Names are funny things. Growing up as a ‘Toni’ in a conservative English county meant I got a lot of teasing.
“That’s a boy’s name.”
Kids chanting “Boney Toni” and “Toni Chestnut” and then singing, “Hey, Mickey, you’re so fine” (because it was sung by Toni Basil). Ugh. As a shy little kid who disliked being the centre of attention, my name was a major embarrassment to me.
I grew into it.
Sometimes people ask me about naming characters. And because of my own experience I always give character names a lot of consideration.
There’s the obvious stuff, don’t call your hero something laughable or ridiculous. Wally Wankerly is not going to inspire a reader’s love even if he’s got muscles the size of Pierre Spies’ (Rugby World Cup 2011 reference for those who don’t know). The hero’s name also has to work with the heroine’s name and, if they ever decided to take the walk down the matrimonial aisle, the names have to fit together.
The hero in my WIP has been called Andy, Craig and currently Tyrone. Andy didn’t work because the heroine’s name is Axelle, and Andy and Axelle combined was too twee. Craig didn’t sit right. Even Tyrone is not set in cement. The name I really wanted him to have was Tadhg, pronounced ‘Tieg’. But Irish names are notorious for their mispronunciation and I don’t want to have to explain his name every time I say it and nor do I want readers to pause every time I mention Tadhg. See?
I got away with an Irish name for Sorcha in STORM WARNING (I think—I hope) because it’s pretty straightforward.
BTW talking of name combos—Axelle comes from a little girl in my daughter’s class when we were in France last year. Her twin sister is called Rose.
Another problem that sneaks up on me is having lots of names starting with the same letter. Writing a trilogy this summer, I was merrily working on a book when suddenly, for the first time, 3 secondary characters come together on the page: Marty, Markov and Mendez. *Bangs head on desk*
I changed Marty to Harry and the rest works.
Naming characters isn’t as easy as people think. Think of the great literary characters: Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Augusta Weidenmaier, Hannibal Lecter, Atticus Finch. The name and the character are intimately locked in your mind. Getting it right is an art form. But it doesn’t mean the name has to be whacky or weird: Elizabeth Bennett, Sam Spade, James Bond, George Smiley. Same response, different type of name.
So--Tyrone Dempsey. Does he sound like a hero to you? What's your favorite character name?