It isn’t you – The joys of character naming

One of the fun parts, but also one of the big challenges of writing a contemporary novel, is naming your characters. In my opinion, my rules if you like, the names must suit the characters, not constantly distract the reader due to being silly or having way too many syllables, and not be similar to the names of famous people. Personally, I also don’t deliberately use names of people I know, because I like to credit myself with having a little bit more imagination than that.

A contemporary romance is not a fantasy novel; you can’t call an IT manager Stormfist Wonderbra, unless you’re playing purely for laughs. The names have to be contemporary and they have to follow the above set of rules.

I started writing Kissing The Scorpion when I was out of work in 2012. I spent a considerable amount of time naming the characters, particularly the main ones. None of those characters are based on people I know and none of them are deliberately named after anyone I know or have ever known.

Following my own rules, I stuck with fairly standard names, not names that would jump out as being remarkable: Dave, Kate, Stan, Sandy, Chloe, Paul, Colin, etc. Same story with the surnames: Fletcher, Hayes, Reading. I’ll admit that Nicky Fox sounds like a porn star and Bruce Jensen deliberately sounds like a rock star (because he will be, one day), but I liked those names and they add a tiny bit of colour in amongst the relatively normal ones.

I didn’t name the characters after people I know. I also didn’t name Dave after the protagonist from one of my favourite series of crime novels by James Lee Burke. Seriously, I didn’t.

Kissing The Scorpion is based in a contemporary office setting. I have worked in a lot of different offices (which were pretty much all the same really) and I have put details in the book that will hopefully be familiar to anyone else who has ever worked in an office. This does not mean that the fictional office where my fictional characters work is based on any specific real office. It isn’t. If any of it feels familiar to a reader, I’ll take that as a massive compliment because it means I’m doing at least an average job of creating a believable setting.

Finally – band names. Difficult, seriously. I won’t bore you with the number of different names I came up with for Bruce Jensen’s band, Moscow In October, before choosing that one, but it was a lot. Three at least.

There you have it, another thrilling insight into the novel writing process. Apologies to anyone who thought I’d chosen their really cool name for one of my really cool characters. I didn’t. However, if you happen to be called Stormfist Wonderbra, you have my sympathy.