Naming Characters

My characters tend to show up full-grown. They walk into my head, sit down, and start trying to boss me around. Usually they come with their names, as well as annoying habits, a fashion statement (or lack thereof), and attitude.

Occasionally, though, you get the one-name guy. Historical writers will be familiar with this phenomenon—they’ll be “Buckingham” or “Fitzcarruthers” and evidently popped into the universe with no first name and, if they’re aristocracy, only a title. It takes me months of prodding before they finally confess to being “Steve” or “Bob”. Captain Reynard (you’ll meet him in SCORCHED) didn’t have a first name until I slapped one his forehead and said “live with it.” He’s still pouting even though I’ve explained REPEATEDLY that a hero with his own book has to make SOME sacrifices. Yeesh. I’m still writing book three, so he’d better mind his manners or I’ll have my revenge.

However, it’s not safe to assume a werecougar or a hellhound or even a witch will have the same naming traditions as a human. Witches take their surnames from their mothers, not their fathers. This had me really confused until I figured out that the blood relationships between my various characters would only work if the society was matrilineal. Suddenly a complex family tree problem was solved. Yup, the author is sometimes the last to know.

Hellhounds, as far as I can figure, only have one name. Lore is just Lore, although there’s no “just” about him. What do you say about a guy who risks death daily to save just one more of his people?

Another upcoming character is Errata Jones, an announcer/journalist/werecougar and a good friend of Perry Baker’s (the werewolf professor in RAVENOUS). An errata is a list of corrections, so she’s obviously playing a joke. I wonder about her real name but, y’know, cats have secrets. She hasn’t given me hers yet.

There are a lot of complexities in naming characters, and I’ve always found that it never pays to force it. If I sit down with a book of names and try to choose one, it won’t stick. It kind of makes me wonder about our parents picking baby names before we’re even born. How many of us feel like we truly fit the name we got?

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