So how does an author choose the names of his or her characters?
Truly, the draft of my first of Max-and-Kat’s Thrill of the Hunt novels was finished and Kat’s name was Annie.
“Annie?” my wife the editor-in-the-shadows asked. “Wrong name.”
“Her name’s Annie. I like it,” I responded.
“Wrong,” she said. “It’s gotta be Kat.”
“‘Gotta be’?” I repeated, teeth clenched.
“No question. Annie’s too — too soft.”
“But I really like Annie?”
Guess what. It’s Kat with her curly red hair, flashing green eyes, stunning smile, alarming wit, and world-renowned archaeologist’s wisdom, who now inhabits the pages of three novels.
And Max? Phew, that cowboy-turned-special-ops hero, escaped the knife, the red pen of my wife’s imagination.
I think Francis Asbury is simply lucky that “Midnight Rider for the Morning Star” was about him, America’s first circuit-riding preacher who arrived on America’s shores just before the American Revolution broke out, and thus his name was beyond changing. She of the red pen would certainly change Francis to, say, Steve McQueen. (Oops. Sorry. That name’s taken by the coolest guy e-v-e-r, whose given name by the way was Terence Steven McQueen.)
But I digress. The question is, How do writers select the absolutely perfect name for each character in a manuscript? I find myself watching the entirety of the credits of TV shows and movies — right down through the folks holding the mikes and directing the lighting. I grind A-Z through a http://www.duckduckgo.com search for Hebrew girls’ first names; Muslim boys’ names; Irish nicknames; Texas history’s heroes and heroines; anything that might help capture the essence, substance and spirit of any character who plays a pivotal part in the book I’m writing.
Jigger Jacques, a French-Canadian lumberjack and my favorite character in “The Crossing” about the KKK in Maine in the 1920s, was fashioned after Jigger Johnson, who was famous from Maine to Michigan in the world of river-running loggers in the early 1900s.
Omri Zohn — first and last names both deep dives into Jewish history — was my choice for the Israeli-born MIT professor and Nobel laureate in “The Last Aliyah.”
We have a son named Darek — Dax for short and a gifted writer by the way — and so I stole his name for a modern-day investigative journalist in my upcoming end-times thriller, “Torn Asunder.” Dax has not yet complained or sued, so I think that character’s name will stand.
Even minor characters sometimes deserve memorable names, like Ned “Zaps” Zapper, the President’s chief of staff in “The Last Aliyah.”
Oh, and “Operation Jeremiah’s Jar,” my novel set in Israel, is a treasure trove, including:
- Jerusalem Mayor Gabriela “Gabby” Burla;
- Kefira “Keffy” Jankel, a hurricane of a second lieutenant in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF); and
- Oxana “Oxy” Meyuseff, another female soldier with Mista’arvim, the IDF’s anti-terrorism unit.
So there you go, and there I go. Before “Torn Asunder” goes to press I’ve got to change a couple of first names. It seems I got hung up on the “Js.”
Yep. Jessica, Jillian, Jake. Too tough on the reader. What was that cool Australian show I watched a couple days ago? I think I can rewind through the credits…