What Happens When Bertha Demands Her Own Book?

So here’s the thing…I am a name junkie. As a reader, names can make or break a book for me. As a writer, it helps me get in the mindset of the character. Very rarely do I go long without having a name chosen, and a reason for doing so.

There’s something so fun about coming up with them. It’s like naming your kids whatever you want, without the pesky (and often conflicting) opinion of your partner. I’ve been known to spend hours on Nymbler playing around and adding names to my lists. Yes, lists, as in plural. I have so many of them, I should be ashamed. (I’m not.) I have first name possibilities, middle name possibilities, last name possibilities. I even have secondary character name possibilities.crc name pic

And that, my friends, is where the problem starts. Because what happens when you give that secondary character a toss-away name only to later discover, hey…I need to write his/her story!

This very situation was recently discussed in one of the Facebook author groups I’m part of. Several authors had mentioned they’d had to write a book with the main character named something they didn’t love because they hadn’t known there’d be a story there to tell.

But secondary characters have a way of surprising you like that. They plant themselves into your head, laying down roots and growing—sometimes quickly where you know exactly what’s happening with them and that they’re next in line with their own book, and sometimes it’s something that’s cultivated over time.

When I was writing my upcoming release, CAGED IN WINTER, I didn’t realize until nearly half-way through the book when the secondary characters did something without my approval that there was a story to be told there. Fortunately, I’d picked names I loved enough to be happy with them as main characters. But what if I hadn’t? What if the name I picked for my hero’s best friend was Wilfred? Or Bubba? Hard to get in the mindset of sexytimes when you have to have the heroine call out a name like that.

So tell me, has this happened to you? If not, any names you’d gladly give a secondary character but would be cringing if that secondary character became a main character?


What Happens When Bertha Demands Her Own Book? — 6 Comments

  1. I had to have a guy start using his middle name (Cooper) in a sequel because the first name that had been just fine in the first book when he was in the third grade (Albert) didn’t work anymore!

  2. I’m pretty neurotic about names. There were several name changes to my characters in Making the First Move well before I started submitting that book to publishers. I can’t think of a secondary character who has a name that I would have a problem with if I went on to tell their stories one day. Since you’ve made this important point, I’ll be sure not to saddle any future secondary characters with a name a main character couldn’t carry. 😉

  3. Very good point Brighton. No more throw-away secondary character names for me. I’m off to check out this Nymbler site of which you speak. I usually check out the baby naming sites, but maybe this is something that could be useful to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *