Friday, January 14, 2011

Character Names with author Joselyn Vaughn

Hey, all!
Fellow Avalon Books author Joselyn Vaughn is on a blog tour for her new book COURTING SPARKS and my blog is one of her stops! So please give her a hardy commenting welcome and you'll be entered in to win one of her books!

Naming your characters is like naming your children.

You want them to have just the right name. Sometimes it just comes to you and sometimes you read baby names books until your eyes cross.

With character names, often I will settle on one and it will stick. I can’t change it even if I really don’t like it. Unless I find the name that works much better. So I do the find and replace in MS Word and get burned because I didn’t tell it to change whole words only. I’ve only done that a handful of times. Oy.

One of my favorite tools for researching names is the Baby Names Wizard. There is a webpage and a book. On the webpage, it shows a graph of how popular a name has been throughout the last hundred or so years. For example, Joselyn was at its most popular in 2006 and didn’t even make the list when I was born. Check it out. Find out how creative your parents were.

The book is also great, especially for writers. With each name, it provides a graph, a brief history of the name in pop culture, and sibling names. It mentioned that my daughter’s name was referenced in a song about a girl getting whatever she wants and another one about a transvestite. (No wonder it took some convincing to get my husband to like it.)

The sibling names are boy and girl names that would fit in a family. So if you have a son named John, you might like Mark for a brother. In the back of the book, there are a bunch of lists, sorting the names by region, culture, heritage, sound, style, unpopularity, etc.

When trying to pick names for our youngest, we paged and paged through this book. We found a girl’s name easily. (It was my second choice for our first daughter when I didn’t think I could sell my first choice.) Boy’s names on the other hand were awful. We couldn’t find the one that was just right. Part of the problem was that I had pulled character names from my baby names list. For a while, we debated about changing Noah’s name in Courting Sparks because we both liked it--rare occurrence for a boy’s name. Our searching mostly consisted of me reading our names I liked and him repeating them in a way that made it obvious he didn’t. Sigh. About a week before the baby was born, we found one that was acceptable to both of us. Then we had a girl. Figures. But now I have a great name for just the right character.

I’ve found it’s much easier to come up character names. I don’t have to run them by my husband first. :)
How do you come up with character names?

Dusting off the ashes of a failed relationship, Daphne Morrow decides she is ready to date again. But when her scorched prom photos are discovered to be the ignition point for a small forest blaze, marking her as the prime suspect for the arson, she finds they’re not the only part of her past sparking interest. After a friend’s wedding provides a romantic interlude with her longtime friend Noah Banks, Daphne tries to explain away her attraction to him: the atmosphere of the wedding, his resemblance to her ex, his heroic efforts as a volunteer firefighter. Still, their desire just won’t sputter out.
When the arsonist strikes much closer to home, Daphne fears she must risk Noah’s friendship to find the culprit and clear her name. She’ll know their love is real if his interest isn’t put out by her need to uncover the truth.

** Click Here to Read An Excerpt **

To Learn More About Joselyn Vaughn and her books:
- Blog -
- Facebook -

Joselyn will be giving away copies of CEOs Don't Cry and Courting Sparks during her blog tour. The more you comment here and her other blog posts throughout the tour, the better the chance to win!!
For Joseyln's blog tour schedule, click HERE.

Good luck!!


Cheree said...

To come up with names, I use a baby name dictionary, but sometimes I just know what I want to call the character, once I finish setting up the story then I see whether the name still suits the character.

Em-Musing said...

I have a visual in my head of each character then pick a name that matches the face. I then check what the name means to make sure it fits the character's personality.

Anne Gallagher said...

I don't actually know how I found my characters names. They're pretty solid, William, Robert, Richard, you know, regular. The girls are different but not so much, Amanda, Penny.

The horses, now that's where I went a little crazy and named them all after Greek Gods, along with the dogs.

The old people have old names, Agatha, Honoria, Olivia, James. And I think they all work pretty well.

Thanks for hosting another great interview Jen.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

By our third child it seemed impossible to come up with a name. I'm pretty sure our other children named her. ;)

I like to pay attention to history, origin and ethnicity and of course meanings.

~ Wendy

Rula Sinara said...

I'll admit I put a lot into choosing a character's name, even if it ends up being nothing unusual. I tend to look up meanings to make sure they fit in some way. I also pay attention to the area/region the character is in. Sometimes the local phone book is a great long as you don't name your characters after your neighbors, LOL!

Anonymous said...

First names I find simpler to pick than last names. I also have to be careful with alliteration--calling my MC's John and Jane for example. Thank you for mentioning the Baby Names Wizard. I shall be checking it out!

Silke said...

Great Post!
And so true...
I usually use generators, and have a ton of them bookmarked.
For fantasy names, Yafnag is my go-to generator, as is Seventh Sanctum.
For real names, I very often use the Fake Name Generator ( and I highly recommend it, because not only does it suggest first names, it gives you the whole kaboodle: First, Last, Middle Initial, Address -- you name it!
It's a really good source for character names and I find it often sparks a backstory as well. :)

Joanne said...

It's really interesting how we might have different methods for something so important as names, for characters and children. I usually stick to pretty basic names, but like to check if there is some meaning behind them for my characters, to further connect them to the story.

Joselyn Vaughn said...

Oh, I have a hard time with last names too. I've gotten halfway through a book and realized that my main character didn't have one!!

I'm going to have to look up the fake name generator. That looks awesome.

