Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Name That Character!

Here I am, sitting at my desk in snowy Calgary...

...writing the second book of my Coffee Creek series, and the story is flowing. The hero and heroine have just had an argument and parted on tense terms. The hero (a vet) leaves the heroine’s ranch and starts driving toward another property, thirty miles away, where a lame cow requires his attention. Suddenly a call comes in from his office. He patches in the Bluetooth and--

Full stop.

I have to halt writing at this point, because I need a name for my hero’s office receptionist, the person who is about to tell him that an emergency requires his immediate attention. I know a lot about this character already. She will be married, with four children. She is one of those super-organized people who not only keeps his large-animal vet office running smoothly, but also tries to run his personal life too. Because she is happily married, she believes everyone should be happily married. This includes the hunky man she works for, of course.

But what is her name?

Some people might think naming characters is one of the fun parts of being a romance author. I used to think so. But now I know the truth. Having to stop and choose a name for a new character is terrible for momentum. Especially since picking names is harder than it seems. I have several “Baby Name” books--but these are not as helpful as you’d think. I’ve heard that some authors used to turn to the phone book (before they became archaic) to find names. Not me. Too overwhelming.

Over the years, I’ve come to rely on two sources for finding good names. One is magazines. The other are the obits of my local newspaper.

If my character is fifty or older, I tend to turn to the obits first. You heard it first here, folks. My novels are full of dead people.

For younger characters, I look at the editorial board of various magazines for inspiration. My definition of “magazines” also includes the program for the Calgary Stampede. God bless the mothers of cowboys. They sure know how to name their babies.

Now that you know my evil, name-stealing ways, I must redeem myself, at least partially. I rarely use the first and last name of any real person. So Candy Smith and Sally Jones becomes Candy Jones. Who says I can’t be creative?

Okay, time to get back to my writing...And that pesky receptionist? I’ve just christened her “Liz Moffatt” (Compliments of a woman mentioned in Cowgirl Magazine and the author of a book that is sitting on my desk.)

Tell me--if you were writing a book, what name would you choose for your hero or heroine? I’ll send out an autographed book from my Superromance backlist to one randomly selected respondent.

Happy Leap Year everyone! (Did you know that leap years that are divisible by 100 don’t have an extra day? It’s complicated...check Wikipedia.)

CJ Carmichael


Tammy Yenalavitch said...

Hi C.J.

I am not a writer, but for names I like to use the Social Security website for Popular Baby Names. You can pull up the most popular names by year. I searched 1982 and found Amanda and Matthew.

kris said...

LOL on checking the obituaries - that's one I hadn't considered. I'll have to remember that one!

The hero & heroine of my work in progress are Shea and JT. Those names came pretty easily. The one that gave me conniptions was finding the right name for the dog that appears in the story. That one took forever!

linda s said...

Happy leap day. I proposed to my husband this morning but he said once was enough.
I am so bad with names. For the Hero's name I'd choose Parker and for a Heroine, Krysta. I had a great great great aunt named Otelia which would suit an elderly spinister type character. For the office homebody - Ruth Emerson. The dog I would call Herman.
I can't believe it. As I write this it's snowing here. Too sad as my daffodils are showing color.

Lorelle said...

My favourite names tend to be foreign, usually French or Spanish. I would honestly love to (one day) name my children some of these names, but being totally anglophone as I am I'm not sure I could pull it off. They would be great character names though! My hero would be Sebastian and my heroine either Frederique (to stay with the French theme) or Ofelia, which I first heard in the movie Pan's Labyrinthe and have never forgotten.

Shanna Gekko said...

For some reason I seem to stick with Irish names for a lot of my characters...and my kids! Animals in my life tend to be named from different mythology. We had/have cats named Isis and Athena.

CJ said...

Lovely names people! Tammy, I just finished writing a story about an "Amanda". And I have a book called "Matthew's Children!"

Kris, good luck with Shea and JT's story--those names really work for me, too.

Linda, I love the story about proposing to your husband. Tell him he should be so lucky as to marry you twice!

Lorelle, those spanish names are lovely. Especially Sebastian. Yes, I might have to use that one sometime!

Shanna, I love Irish names, as well. And Welsh, too. They're just so poetic.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I'll announce the winner of the free book on Friday. Stay tuned!

CJ said...

The day almost got away from me, but it is one hour to midnight, so it's still Friday! As promised, I'm announcing the winner of the free book--and that would be Kris!

Kris please e-mail me at with your mailing address. Also, if you'd like to request any specific book from my backlist, please do so and I'll do my best to send that one.


Julie said...

Name of the hero would be Kevin, because, well, I've never read a romance with a guy named Kevin that I didn't like (the book or the character).

And because my #1 child's bday is tomorrow the heroine will be Beth.

CJ said...

Julie, Ever since I read "Little Women" I have loved the name Beth! It's such a beautiful name!