Margaret: When you read a novel, how much attention do you pay to character names? (***Beth: A lot!)
Names give characters flavor right from the start. Certain names just sound like certain kinds of characters, right? Heroes are rarely Eugenes or Nesbits, and villains usually boast better monikers than Joe or Bob. Melodious, flowing names render characters more appealing, whereas crisp, crackling names give the opposite impression.
While I’ve always appreciated interesting – but not too ludicrous – names in the romances I read, I’d never really thought much about why authors chose particular names (beyond the associations above) – until I had to come up with character names myself.
Choosing the perfect name for each character in A Man of Character was both thrilling and daunting. Thrilling, because of the possibilities in terms of (more or less) subconscious associations, and because I could choose names I loved. Daunting, because people react strongly to names, and I feared giving a main character a name readers hated!
Here’s a little insight into the names of the main characters in A Man of Character:
Catherine Schreiber – I’ve always loved the nickname “Cat,” partly, I’m sure, because of my affection for felines. What better name to use for my main character? The crispness of her nickname reflects the sharper edges of Cat, whereas the full name showcases her softer side. And Schreiber? Schreiber means “writer” in German.
Eliza James – Cat’s best friend is a Jane Austen aficionado, so I had give her a name that calls Miss Austen to mind, right? Eliza is in homage to Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice fame, and James reminded me not only of Jane, but sounded quite British, indeed.
Ben Cooper – Ah, Ben. The affable computer science professor who’s definitely not an alpha male. I wanted a good, friendly name that was neither dominant, nor weak. Benjamin also worked well in a favorite scene of mine, excerpted below. As for Cooper? That’s my hat tip to one of my favorite characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory fame.
Derrick Gibson – The star quarterback. I needed a suitably 80s/early 90s name that could be shortened (if you read the book, you’ll know why). And Gibson? Well, one of the popular football players in my high school had the last name Gibson. It fit.
Grayson Phillips – Grayson. The seductive poetry-quoting grad student. No ordinary name would do for this fellow. A friend got me addicted to the show “Drop Dead Diva” around the same time I was name-brainstorming. Since the show featured a handsome fellow named Grayson, I figured I’d borrow it – good associations and all. Phillips? That’s that same friend’s last name, so it was my way of honoring her.
William Dawes – I remember sitting in Panera, hands hovering over the keyboard as I struggled to come up with a name for this wealthy investment manager. It needed to be traditional, yet not stodgy. The only name that kept popping into my head was Richard Dawson – yes, the Richard Dawson of Family Feud fame. I giggled at the image, but that name obviously wasn’t the right one. However, shortening Dawson to Dawes, and borrowing the very regal William, did the trick.
And there you go! Pretty much every name in A Man of Character, even down to the cats, has meaning for me, but I’ll stop at these main ones.
As a reader, how much do character names matter to you?
Is having insight into character names valuable, or would you rather draw your own conclusions and associations (given the content of this post, I’m rather hoping the former, but want honest answers, anyway)?
Does the name make the character, or the character influence associations with the name?
If you’re a writer, how much thought do you put into name choices?
Finally, what are some of your favorite fictional character names – and why?
What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?
Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.
A startling revelation – that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago – forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.
Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect – who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which – or whom – she wants more.
Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.
“That’s a fantastic book,” she commented, hoping he hadn’t been able to hear her previous conversation. She didn’t like the idea of anyone hearing details of her sex life. Well, potential sex life, anyway.
“Is it? I started it this morning,” came a deep voice in reply. He ran his fingers over the cover. “It was a gift from my parents. They delight in sending me anything related to Benjamin Franklin.”
A sheepish expression crossed his face. “Because they named me after him. My parents are obsessed with colonial America. My mom’s a proud member of the D.A.R., and claims a number of our ancestors served during the Revolutionary War.”
Cat grinned. “Do you have a brother named Jefferson?”
“No.” His lips thinned, and his eyes squeezed shut for a moment. “He was George Washington, actually.”
Recognizing that all-too-familiar look of loss, Cat impulsively reached over and rubbed his hand to soothe him. When his eyes dropped to her fingers, she pulled them away. What had come over her, touching a stranger like that?’~
***Fascinating, Margaret. Thanks!
You can find A Man of Character here:
As a teen, Margaret Locke pledged to write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things, not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader. Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fab kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person). Please visit her at margaretlocke.com. She’s also often hanging out on Facebook, GoodReads, Pinterest, and Twitter.