Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Naming Characters

Naming Characters 
By Susanne Matthews

One of the first things an author has to do when writing a book is name the characters who will play key roles in the story. I’m often asked how I choose these names. For the most part, my heroes and heroines are named after family members and friends. I often give the character some of that person’s personality and that helps make the character more “real” to me.

For example, my husband’s brother gave him the name Jake when they were kids. I named the hero in my first novel, Fire Angel, after him—the personality quirk? He loves plaid flannel shirts. In my first Christmas books, I named the heroines after my grand-daughters and one of the heroes after a family friend. Eleni and Georgia aren’t old enough to read those books yet, but someday, when they pick up Holiday Magic and The Perfect Choice, they’ll remember Grandma put their names in one of her books. The quirk? Georgia is the one who thinks things through, although she does jump to conclusions while Eleni is the artistic one who flies by the seat of her pants. I’ve just started a YA novella, Prove It!, with the heroine named after Hannah, my eldest grand-daughter, and already her sassy, smart characteristics are shining through.

Sometimes, I’ll select a name I like because it sounds right or because I want to use it in some way in the story. For example, when I wrote my novella, Forever and Always, I named the heroine, a prima ballerina, Brandi because the song by the same name was playing on the radio earlier and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I imagined all the teasing one would get with a name like that. A fellow teacher once said parents should think about names for their children envisioning the career they might have. Brandi Alexandra would definitely be a dancer, but one who’d probably use a pole, rather than a barre.

Since it’s essential readers identify with the characters in a story, the name has to fit the behavior and attitude of the personality of the character throughout the book. When I was teaching, I often said it was a good thing I’d had my own children early because I’d never have used the names I did if I’d had them later. Some names have negative connotations for me, and those could never be used for a hero, while they’d be fine for a villain. Certain names, like Damian, I associate with evil. Others like Michael, John, or Angela, I see as angels; therefore, they’re most likely to be the good guys in the story. Other names, like Jason, which means healer, have meanings that suit the story, despite the fact that like Jason, they’ve become synonymous with movie killers.

In my latest novel, Hello Again, I named the heroine Charlotte, but used the name Charley for her and gave her a non-traditional career—she’s a Class A mechanic and a teacher. The heroes are Mike, and Bill. Why Bill? Because I wanted to use the pun that he hadn’t found a woman who fit the bill. Corny, yeah, but the beta readers thought it was cute.

How do you select the names for your characters?

About Susanne
Susanne was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.

Ballet is the only thing Brandi Alexandra Jameson has ever known. When an accident leaves her dance partner dead and herself unable to dance again, she tries to accept the situation, but some pain goes too deep to be set aside so easily. Lost, alone, frightened, all she wants to do is hide away, but her family has a different idea. 

Jarrett Sullivan has been in love with Brandi from the first day he saw her and blackened a kid’s eye for calling her names. Shy, unsure of himself, he stayed in the background, looking out for her, but before he could make his move, she left Victoria for the stage in Toronto. Now that she’s back, he’ll do whatever it takes to win her heart. After badgering her sister, he earns the right to escort the woman he’s always wanted to the event of the year. 

When Brandi discovers Jarrett paid an exorbitant amount for an Alexandra Jameson poster, she assumes he’s lied to her and is nothing but another crazed fan. Her heart broken, she flees Victoria and ends up in Geneva where she hopes to learn to cope with what’s happened to her. 

Can Jarrett find her and explain what happened or will a spiteful woman’s half-truths keep them apart forever? 

Forever and Always is exclusive to Amazon and can be read free through the Kindle Unlimited program.


  1. Naming the characters with the right name is so important. Good post. Tweeted.

  2. Thanks for having me vist again. Daryl, you're right. The name says it all.

  3. Very insightful, thank you. Yes, names are crutial. Intriguing excerpt too.

  4. Great post, Susanne! Choosing the right name for your character is not a simple task. The name has to fit their personality...so well, it leaves your reader remembering them long after the read :)