What’s in a {character} name?

What’s in a name?

As I’ve come to learn. A lot. The enough-to-stop-my-scenes-from-moving-forward-because-I-don’t-have-the-right-name sort of “a lot.”

For this year’s NaNoWriMo I’ve resurrected an old manuscript that I had written and rewritten over many years. It is the one story that I just can’t let go. Mystery, intrigue, murder, Nazi invasions, beautiful Arabian horses – it is everything I love all wrapped up into one.

But in the course of my rewrite, I decided the name of my male character was a bit too modern. So I changed it to a more time-appropriate name. But that name didnt fit this character that I’ve known (and abandoned) over the years. It made my scenes lag. I had to go back and correct the name when I went with the old one by accident. The female protagonist didn’t even feel comfortable with the name changed. (I asked her.)

So. I went back to the name I began with.


I changed the spelling just enough to go with the more traditional route. I think it works. I hope it works. Blast, it is going to have to work until November is over.

Have you ever hated a characters name in a book? Do you ever hear a name and think, “Hmm, that would make a good character name?”

More about Nicole

Community Champion at Buffer ~ writer ~ reader ~ urban homesteader ~ former rodeo queen ~ @nmillerbooks

  • Heidi Chiavaroli

    I always wanted to name my daughter Cora. No one else likes the name, including my husband, so I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t have a daughter. But no one could stop me naming one of my characters Cora…;)

    Hope NaNo is going well, Nicole!

  • I totally agree with you about names. It is so hard to find just the right one that says everything about your character and IS your character at the same time.

    Halfway through writing this current novel, I changed an ‘i’ in a name to a ‘y’ and suddenly it had a completely different connotation (and I had just been contemplating changing this guy’s name altogether).

    Of course I also tried to rename a character using somebody else’s…and yet I thought that this “new” name was soooo good. It was. For the other character who already had it.

    And then there are the times when I get stuck on names that all start with the same letter or have the same (or similar) ending. (I realized that I had three female names that all started with ‘M-A-R’. Ha! That’s definitely going to change in the re-write or my reader is going to be uber confused.)

    Sometimes, it’s finding just the right name. And sometimes it’s letting the character grow into the name that gets it just right.

  • Sondra – it is crazy how the spelling is so drastic of a change, too! I also tend to have similar names among characters or similar-sounding names. I LOVE word’s Find+Replace feature. I’d be lost without it! 🙂

  • I love the name Cora – I want to see a character named that from you! 🙂