Choosing the Perfect Name for a [Hero]

rose crop

’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:

From Juliet’s musings on why Romeo has the name he does. The WHY of names can be a wild and random journey.

Recently I worked up the concepts for six new novels. These are for my agent to (hopefully) sell to my publishers, so that I can plan what I’ll be writing in the future. Basically, the pitches look like extended back cover copy. Something like:

Danielle Sosna has no problem denying herself in order to achieve her goals—after all, that attitude landed her a dream job at Vogue Paris. But in New Orleans for one last assignment before heading overseas, she’s faced with the most decadent of temptations. Seductive Cajun chef Bobby Prejean takes Dani’s strength of will as a challenge, and offers her a night of wild indulgence—if she will agree to obey his every command.

Dani can’t resist Prejean’s invitation to join him in a world of carnal desire, complete with fetish costumes and masks. Determined to keep her emotional distance, she gives Prejean everything but her name. A night becomes a week, as she spends Mardi Gras suspended in the delicious space where pleasure meets pain.

Too late, she realizes the cloak of anonymity has not protected her—and that chasing her dream might come at the expense of her heart.

Which is the copy for RUBY, my most recent release. That was also the first book I sold on spec, like this – meaning that I wrote up the concept and then wrote the story. But the early version of that looked considerably different.

Let’s say “rougher.”

See, I start with my heroine – she’s usually the core of the story for me – and then fill in the rest. For some reason, the hero’s name is nearly the last thing I fill in. Thus the draft book sketches I sent my critique partners (CPs) for feedback contained lines like:

Secure in her relative anonymity, Em embarks on an increasingly erotic—and kinky—affair with [name].


Amber likes working for Mr. [something].

By the third one of this group, I’d gotten a little punchy, thus:

Enter Whoosies. He’s had his eye on Seleste for years, not only because of her amazing rack and equally lush figure.

Please note this is NOT how the final wording went. 😉 If I’m being organized, I remember to put my “fill in later” stuff in brackets like [this]. But that takes a LOT of extra keystrokes. Like two! Plus I have to remember to do the second one once I do the first and, I hope I can trust you all with this sensitive information, sometimes that’s just too much for my brain.

So I was amused to see a tweet yesterday from sister Contemporary Romance Cafe writer Brighton Walsh, who said:

Brighton Walsh @WriteAsRain_

I need to name this secondary character because I’m tired of seeing [best friend] sprinkled through 65k words…

Cracked me up. Especially because, once my CPs dug into the discussion of the third pitch, the conversation went like this:

Carolyn: I don’t like the name. Whoosies? WHAT??
Marcella: LOL
Jeffe: snort!
Marcella: Placeholder
Marcella: Whatshisname
Carolyn: Oh…  Der
Marcella: His first name was going to have been ‘Horton’
Jeffe: omg!
Carolyn: lol
Marcella: 😀
Jeffe: Horton Whoosies!
Marcella: You’re welcome.

Which is how my new hero got to be named Horton Whoosies.

You’re welcome.


Choosing the Perfect Name for a [Hero] — 14 Comments

  1. Naming characters can be such a challenge! I’ve been known to change both the hero’s and heroine’s names–more than once. In MAKING THE FIRST MOVE the spelling of the hero’s name changed twice. The heroine’s name went from Rory to Melanie. The heroine’s sister’s name changed dramatically, too.

    Thankfully my current WIP is based on characters established in an earlier book–so no name changes there. However, two secondary characters have experienced name changes. I’m seriously exhausted just thinking about it.

  2. I find it interesting how authors come up with names. Sometimes I can be distracted by names if I can’t pronounce them while reading the book. Even if their name is hard to pronounce by sight, if another character has trouble with it and there is some banter about it, I can usually get on board. Other than that, I tend to be okay with just about anything. Even “Steel” which I wasn’t sure I could get over at first. :)

    • You not only got over “Steel,” Amy – you loved the name for him by the end. Didn’t you? Admit it! 😉

      I once read an excerpt where the hero’s name was Gunnar. In conversation with the heroine, he explained how to pronounce it, which first of all made no sense because they were already talking, so she had no reason to ask. Then he sexily says, “it’s pronounced GOO-nar.” SO not sexy! One of my CPs and I still joke about that one…

  3. I can relate, sometimes I get a bit lazy about picking my secondary Ancient Egyptian names while I’m writing a story in that series…but there are a lot of challenges in selecting the right names that will sound ok to modern ears, along the lines of what Amy R said above, but still “read” as Ancient Egyptian. Another thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the genuine Ancient Egyptian names I *love* are men, much as I’d love to use those names for a female character, can’t do it.

  4. I really struggle with names and have been known to change a character’s name several times during the writing process. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, I just type ????. Brackets are too hard because I have to look for them on the keyboard. Interrupts the flow. (Flow? What’s flow?)

  5. I’ve come to appreciate a simple name for a hero. I’m kinda over all the Chases and Dashes and Dakotas. Why can’t a dude be named John anymore? And I’ve come to think that in Regency England about 78% of the men there were named Sebastian. 😉

    That being said, I am so down with Horton!

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