When I start a new book one of the first chores is to identify characters and assign names. You’d think that would be easy. I first “flesh out” the character and then look for a name that fits, and I have spent way too much time looking for the perfect name. I have even sat with the phone book leafing through pages for a good name. I have found a lot of unique names. Can I use Zabory as a character?
Luckily, the Spencer Manning books are a series so I only had to angst over the main characters once. But that was a lot of initial angst. Spencer, my private detective, wasn’t a problem. He is my homage to one of my genre heroes, Robert Parker. But, not wanting to steal his creation, I changed his Spenser to my Spencer.
The problem isn’t always finding a name I like but sometimes liking one too much. In the first book, “Change of Address”, I needed a name for Spencer’s aunt and named her Rose, after my grandmother. Then I needed a name for Spencer’s love interest/friend on the police force. I thought Rose would work nicely. I don’t remember how long it took for me to figure out I had already used the name, but I was well into the book and the name had already worn in for both. I realize that many people do have the same name but keeping track of characters in a story can be confusing and having two with the same name is just asking for trouble. My solution was to change the girlfriend to Rosie and I think that has worked well.
In “Dark Alleys” I needed a name for the boy next door to one of the new main characters. How hard can it be to come up with a boy’s name? Not hard at all. I narrowed it down to Billy or Jimmy and decided on Jimmy. But I also liked Billy, so halfway through the book his name changed to Billy. That was caught by one of my “first readers”. I kept Jimmy. [Read more…]