Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Boris bent his head and pressed his lips to...

You know, it would take one heck of a writer to turn anyone named Boris into a romance hero. Fair or not, some names work better for romantic heroes and heroines than others. For instance, I love my brother Dennis. But I have a hard time thinking of a "Dennis" as a romance hero. (I'd probably use his middle name, Lee, instead).

Gertrude would be a hard sell as a romance heroine. So would Doris. Or Gladys or any number of names that are no longer in style. Even in historicals, set in eras when those names might have been more popular, authors generally opt for names that have more lasting appeal, like Elizabeth, Anna, Chloe or Christine.

On the other hand, writers can go too far in their quest for new, different and sexy sounding names. Roman, Blake, Ridge, Thorne—eee! Run, run away! Or names chosen by Hollywood stars for their children—Rumer, West, Scout, Apple...need I say more?

Other names are so common among heroes that it's hard to avoid them, such as Jack, Nick, Rick, Luke, Josh, or Jesse. If we write long enough, we're probably all going to use at least one of those names for a hero. (I've used one of them already). And you'll probably have a Kate, a Maggie, a Sarah or a Rachel before it's all over.

The secret to making those well-used names work for you is to make the characters so real, so memorable, that nobody will ever mistake your Jack or your Kate for anyone else's. Or give them interesting surnames or first names. For instance, in one of my books, my heroine Maggie's full name is Marguerite, and the hero, who knew her back when she was going by that name, thinks of her as Naughty Marguerite when she lays on the flirty charm to get her way.

Last names as first names can work, too. In my current WIP, the hero's name is Maddox Wainwright. I wanted to convey the idea of a man who came from money—but who has an independent streak a mile wide. (Hence his oft-used nickname, Mad Dog). In FORBIDDEN TERRITORY (Harlequin Intrigue - June 2006), my hero goes by his last name, McBride, for reasons that are evident once you read the book and learn his first name.

Names that come in threes can work for series—Faith, Hope and Charity...Sarah, Rachel and Hannah...Lily, Rose and Iris (the three sisters in FT and following stories). I'd love to see someone make Tom, Dick and Harry work—or has someone already done it?

So, how do YOU choose your hero's and heroine's names?


Angel said...

I keep looking until I find something that just, well, fits. It just sounds right. I do use my baby name books, because I'm always interested in the meanings behind the names.

I have to admit that I tend to go for more unusual names. Not off the wall weird, but less common than Elizabeth or Sarah. My current heroine has some Indian in her background, which lent to her name Ziara.


Kathy said...

I'm like Danniele in that I do go through my baby name book as well as some historical name books to find the right fit. Also, it's important to remember the personality type of the character you're trying to find a name for.


Deborah Matthews said...

I have a baby name book too. Unfortunatley, it's still packed up somewhere, so I've been using online lists.

I just go through the names until I find one that sounds right. I think when you've written a number of books you will get to the point where you reuse names.

Amanda Quick is one author who makes ordinary unheroine heroine names work.

Carla Swafford said...

Names are one of those things that invoke a lot of feeling from everyone. I have one friend I first met many years ago (15?) that said she had to think about being my friend. That sounds awful until you understand that she had a bad experience with someone called Carla.

One of my books had a hero in it called Tony Warner. I really liked that name and felt it suited his personality. One of my critique partners actually knew someone by that name and said she couldn't get into the story because of it. She felt he wasn't hero material. I refused to change it until I remembered my husband’s brother-in-law’s name is Tony. Now I call that hero Rico. ::g::

I like the book Sherrilyn helped to put together. Sometimes the meanings can be important. Often it’s the way it sounds with the heroine’s name or the heroine/hero’s ethnic background.

LOL! Love the title of your blog. I actually would like to see a hero named Boris. Hmmm. I might have a place for him. LOL!

MaryF said...

A couple of my heroes go by their last names. In my WIP, he's Del, short for Delaney. In another book, I had a Zachary Logan. He was Logan. My next hero is Alex Shepard. He'll be Shep to everyone but the heroine.

I made a list of names I liked from my baby name book, and consult it when I start a new story.

MaryF said...

Thinking more about this...I would never have thought of the name Jack for a hero, but look at all the heroes named Jack on TV these days - Lost and 24 come immediately to mind.

JoAnn said...

Sometimes perfect names will come to me at the very beginning, sometimes it takes several chapters (and usually a lot of wondering why things aren't going so well!) and several name changes to finally get the right one. In my WIP, my heroine started out as Zan, short for Alexandra. But I decided it was way too pretentious. Now she's Fran -- short for Francine (a name she's none to happy to reveal). But now I'm wondering if people will think of Fran Dresher! Yikes! :-) Back to the drawing board...