
With a psychic stalker on her trail, Grace charges into a desperate mission to uncover the truth about David’s obsession. But Tesler’s agents are closing in on her, and a terrifying new enemy is rising…
As events drive Grace and David toward a battle of epic proportions, they must risk everything — their relationship, their lives, and even their souls — to defeat an enemy who wields unspeakable psychic power.