Names

When I was a teenager, I wrote a book about four brothers. They were vampires. Their names were Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Christoph. (Look, I was 15. Don’t judge me by those names. I think I named them after the archangels or something. Except Chris. I don’t remember what I was going for there.) I chose Michael for the oldest, because I loved the name. When I was a teenager, I used to tell people I’d marry a man named Michael one day.

Hi, honey. See, you were part of a plot all along.

(In case you’re not in on that joke, my husband’s name is Michael Kemmerer. He’s awesome.)

When I was in my twenties, I rewrote that book about the four vampire brothers. I kept the names roughly the same, but they became Michael, Gabriel, Nicholas, and Christopher.

That book never went anywhere, but I couldn’t get those four brothers out of my head. They kept banging around in there saying, “Damn it, lady, let us out.”

When four teenagers are pounding around inside your skull, it kind of hurts.

So now those four brothers are the stars of Elemental.

But I started thinking about names, and their popularity. I’m seeing Gabriel around all the time now, but maybe that’s because of the recent surge in angel books. I even posted the question on Twitter last night, and other people have noticed the same thing. My most recent encounter with the name was in Kim Harrington’s Clarity, which I highly recommend. (Teen murder mystery, two hot guys, just a touch of paranormal? Sign me up. Wait, I already bought it. Sign YOU up.)

Gabriel’s a name that’s near-and-dear to my heart, too. When I bought my first horse, I named him Gabriel.

He was a frigging psycho, but that’s another story.

My second horse was named Nick. That’s also the name of my son. (And also a character in my book.)

I already told you about the importance of the name Michael.

When I pick names for my characters, I want them to mean something. I love the baby name sites, but I rarely go for something off the wall. You’re unlikely to find a name in my book that you haven’t heard before, but sometimes I hate that about myself, that I don’t experiment with names. My friend Bobbie Goettler had a boy character named Creek, and I loved that name. I had some serious name envy going on.

The villain in A Wicked Little Rhythm was named Gus, after my husband’s avatar on Rock Band

When I needed a name for the love interest in the sequel I’m writing, my high school calculus teacher suggested Layne, the name of his daughter. Since the character is supposed to be a geeky math whiz, and because I like the name, I used it. It’s perfect. Then I saw a picture of his daughter on Facebook, and I realized just how perfect.

(I hope if she reads the book one day, she thinks I did her name justice.)

What about you guys? Do your characters’ names have any importance? Where do you find your names? Do your names give your characters an immediate personality, or do you let them grow into their names?

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12 thoughts on “Names

  1. I miss Creek.

    And I think you do have to have an emotional connection to your characters’ names; otherwise, you can’t connect with the character throughout.

    I’ve never really liked the name Ron, by the way. Yet I married one. He was supposed to be “Dylan” or “Devon” (can’t recall which), but when he was born (I think I’ve told you this before?), his parents decided he was too ugly for the name and that he needed a tougher, truck-driverish name . . . thus Ronald. I can’t imagine there are that many truck drivers out there named Ron though.

  2. Names are SO important. And I love the name Creek!

    When I was in 6th grade we had to make a ‘scrapbook’ of our future lives… I was a writer married to a man named Chris 🙂 So I totally feel you on the ‘I’m going to marry a _____ one day’.

  3. I was intrigued you brought this up on Twitter, so I’m glad to see you expounded on it here. Interesting! (I’m also reading CLARITY so was thinking about Gabriels). I have a hard time choosing character names. I rarely get them right the first time. As I get to know my characters better, the names sometimes change to fit. I try to steer clear of using names of people I know well — especially family — because it’s hard for me to separate my associations. That said, I have an arsenal of names I love and am dying to use when the right character comes along, and a couple of them are names of people I know or knew in the past, and I may just use those names anyway because they’re so unusual, melodic, or memorable.

  4. Names are super important. I think I mentioned on Twitter that I swiped a baby name book from one of my friends and it is fantastic: The Complete Book of Baby Names by Lesley Bolton.

    It has meanings, heritage and even a section of the top ten names most likely to be geeks, or rebels, or newscasters…whatever.

    I also think a lot about heritage. If my character is a redhead, he or she would likely be Irish or at least part Irish and might have an Irish name or surname.

    And of course, the love interests have to have names that sound good together. My first book I used John and Dawn. FAIL!

  5. I’ve used the New Age Baby Name book, because it has a lot of “unusual” names in it. (I think the name of the book, ironically, sucks.)

    All my names mean something or are inside jokes, or both. In my story about the troll that becomes a tooth fairy, a large number of the characters have names that relate to teeth or something else dental. T.M. Jones (TMJ), Bitewing, Diastema, Brux (short for bruxism), etc.

  6. My go to website is behindthename.com. I know a lot about my characters before I start writing so I usually put in a personality trait and see what the website shoots out. Other times I have names I LOVE and I stick them on a character that can fit the name.

    Btw I am a huge fan of the name Gabriel – it’s my husband’s name! And will be the name of my son whenever I get around to having one. Hope it doesn’t get too popular. I didn’t know any Gabriel’s growing up.

    Oooh, Creek. Love that. Nice post, Brigid (I’m so tempted to change the name of one of my characters from “Bridget” to “Brigid”). Hm…

  7. @brandimziegler

    I’m not going to lie. I totally think you should change your character’s name to Brigid. 🙂

    And it’s cool that your husband’s name is Gabriel! One of my favorite names ever. (If I haven’t already made that clear.)

    I’m pregnant now, and I was hoping to use Gabriel if it’s a boy, but I’m really not digging the ring of “Gabriel Kemmerer.”

  8. My characters’ names are really important. I totally can’t imagine having to change any of them.

    Even when I read about other characters who look freakishly like mine, and have the same name. Poo to that.

  9. I write down names I like when I run across them in case I’ll someday use them. I like to double-check meanings sometimes. With my current WIP, my male lead HAS to have a name that starts with “B” (long story), but I went through my baby name book and didn’t click with any of them. The one I liked best was less common, so it became his last name and now his first name is a mystery and he won’t share it with anyone. Everyone calls him by his last name, lol. I have a feeling his first name will be girly…

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