Ever wonder how writers choose the names of their characters? I asked mystery writer Marilyn Meredith that question and she graciously shared how she does it. Read her blog post and find out how your name can be immortalized in one of mysteries.
|author Marilyn Meredith|
How I Choose Names for My Characters
Actually, I have many
ways to do this—and they have evolved over the years, but because I’m writing
series, there are some character names I’m stuck with and might have chosen
differently if I were just starting today.
I keep a collection
of names. Whenever I go to a graduation I keep the program, or see a list of
names in the newspaper, I save them in a special folder. When I’m searching for
a name for a character, I often pick a first name from one list and the last
from another. Of course the names have to fit the image of the person I see in
When it comes to
someone with a certain ethnic background, I’ll go online and find baby names
from that country and often the meaning of the names is there, and that helps
me make a decision.
Once in a while I’ve
seen an unusual first name on a checker or bag person’s name tag and written in
down to use someday. I also use names that belong to people I know.
In the beginning,
when I was writing the first book in the Rocky Bluff series, I named my main
character, a police officer, Doug Milligan. Doug because that’s always been a
favorite name of mine and Milligan just seemed to fit the image I had of this
character. He’s been in every book since.
Ryan Strickland is
also an on-going character, another police officer, and one who has really
changed from what he was like in the beginning—a self-centered, publicity hound
with low morals. Ryan seemed to fit his persona. I’m not sure where Strickland
came from—maybe one of those lists I mentioned.
Barbara Bertalone is
a main character in that first book and she appears in nearly all of the later
ones too. Because she is a good wife and mother, a down-to-earth woman, Barbara
seemed to be the perfect, uncomplicated name for her. Bertalone is her first
husband’s name and I borrowed it from a friend.
Stacey Wilbur made
her debut as a minor character—but she became more and more important in each
subsequent book. Stacey was a popular name when I first conceived her and
Wilbur was the last name of someone I knew long ago.
Felix Zachary was the only African American on the Rocky Bluff P.D. for a
long while and I love his name. Not sure where I got Felix (though I think it
came from a friend’s last name), but my daughter’s Blue Bird leader’s last name
was Zachary and it definitely fits my character perfectly.
Abel Navarro is the
only Latino on the RBPD. My son-in-law’s brother’s name is Abel and I picked
Navarro from one of my lists. I’ve written many side-plots about his family
with many more Latino names. Because I live and have lived in areas with many
Latino people, choosing these names has been easy.
In my latest book, Murder
in the Worst Degree, one of the pivotal characters is named after the
person who won my last contest. You can see the details for the contest at the
end of this post. When doing that, sometimes I’ve already written the book and
merely find a character who would fit the winner’s name—and also has to be
someone who won’t appear in another book. With Murder in the Worst Degree,
I had no idea what character I would give the name of the contest winner until
she appeared on the page.
What about you who
are writers, how do you come up with your character’s names?
Murder in the Worst Degree: The body
that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder
investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three
long-time friends, and a mystery woman.
M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She
enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on
the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own
family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed
some of this first-hand.
again I am offering the opportunity to have your name used for a character in a
book if you comment on the most blogs during this tour for Murder in the Worst Degree.
Labels: blog tour, book giveaway, book tour, contest, mysteries, naming characters