The big Christmas Bash just began over on Lyrical Press today! Check it out for some great reads at a great price. I’ve asked my fellow Christmas Bash authors to join me on my blog in honor of the event, and as you all know, I’m obsessed with character names. Creating characters is one of the biggest honors a writer has, almost like you’re breathing life into a real person, so hitting on that perfect name for them is sometimes difficult. Check out how Autumn Piper, author of WAITING FOR REVENGE, feels about it below:
BREATHE: Do you feel your character names are influenced by the theme of your story? Why or why not?
AUTUMN: I do feel character names are (or should be) influenced by a story’s theme, and likewise, the mood of the story is influenced by the names of characters involved. Sometimes I research a character name and find out what the name’s origins are, and what it means in different countries. (I did this for my pen names also, by the way) In Waiting for Revenge, I named my main character Mandy, short for Amanda—worthy of love—which sounded to me like the name of an affable, approachable, forgiving person. And Mandy has indeed been pretty affable, up til when her husband decided to get it on with the town ho during a pre-Thanksgiving celebration with friends the night before the story opened. Everybody figures Mandy is such a pushover that she’ll forgive her husband for cheating and move on. All except for one other character (and she doesn’t call her Mandy, she calls her Amanda, not just because she’s a no-nonsense old lady who gives out salt-of-the-Earth advice, like telling Amanda to “take a page from the Black Widow Spider”), who demands Mandy hold her husband accountable and set an example for her kids, rather than try to save the marriage for the kids, like so many people would recommend.
BREATHE: If you wrote in another genre, would it affect the names you picked for your characters? Why do you think this is?
AUTUMN: Yes, character names should be genre-specific. A butt-kicking heroine in an action-packed suspense story should have a suitably tough name, whereas a demure heroine in a historical romance will probably have a more girly name. My characters have contemporary names because I write contemporary romance. But if I wrote futuristic, or historical, I’d need to give them entirely different names.
BREATHE: What is your favorite character name—either your own or somebody else’s? Why do you like this name?
AUTUMN: I think my favorite character name so far is Cleveland Howell—he’s the son of a Texas cattle mogul in my western contemporary, Lone Star Trouble. (My husband and son love to tease me about this name, but I love it anyway. It just feels as pretentious as Cleve’s dad seems to his Colorado nemesis, Kiersten.) Another of my faves is “Drew”, which is the name my heroine in Trouble Under Venus assumes. The FBI guy she can’t seem to get away from calls her Nancy Drew because she keeps snooping into his business, so once she succeeds in her time-travel mission to 1980 Miami, she adopts Drew–the first name she can think of.
A crit partner once pointed out I’ve made 2 of my heroines’ ex/dead husbands “Luke”. Both guys were ne’er-do-wells, but I’ve honestly never known a Luke I didn’t like. So… who knows where that comes from, but Luke appears to be my favorite bad guy name.
BREATHE: Do you feel a character’s name affects the way you write him or her?
AUTUMN: No, I’d say the reverse–I name a character based on who I plan to write her/him to be in the story. For example, the marriage counselor in Waiting for Revenge is a real fruit loop, so I made him an Aspen cast-off who goes by only one name—Baldwin (could’ve formerly been either his first name or surname, nobody knows, and Baldwin is just loopy and conceited enough he’ll never tell). His new-age, organic approach to therapy and this one-name bit with no “Dr.” included helps the reader identify with Mandy when she completely rejects everything Baldwin advises. How can such a doofus give useful advice, right?
BREATHE: Are there any names you absolutely will not use for a character?
AUTUMN: I don’t think I’d ever use Damien, unless I wrote a story about demons, which I don’t see happening, and I’m not wild about Steve or Stephen (as names, anyway. I’ve got a cousin with the name, who I like a lot, LOL).
Excerpt from WAITING FOR REVENGE:
I believe we’re the only couple we know from our generation still together. That’s very sad. Lasting marriages seem to have gone the way of console TVs and AM radio. They’re still out there, but you don’t hear much about them anymore. And, like many marriages, a lot of those TVs aren’t working, but folks can’t bring themselves to abandon them.
This counselor just joined a local practice of several mental health specialists, located in a new Roman-looking office building full of other everyday professionals. Nice. The accountants can look out their windows past the faux-stone pillars and watch the crazies and folks with their marriages on the rocks come and go.
What Will People Think Phobia makes me deeply fearful someone we know will see us, but there’s no way around it. Sooner or later, all the fools I graduated with who looked at me with envy at our ten-year reunion for my sexy, successful, doting husband will know I couldn’t keep him. I could keep him if I want to, I guess, but they’ll think I couldn’t.
With a courage-faking breath, I follow the other half of my failed marriage into the office, where he tells the receptionist we’re here to see “Baldwin”.
“Baldwin?” I repeat in a whisper, when we are seated in a corner. “Not Dr. Baldwin?”
Mike shakes his head. “He’s from Aspen, and he only has one name, not a last one, or first one, whichever. Just one name, and he doesn’t use ‘Doctor’. He wants to be on a level with his clients. That’s what they told me when I made the appointment.”
I’m laughing inside. Our therapist is a nut job! Mike has commissioned a totally off-the-wall counselor to try to mend a marriage I refuse to see fixed. My life has become a twisted comedy, funny to an onlooker, but soul-rending to me.
Baldwin emerges and ushers us into an office with several tiny fountains tinkling, incense burning, and zen music playing. I roll my eyes at Mike, and he tries to conceal his amusement. This is the kind of joke we would get off on. In the past, that is.
We’re both smiling entirely too much when Baldwin faces us on the loveseat, seated in an armchair across from us. He’s in his late twenties, with long straw-like hair, and bangs in dire need of trimming—bangs! Although he’s dressed in a suit, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wore Birkenstocks with it.
Our hippie therapist proceeds to take a rough history of our marriage, ages, and frequency of lovemaking. The last seems odd to me, especially when he dwells on how much enjoyment we each derive from our love life, on a scale of one to ten.
Mike lies like a rug, and says it’s always been a nine or ten for him, up until this last week when I started holding out on him. Does he want me to tell this guy what he did?
I tell Baldwin it’s been anywhere from a six or seven to a ten, up until I saw Mike boning our friend’s girlfriend the night before Thanksgiving.
Mike’s selectively honest mouth drops wide open. Apparently, he didn’t expect his sin to be disclosed in the therapeutic process.
Interesting that you searched your own Pen name! Sometimes I have to rename my characters because they grow out of the name they originally had.
The book sound great. 🙂
Have a Sparkling Day!
I love your method for naming. Thanks for giving us a peek into your thought process, Autumn. 🙂
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