Naming Characters

Through the years, I’ve answered to many different names: Linda, Chuckwagon, Cactus, Vanya,  Lasagna, V, Mom, Mami, and Nana, to name more than a few. With each stage of my life came a new name – a new persona, something I find endlessly fascinating. 

I’m a name geek. I’ve been known to stare at an unusual spelling on a nametag, proclaim its beauty, then ask for proper pronunciation. I even exclaim whenever a unique name appears in the credits of a movie I’m streaming – one that has particular pizzazz. I freeze the frame and sound it out, taking my time…getting it right. I have no idea what compels me to do this, but it’s terribly rewarding. 

So, it is no surprise that naming the characters that populate my books is an obsession of mine. And although I have a thick ‘baby names’ book and have played around with several online character name-generators, these resources somehow leave me uninspired.  

Enter my sister, Margery. (What a good sport!) Each week she cherry-picks a handful of great names from the obituary page of her newspaper and texts them to me. These have helped with several of my characters. But her true gift comes in the form of – Honest to God – a Rolodex file. (Does anyone remember these?) It’s cram-packed with names of old acquaintances from decades ago. That’s where I spied this doozy, my body going electric when I touched the card: Milosh  Piskorek. Ack! Can you picture him? He’s now in Book 1, playing the unglued doctor whom Emily will defy. 

Lastly, probably the easiest way to find names is to poach them from family and friends. Aunt  Florence in Book 1 was the name of a dear pal of my mother’s. Billy McCrae, a cowboy I  befriended at a ranch where I volunteer, gave me his blessing to use his name for the beloved veterinarian in Book 2 (set in Wyoming). And Emily, my protagonist for all three books, was my daughter’s name, the baby I lost to SIDS when she was two months old. So, it’s my way of honoring her. Giving her life. Besides, writing her name over and over makes me smile. And it  doesn’t hurt that the name Emily is strong yet gentle – and means “to emulate.” How perfect is that!