Tag Archive | vacation

How do you name your characters?

I began today with a picture of a medieval structure in Santa Margarita in northern Italy. My husband and I were on a cruise last fall, and I particularly wanted to see Italy since I have written an historical romance set in 17th Century Italy. IMG_0010 This fortress stood overlooking the harbor and the stone matched my descriptions in the manuscript. I struggled in writing this, however, because I needed both Italian names and ones used in the 17th Century.

I discovered that choosing names for your fiction characters can be challenging. (and some writers are saying “Duh!” ) Knowing this, I’ve still gotten stuck on names. Now contemporary names for Italian characters wasn’t impossible because I bought a copy of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Charcter Naming Sourcebook. It includes sections for male or female names, including family names, for many different cultures and ethnicities. She also added the meaning of each name and a fourteen-page essay on the ‘Art of Naming.’ But I had to research names appropriate to my time frame as well. I ended up using Aimee, Maria, Portia, Isabella, Santina and Domenica for the women and Henri, Carlo, Piero, Luca and Michel for the men.

In my mystery manuscripts I have used typical North American names and tried to throw in a bit of the New Orleans culture (which was not in Kenyon’s book). We have French, Creole, and Cajun heritages represented in names here, and many have been Anglicized or corrupted, if you prefer.
When I was teaching, students always got a laugh at my Yankee-based attempts to pronounce local first and last names. I grew up in Baltimore, and that makes you a Yankee in the deep south.
We have locals with last names like Roux, pronounced “Roo,” and Boute, pronounced “Boo-Tee.” and of course, Bourgeois, but you probably know that one. How about Gautreaux? It’s pronounced “Go-trow.” I won’t even try Troulliet or Troxclair. Then you can throw in a significant contingent of Vietnamese. It became impossible.

One thing I observed in reading other writers’ manuscripts was that names should be distinct. I recall one writer who gave all the male characters first names beginning with ‘J.’ I couldn’t keep them straight–Jason, Jared, Jack, Jeff, Joshua. It was very confusing, and I think she was persuaded to change them.
Another warning is referring to the same character with multiple names, such as using a man’s first name, his last name only (common in jobs, sports, etc), and then throw in a nickname. The reader loses track of who the writer is referring to.
Obviously, your character’s name have to be considered carefully. Women’s names in romance tend to be softer and regionally appropriate. Yet, a story set in Chicago would be fun with a woman named Dixie or Billie Jo or even Bobbie Mae. Hero’s names should be strong and masculine, although a hero named Kyle or Bruce could be fun, too.

When I’m really been stuck, I’ve taken the New Orleans phone book, blindly picked a page, and stuck my forefinger down. I got some useful, local names that way. My hero in the current manuscript, at this point, at least, is named Jim Oliver, and the heroine is Margaret Angelo. She’s a homicide detective and hates to be called Maggie, which the other cops do to piss her off.

If you’re a writer, tell me how you decide on names for your characters. I’m always interested in unique ways to make these important decisions.

The Storm is Over

Greetings friends – Issac caused a mess in areas around New Orleans, and some folks’ homes and farms and businesses were destroyed. In comparison, we did fine – just four days without electricity and a/c. We are so spoiled.

My post for now is brief because I’m off to a Mediterranean cruise, back the first of October. Wrote a hot short story these last few weeks and am posting a little bit here. Enjoy ( but no talking cats this time)…

This is an except from The Red Halter Top — a young woman needs summer employment before she moves to another city to begin a Masters in Fine Arts program. This is her job interview at the local country club.

The tidy dining room contained about twenty tables, arranged with as many tables as possible crammed next to the windows that overlooked the eighteenth green. Odors of beer, cigarettes, and fried food lingered in the air.
A short, fat, balding man strutted in and greeted her, “Good Morning. You must be Susan. I’m David Lawson, the manager,” he said, reaching out to shake hands.
Susan stood and managed to stifle her flinch at his cold, clammy touch. “Yes, I’m Susan Pearson.”
He licked his lips as he appraised her from head to toe, focusing mostly on her breasts. “Nice, nice,” he muttered.
Repulsed and feeling her face go hot, she stood still, knowing she needed this job.
“All right,” he said, never taking his gaze off her chest. “You’ll do very nicely. Joanie said you’re available all summer?”
“Yes, I’m moving to Tallahassee in early September,” she said, and realized he wasn’t listening.
He brushed the front of his dingy white polyester shirt and stuck his hands in his pants pockets. Jiggling his change and God knows what else in his pants, he nodded and rotated to leave the restaurant. “Follow me,” he said over his shoulder.
They crossed the dining room and went through the double doors to the lobby of the club house. Taking tiny steps as though his shoes were too tight, Mr. Lawson opened a door marked Club Manager. He motioned for her to proceed him into the tiny space.
Susan sneezed at the musty smell inside. She stood aside for Mr. Lawson to pass, and he brushed against her breasts when he did so. She jerked back, ready to smack his face, but reminded herself of her purpose.

That’s all for now — Elise says Hi.