A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Monday, August 12, 2013



            What’s in a name?  A lot.  Maybe a rose would smell good no matter what it was called, but a badly chosen name simply . . . well . . . stinks.

Consider these problems:  Will you take your new mate’s name or not?  And what’ll you call the baby when you don’t like the names of any of your relatives.  Then there’s the puppy.  And the cat.  You want every one of them to be known by a word that either pleases the grands, sounds good, or is easy to pronounce.  Maybe all three.  That’s reasonable, even logical, but for a writer, the ante goes up.

In a novel, a whole cast of characters needs names, and each one should be pleasing to the eye—after all it’ll be read more than pronounced—plus it should start with different first letter, indicate something about the character’s personality, ethnicity, social standing and/or education, and age. 

A tall order that authors agonize over as they search telephone books, church and club rosters, and baby names lists from around the world.  All of these sources have provided me with a slew of suggestions, but I’ve found the most effective character names come from personal encounters.

In my current WIP, for example, I needed an identity for a person of interest in a murder case.  One morning while I was awaiting my doctor’s appointment, the nurse came out and in a loud, clear voice said, “Mr. Hawkins!”  Straight out of Treasure Island and with its reference to a predatory bird, perfect for my character Stew (Stewart) Hawkins, who’s constantly embroiled in trouble.

The femme fatale in the book is Marilyn, for sheer connotation alone.   Marilyn is married, unhappily, to a dignified gentleman who is discreet and cultivated, overly so.  That’s Jeffrey (for elegance) and Stahlman (again, for connotation).

I have a Francesco Grandese in Killer Kitchens. As his name hints, he’s colorful, irreverent and grandiose.  His wife is Julietta.  Nickname, Jewels.  Imagine if Francesco were Joe Smith and Jewels were Abigail.  The chance to have their names help with characterization would have been tossed away.  Point being, names matter as much in fiction as well as in life.  

Designed for Death, the first in the Murders by Design Mystery Series, includes the names of every member of my family—Amy, Bob, Carolyn, Chris, Jack, Laura and Lee.  Now that was really fun.  Best of all, not one of them is a mugger, a hit man, a burglar, or a killer.  But one is a hurricane.

The third in Jean Harrington’s Murders by Design Series, Killer Kitchens, was recently released.  Number four, Rooms to Die For, is due out in January 2014.    


Shelley Munro said...

I find it difficult to start writing without the right names. Sometimes it's very stressful.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great post. Names can really be a bear. So far, the names I've given to pets, the Kid, and my characters haven't been too-too hard. Well, except for my girl cat, Kira. She went through a name change or two until we found the name that fit her.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Names are SO important! And what's funny is we're bringing home two new kitties today, and one hasn't been named yet, and looks very much like the kitty in your picture. ;) I told the kids we have to give it a week to learn her personality before we are allowed to settle on a name.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Good post, Jean. Yes, names are very important. Like Shelley, I can't really get going on a story until I know my characters' names.

Rita said...

I see my characters and clearly know their names. Their names are part of their personalities.
I have two bad guys I can't decide names for. Ugg. this usually doesn't happen.

Elise Warner said...

A story runs smoothly for me if the name fits right away. Really get bugged if it takes awhile to choose the one that's meant to be.

Jean Harrington said...

Enjoyed your comments, everybody. As for names, here's a short short story. My bank account was hacked into by a bank employee--all funds returned to me, TG. The last name of the detective who came to the house to get my testimony was named Hammerjack. Fabulous! I asked if I could use his name for a bad guy; he laughed and said sure. So there you go. The kitty in the picture, BTW, is named Stella.

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