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January 09, 2014


Dana Cameron

Marcia, I got my first character name from looking at my bookshelf: a copy of "Tom Jones" next to a Jane Austen collection = Emma Fielding. It wasn't until long after I realized it was a pretty funny name for an archaeologist. :)

And names make all the difference; it's amazing what a little change to a name can do to give a character life.

Marcia Talley

Dana, that reminds me -- in an oblique way -- of a student aide I had when I was cataloger at St John's College in Annapolis. Looking at the spines, she shelved "Mill On Liberty" next to "Mill on the Floss."

Marcia Talley

The book I'm writing now is set in a posh retirement community. I've been musing about all the residents in the future who will be named "Brandi" and "Kourtney." Doesn't seem to fit, somehow.


Oh, I love this! Great tip about Ives'ses by the way.

Setting books in Scotland, I can't have an authentic number of Mcs and Macs - it would be too confusing. So one of the five hundred top ways that the Dandy Gilver books are unrealistic is: too many Muir, Paton, Watson, Campbell, Hutchison names and not enough McHaggises.

Esri Allbritten

Football players and the credits of pretty much any TV series.

Gwen Mayo

I used the Kentucky Encyclopedia, early University of Kentucky yearbooks and the Lexington Cemetery for character names.

Kate Charles

My favourite is churchyards/ graveyards/ cemeteries. Those people can't sue!

Sherry Harris

I often combine names of my friends unless it is a name for the antagonist. I have a harder time with that -- anyone else have that problem?

Marcia Talley

Sherry, I'm very careful with the names of Bad Guys. I once had an evil doctor, and believe me, I checked every medical directory for the city in question until I came up with a name that nobody had!!

Sandra Parshall

Just about any name you can make up, however outrageous, will belong to somebody in the real world. Who would have bet on a real person named Benedict Cumberbatch? So I don't worry about real people having the same names as my characters. I think long and hard about names, and sometimes if I'm having trouble getting a character right, I can correct the problem by changing his or her name. Suddenly I can see that person clearly.

Marcia Talley

"I can correct the problem by changing his or her name. Suddenly I can see that person clearly." Exactly, Sandy! Sometimes the right name really brings a person to life. In my WIP, I have two characters, one named Safa and the other Sophia. Readers think they are too close and I should change one of them, but which? They both seem perfect for their personalities. Sigh.

Grace Topping

Great article on naming characters. I've pulled names from the spines of reference books in my office and from the signatures on framed diplomas and certificates. It is also important to take into consideration the age of your characters when you name them. Myrtle is definitely an older person, while Tiffany is still fairly young. Unless it is a old-fashioned name that is becoming vogue again--like Grace, which was very old-fashioned when I was named, during the Truman administration.


A character's name really has to click with me, too, or I can't write it. Once I named a character with first and last names put together from some people I heard paged at the airport.

pat canterbury

Old paper phone books for my 1930's characters. Names of real folks in the listing of professionals e.g., lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, all are listed under their license board. Change the occupation and a way you go.

Terry Shames

One of the first people say when they read my Samuel Craddock books is that they love the names. For some reason in this series people come to me complete with names. It's a little scary. Never heard the name "Rodell," but the first time he stepped onto the page, his name came along with him. Samuel's name came to me at once. If I have trouble with a character's name I immediately wonder if the character belongs in my book.

Marni Graff

I try to have the name feel right, both by the meaning and the ethnic background of the character I'm picturing. I also like scouring old headstones in cemeteries, Kate Charles! I did choose Nora, a series character, because it's one of my favorite names . . . and because it's short and I knew I'd be tying her name the most. My mom named her rescued beagle Nora~

Hank Phillippi Ryan

So funny...right now on Facebook--my definite go-to place for names--someone asked for a name that would instantly indicate the woman was musical.

SO of course there was Allegra, and Harmony, and all the ones you can imagine. But the one that made me laugh out loud, and I actually am still laughing, is:

ANd yes, no names ending in S!

Marcia Talley

Oh, Hank. ROTFL. Viola comes to mind. From Al-TUNE-a Pennsylvania!

Grace Topping

Marcia, I love that, especially since I come from Altoona. We always said "Al," Charlie Tuna's brother.

Marcia Talley

Grace - ROTFL!

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