People often ask me where I get names for my characters. I’m sure every author’s process for this is different. For me there are character names, especially first names, that just come to me as I start writing. For instance, Center Perkins and Stephen (pn. Steff-en) Campbell, two of the characters in The Wages or the Gift flowed easily from my pen and onto the page, in their first sentences.
Stephen “Steph” Campbell sat on the edge of his waiting room chair, leaning forward with his hands propping up his head. His eyes moved faithfully around the room as he watched his best friend, Center Perkins, traipse.
I don’t know why, but I assume I had already thought about their names in the dream I had that inspired this very scene. Ebony Reynold (pn. Ray Nold) came with a little bit more forethought, as I had the idea a week or so before I started writing that it would be interesting if there was a character that was a white girl named Ebony. Now those of you who have read the book know that Ebony is not a white girl, but when I started writing this novel, that name had been recently on my mind. I thought it would be a great name for the super model in this story.
There are a lot of names in The Wages or the Gift, and while most of them kind of happened organically, not all of them did. The name Mathan Cigainero came from two places. I got Mathan from reading through Jesus’s lineage from Mathew Chapter 1. You know: the “begats”. There was a man named Matthan in verse 15, and for some reason when I saw it, I thought to myself, “Hey what if I took out a t? Then I would have Mathan, which rhymes with Nathan, which is different but not too far fetched.” And I liked the thought. Mathan’s last name came from looking up names in the phone book. I wanted to find a four-syllabled name, and when I saw Cigainero, it was a perfect fit.
Sometimes, I enjoy unorthodox names. For instance, in Wrong Number, one of my upcoming novels, the main character’s name is Cardigan Dupree. I think it may just be one of my favorite character names so far. Why I chose to name the lady after a comfy sweater, I don’t know, but I love it. 🙂
I will end this with the full quote referenced in the title. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Gotta love Shakespeare! He came up with some wonderful names come to think of it. 🙂
Discussion points: If you read this article,` I would love to hear from you! If you feel so inclined leave a comment about the article or any of these discussion points.
- What is your favorite character’s name of all time, and why is it your favorite?
- In The Wages or the Gift, what character name/character did you like best/least and why?
- Tell about a non-traditional name you think would make a good character name.