How I Get My Characters’ Names

Letters in AlphabetI have a computer file with names. First names, last names, men’s names and women’s names. I have a sub-file with ethnic names. When I see the ending credits on a movie or television production, I stay to the end looking for interesting names. Then I might mix up the first and last names, to get a bunch of new names.

I like to have fun with character names. I have an old edition of a baby name book that has in depth meanings of first names, long lists of nicknames, and lists of personages with the name. I like reading that book, like looking through it when I’m trying to come up with a name.

What I hate, absolutely hate is getting more than halfway through a story or novel (especially a novel, obviously because of its length) and realizing a name I’ve chosen isn’t working. That happened with the name of the southern evangelist in my work in progress (working title, The Angel’s Cache). I had him named Jamie Deveraux, and when Steeple Hill author Cheryl Wyatt graciously agreed to read my first chapter, she said the name wasn’t gender specific. Jamie spelled with an “ie” could be either a man or a woman. My evangelist is a strong male character, and I really needed a stronger male name.

Since my evangelist has his church in Baton Rouge, I Googled the Baton Rouge City Council web site and found one City Council member is named Wade. I like Wade.

Wesley “The Pup” Cannon, my grammatical watch-dog and partner in crime, who btw hails from Baton Rouge and my expert on all things southern, finally came up with a new last name: Landry. Wesley said, “In these parts here, if you throw a stone up, when it comes back down, more times than not, it’ll hit a Landry.”

So, the new name of my evangelist is Wade Landry. And His wife remains Garnet, but is now Garnet Landry.

Then I had to “find” all my Jamies and Deverauxs, and replace them with Wades and Landrys. Grrrr. That’s the part I hate the most.