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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's in a Name?

Finding inspiration and developing a plot is just part of what is involved in writing a story. Once we have all of these characters running around, they need names. So, where do the character names come from? For me, everywhere.

I’m lucky. My day job is IT customer support so, I am exposed to a lot of different names on a daily basis. I keep a notebook in my purse so I can make a list of the names that appeal to me. So far, my list of male names is longer than my list of female names. But, that’s okay. I’ve got female names covered because I really love the old-fashioned girl’s names like Emma, Sophia, Phoebe, etc.

Family names also come into play. The heroine in Dial V for Vampire is named Maggie, which was my paternal grandmother’s name. A secondary character is named Ida, which was my maternal grandmother’s first name. (She went by her middle name, Ruth).

Early in my writing career I learned the importance of creating a master list of names that I have used. How did I learn this? I realized that I had given a secondary character in two different stories the same name. Oops. (Apparently, I really like the name Liv.) 

Image courtesy of
Another thing that I have to be careful about is using names that start with the same letter. We’ve all read those books that have characters with such similar names that it hurts the story because we spend so much time trying to remember which character is which. The editor for Dial V pointed out that I was in danger of doing this – I had three characters named Maggie, Mae, and Mac. Maggie and Mae were non-negotiable so Mac became Lou. It wasn’t until I was going through my father’s things after his death that I discovered that his mother’s middle name was Lou. (Yes, you read that right. His mother’s middle name was Lou.)  I thought that was a pretty cool coincidence. (And, had I known this when I was a child, I might have disliked my own middle name less, LOL.)

Of course, even knowing my tendency for using names beginning with the same letter, I did it again! I’m now working on revisions to the next Kudzu Korners novel, Dances with Werewolves. Maggie and Mae both make appearances but, I needed a name for the villain. So, what name did I choose? Mitch. *facepalm* I reached out to my Facebook friends and followers for suggestions and did they ever come through! I wound up getting the perfect name for my villain (Vince) and two more names that will be used in future stories.

So, do you have any favorite names? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for more inspiration!

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  1. Isabella,

    I have to admit that I'm a name "snob". Yes, I know. Nothing to be proud of but it's true nonetheless. *grin* There are certain names that I dislike enough that I have a hard time reading a story in which characters have those names. Now, putting that aside, I, too, find myself wanting to use the same names as well as names that begin with the same letter in my stories. As far as favorite names, I like the old standbys like James, Mike, John, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah, to name a few.

    I love your title of Dances with Werewolves. Makes me smile.

    Oh, and the image you have of the name tag: Hello, my name is _________________________. I can't help myself. I always put in ...Inigo Montoya.

    Best of luck with your Kudzu Korners stories.

    1. Hi Kaye! I'm glad I'm not the only one who suffers from "same names, same starting letter" syndrome! And, thank you! I'm glad you like the title. I'm having a blast coming up with titles for this series.

      Thanks for stopping by!