What’s in a name?

This post was originally written as a guest post on YA Book Divas for my Out of the Shadows blog tour in April. 


Most people would assume that as an author you get to name your characters whatever you want. It doesn’t always work like that.

A lot of the time characters name themselves. And then there are those times when you go through three or four (or eight) different names until you FINALLY stumble upon the exact right one for that particular character.

Take my character Julian from my new book Out of the Shadows for example. Not only was he my most difficult character to write, he was also my most difficult character to name.

Julian is an immortal reaper who lived his mortal life as the son of an English earl in the mid 19th century. The naming options for this character were therefore cut down considerably because I had to choose something that could have realistically been given to an earl’s son at that time. At the same time, however, I didn’t want his name to sound too stuffy and I wanted to make sure it resonated with modern audiences (so that was a no to Buford, Roderick and Humphrey). Edward and Will were firmly ruled out thanks to highly successful YA books featuring characters with those names; and I also had the added problem of having a brother and several male cousins ruling out names that might otherwise have been contenders.

For a while I thought about giving the character who would later become Julian the name ‘Benjamin,’ but I kept hearing Mike Meyers from Wayne’s World making fun of that so it was back to square one.

I also considered the name ‘Gabriel’—this was already being used by one of my other characters (although he’s generally known as Gabe) but I figured it’d surely be easier to come up with another suitable name for an eighteen-year-old modern day Australian boy. Surely.

It wasn’t. I tried a few other options but none of them stuck. Gabe was Gabe and that was that.

So it was back to the drawing board—again—for Mr X.

Colin? No.

Nicholas? No.

Jeremy? No.

Then FINALLY I had my eureka moment while reading a historical mystery book (I thought when i originally wrote this it was Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series, but I’ve since realised it was C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series). But I wasn’t quite there yet—after that ‘aha!’ moment, I named the character ‘Jules.’ It wasn’t until my sister read the first few chapters of the manuscript and told me for the first few pages she’d assumed ‘Jules’ was a girl that I made the change to Julian.

Fortunately for my mental state, most of my other characters have come by the names much more easily than this. Some of them popped into my head fully formed, name and all, while others have involved more research and a few changes along the way as the characters form more fully.

When it comes down to it, it’s all just a matter of patience and allowing yourself a little flexibility—it’ll come together in the end.

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