What’s In a Name?

Everything. Everything is in a name.

When you need a name – character, town, place, pet – where do you look?

Deep inside the labyrinth that is my brain, would be the easy answer.

Day 19 of the #PNIWritingChallenge is digging into the nitty gritty, less than sexy details of being an author.

Names are obviously an integral part of the story, unless you’re the guy that wrote Fight Club, in which case forget about naming your main character and watch the audience appreciate it and ask for more.


If you didn’t know, recently they released a comic book version of Fight Club and it turns out the Edward Norton narrator/character’s name is actually Sebastian. And now he has kids. With Marla. Seriously.

Had Atticus Finch been named David To Kill a Mockingbird may have been a completely different story.


I hate coming up with names, and it’s not like characters are completely formed when they come to me. Usually they are just a whisper and I have to put the details together.

We’ll do these in order, and I’ll do my best to remember how I came up with the names. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes I strained for days.

Extremity: Most of the character names are based on people I know or knew. I received permission first and no one will be chasing me down for royalties when this messy manuscript becomes a best seller.

Nino and Sean are real people that I knew in Michigan. They’re sweet, best friends until the end and all that. They had a buddy  named Justus. I loved the way that name was spelled, so I used it. Chief Higgins in the beginning of the book is based on a good friend who moved back to Canada (though he does not actually refer to all things pronoun as “her”, nor does he repeat himself very often).

I stray away from using family names, honestly, because that’s a box I don’t want to open just yet.


Freedom’s Treasure: Anna Molly Mylan was an anomaly. A character I hadn’t realized I had created. There was a song named Anna Molly though I can’t remember who sings it now, and for some reason it struck me as the proper name for her. Plus I can mess around with the whole “anomaly” thing.

Hunter was just Hunter. I have no idea how or why. When I pictured the climax of the book, Hunter was the name I heard being yelled so I went with it. The last name is based on a friend who was’t totally thrilled with their character name in Extremity, though they loved being the villain.

Elisa Williams – Hunter’s mom – was named that because I liked the old fashioned feel of it. It’s pronounced Uh-LIE-za, for those wondering, not Uh-LEE-za. That drives me nuts but I don’t like correcting my readers so I’ll do it here.

I knew a doctor nicknamed Doc but I didn’t want the antagonist to be a doctor, and I like the shortness of the nickname. So Sam Dockett – Dock – was born. It is purely coincidence that the family business for the Dockett’s is installing docks and running a marina.


At Wit’s End – Marie Lee Chase was originally going to have a last name based on water. I tried translating it into several different languages and was never quite happy with it. I started playing with phrases and “merrily merrily merrily” came to mind, from Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Before I knew it, Marie Lee Chase – merrily chase – was born.

Brad Witson is, once again, loosely based on a friend, an homage if you will. His last name has a different second syllable, but I’ll always know the genesis. We used to call my buddy Whit, so Brad became Wit. His hacker name, Zero, is based on the 7 layers of the Internet, and the consultant who assisted me with the technical details. I won’t tell you his handle as I promised anonymity, but it’s as clever as Zero, maybe more so.


Freedom’s Song – the sequel to Freedom’s Treasure. I’m using secondary and tertiary characters from Freedom’s Treasure so they already had names that I’m essentially stuck with. It works however. Every now and again I’ll put in who I think will be a throw away character and name them after people I know. Then they get to be main characters and I have to work with that. No sweat. That’s what nicknames are for.

This book is dedicated to a pair of Jacks and their Nancy and Charlene, respectively. Jack and Nancy are having their story created/told, and Jack and Charlene may have a chance in the future. I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

Naming characters, pets, and places is difficult. It’s one of the tasks I don’t enjoy all that much so I try to have fun with it. That’s why we have an anomaly and a merrily chase.

To name the found kittens in Freedom’s Song, I held a poll in my Facebook reader’s group and went with the winning suggestion. A.K.’s Advance Readers

Character names are so important. It’s one of the things I consider falling into demographics and formatting along with the creativity of writing. If the name is awful, no one is going to give two craps what happens to the character, right?

No one gives a shit what Bubba was up to for the past ten years. Or so it comes off to me. I don’t know, Bubba always struck me as a side character.

Wondering: what’s your favorite character name of all time?


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