A special thanks to Jennifer for hosting today and to everyone who is stopping by. This is fantastic!

Laura Marcella said...

I don't use a baby name book because I don't want it laying around and family seeing it and getting all excited for nothing, lol. I write down names that catch my eye from film credits; I keep graduation programs because there are dozens of fantastic surnames in there; the phone book is also excellent.

Coming up with the perfect character names is tough! I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be to name your real children!

Linda G. said...

I usually don't have to come up names for my characters -- they tend to just tell me. But right now one is being kind of closed-mouth about it, so I may have to resort to a baby name book.

COURTING SPARKS sounds like it will be a great read! :)

irishoma said...

The baby name wizard sounds great. I have a book of baby names and a book of saints that I use. When I visit other cities I scour telephone books for unusual names.
Donna V.

Susan R. Mills said...

I've used baby name books, but mostly I use names of kids my kids know. Since I write contemporary YA, this seems to work okay.

Ciara said...

It depends on the book. A YA I will look at common names then might alter them slightly. My adult fantasy I tend to look at name trends. How vowels are utilized, etc... My biggest challenge has been my dystopian with steampunk elements. My hero still has no name. This is the first time I've ever had such a challenge. I love the heroine's name, but have nothing for the hero. :(

T. Anne said...

LOL about not having to run them by your husband! Yes, I take naming my characters quite seriously. It's fun though and I do feel like they're family once I do name them. I should probably keep a running list of names I've used! There have been many. I'd love to win a copy of your book!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I usually go to my "Baby Names Now" book and my "Beyond Jennifer and Jason" book.
I like to know if a name is masculine or feminine, or if it carries a connotation to personality.

Calisa Lewis said...

Great book! I want it! Thanks Jennifer and hi Joselyn!

To get names I rarely use other than my imagination. For some, like my mind readers though I had to research names that fit with Irish and French characters. That was fun since I now have a leprechaun with a a Nordic name... Good thing 'back when' these two intermingled.
But usually my characters tell me their names. Like two brothers in what was 'supposed' to be a single title book. Brother A was the hero, but brother B kept trying to be in the spot light. I tried to make him the hero by name only and still have brother A in personality and for that heroine... Brother B now has his own story. *sigh* They do not always cooperate.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

My character names usually just come to me--especially if they're secondary characters. I've also been known to see or hear a name I like and write it down on a list so I have it for future stories.

By the way, the book sounds wonderful!

Karen Lange said...

Hmm, this makes me think about the character names I'm contemplating. Glad you shared this; thanks to both of you!
Happy weekend,

Marcy said...

Great post. Names for characters is always something I struggle with. In fact, I'm starting a new story right now and can't decide what to name the H and h. I'll check out the website you posted...thanks!

Joselyn Vaughn said...

It's so nice when the names just come to you. I got stuck in a rut in one book. Every character name started with M. I had to change a few so they wouldn't be confusing.

Erin Kern said...

I've researched baby names to come up with character names before. It's actually quite fun!

Anonymous said...

Impressive post. Will be back soon.

Avril Benedict
escort kiev

Terri Tiffany said...

I love the book cover design:)
My names come from people I know, the first names anyway, and the last names I honestly don't know why I pick them.

Kara said...

I love looking at family trees for names. It is a lot of fun and uncovers some very unique and not very used names.
Sounds like

Carol Kilgore said...

I really loved this post. The same thing happens to me with character names. Either they click immediately or they're a huge hassle. Thank you for the link to Baby Name Wizard. I know I will use it extensively.

Jennifer, thanks for hosting Joselyn.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer :)
Pretty blog you have here. Thank you for the visit, comment and support of my blog :) I appreciate it very much.

Hope you have a great weekend.

I like romance books but it's been a while since I have read one :D

R.M.Gilbert said...

Loved the topic of choice here. I use a baby book and I'm thinking of using a name generator. :)

All the best and much success!

Laura Pauling said...

That sounds like a great book. I've never looked in a baby name book. Not that I won't, but I've been able to find names to fit my characters from names I know. Unless they are from a completely different culture and then i've found them doing research. Enjoy your blog tour!

Debora said...

Names are the beginning of my brainstorming/plotting session - it's the toughest choice for me.

Thanks for sharing. The blurb sounds like this is a great story. :)

Bethanne said...

I find names first. And usually they stick...even when I don't like them. :P I just get used to thinking of my characters as that name. Interestingly enough, when I have changed a name, it's always been a man character, never a woman. :D

Baby Names said...

Good blog with great article topic.Thanks for this information.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Excellent post! Thanks for giving us a peek into your life.

I write humorous non-fiction, but I often have to change a person's name to protect the guilty.

I use a baby name book that tells the meanings of names, or I muse until I think of one that fits their, ahem, character or lack thereof.

Please enter my name in the drawing, and thanks! jeanettelevellie(at)gmail(dot)com

Joselyn Vaughn said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. I hope you have a fantastic week.

CMOM Productions said...

I actually picked one of my current book character's name because it's what I wanted to name my daughter. I had two boys and don't plan on having more children, so using that name felt right!

Susan Fields said...

I agree - finding boy names is so much harder than finding girl names! I would never have picked the name we chose for our son on my own, but my husband had me so worn down by rejecting every name I liked that eventually I just let him pick it. But now I associate it with my son, so of course I love it!

Baby Names said...

Excellent list. It is very usefully for me. Thank you!