Friday, February 15, 2013

What's In a Name?

Before we get to Julie's post, I just want to ask your help. As you may or may not know, I have a very awesome project going on where I and other bloggers sponsor prizes to award to people as a way to pay forward. January was amazing, and I'd like to repeat it, but only two sponsors have stepped forward. So please, if there's anything you think you can give (crits, betas, e-copies of books are all welcomed) that you think someone will enjoy/appreciate, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com with "Paying Forward" as the subject. Thanks in advance!

And now, without further ado, here's Julie. 

What’s In a Name? 

I think the opportunity to name our characters is one of the most enjoyable things about being a writer. While I think this part of the process is fun, I also sometimes agonize over it, as getting just the right name seems so important.

One of the resources I love to use when searching for names is the Behind the Name site. I have kind of a strange interest in the meaning and history of names, so I was familiar with this site long before I started writing my own characters. But once I started writing novels this site became invaluable.

On Behind the Name, names are divided by usage, and visitors to the site can find names from various countries around the world as well as biblical names, mythological names, and names from ancient history.

The antagonist in Polar Night is from Russia, so when I set about giving him a name I headed straight for the Russian categories on the website. It didn’t take me long to find just the name I wanted. Aleksei, which is one of the Russian forms of the Greek name Alexis, jumped out at me. I’m not sure why, but I knew it was perfect for my character. And Aleksei Nechayev was born.

But not all names require an internet search. One of the minor characters in Polar Night is named Nate Clancy. If you’re familiar with my blog you probably know that I am a huge animal lover, as I’ve shared that often in the past. I have a cat named Nate and a dog named Clancy. So I couldn’t resist giving one of my characters this name and, even though he plays a minor role, he is one of my favorite creations.

If you’re a writer, how do you go about naming your characters? Have you ever named a character after someone or something in your own life?

Thank you, Misha for having me as your guest today!

Book Blurb: 

When Detective Danny Fitzpatrick leaves his hometown of Chicago and moves to Fairbanks, Alaska he wants nothing more than to escape the violence and heartbreak that left his life in pieces. Numbed by alcohol and the frozen temperatures of an Alaskan winter, Danny is content with a dead-end job investigating Fairbanks' cold cases. That all changes when a pretty blond woman goes missing on the winter solstice, and Danny stumbles upon some surprising connections between her disappearance and that of another Fairbanks woman three years earlier. Forced out of his lethargy, Danny sets out to both find the missing woman and solve his own cold case. 

The investigation points Danny towards Aleksei Nechayev, the handsome and charming proprietor of an old asylum turned haunted tourist attraction in the Arctic town of Coldfoot. As he tries to find a link between Nechayev and his case, Danny's instinct tells him that Nechayev is much more than what he seems. 

Danny has no idea that Nechayev is hiding a secret that is much more horrifying than anything he could ever have imagined. As his obsession with finding the missing women grows, Danny finds his own life in danger. And when the truth is finally revealed, the world as he knows it will never be the same. 


Julie Flanders is a librarian and a freelance writer who has written for both online and print publications. She is an avid animal lover and shares her home in Cincinnati, Ohio with her dog and cat. Her debut novel Polar Night, a suspense thriller with a supernatural twist, is now available from Ink Smith Publishing. Find Julie online at her blog, and on Twitter.


  1. Huge fan of Julie's, and knowing she names characters after pets confirms why. :-)

    Misha, I'd be happy to offer up eCopies of my Moonsongs stories as a donation. I'll be in touch.

  2. Julie is wonderful and creative. :D

    I'll send you a mail, Misha!

  3. That's funny you named a character after your pets. I just brainstorm simple but weird names for my science fiction characters.
    Misha, already emailed you a out a prize I could offer.

  4. I have a two fold naming convention. The first is the "sounds right" method. Barring that, I usually try to put in names that mean something or of people I know in real life.

    I find those to be the most fun :)

  5. Oh, that's so adorable that you did that for your pets, Julie.

    And I use that website all the time too. I always like to double check the meaning of a name just to see what it has to say. Sometimes it inspires me to give them a certain type of personality. :)

  6. I know a couple people who put very careful thought into name choices. Other author friends of mine just wrote a post about the care and thought and cleverness that went into their names. I think it's the attention to these kinds of details that can really set a book apart.

  7. My character names just come to me. Very occasionally I have to change them, if they're too similar to another name in the same story. I only sometimes look in baby name books - I have two of those and they're great!

  8. Thanks again for having me here today, Misha! And I would love to offer an ebook copy of my book as part of your project, I will email you!

    @EJ, you're the best, thanks!

    @Al, you're wonderful too, thank you!

    @Mark, I know what you mean, I do think the names that have some kind of real life connection are fun, even if we're the only ones who know the connection!

    @LG, I'm kind of addicted to that site, I love it LOL. Thanks so much!

    @Julie, oh, I will look for that post, sounds interesting!

  9. I have a WIP that has the names of my dog and cats as the names of the dog and cats in the story.

  10. I can spend hours searching for the right name. Baby naming sites that I allow me to search names by country of origin are always my favorite. :D

  11. I love naming characters. Some are easy and jump out at me but others take a lot longer and I'll scour through my baby name book or search through baby name sites. I sometimes try and match a character with a name that was popular when they were born, which the internet comes in very handy for.

    I'll definitely check that site you mentioned. Thanks for sharing it.

  12. I pull my characters' names from the wide range of French names found in Louisiana's colonial past, often combining, etc. until the creation 'sounds' right. However, for the KKK character in "Rings of Trust" I fiddled with letters until I came up with a name I knew didn't exist.

    Misha, I'd be happy to offer up a three-chapter, line by line beta read. (

  13. If I struggle with names in my flash pieces, the characters become Mr. X and Ms. Y until such time that they get a proper name (or remain nameless)
    Polar Night is burning up the blogosphere...
    Congrats to Julie!

  14. I love how you used your cat and dog's names to create a character. I often use Baby Name sites and such to find names and what the names mean. Sometimes names just jump out at me, though.

  15. In my fantasy writing I often look up unusual names for my characters. Others, come to me.

    I did name one of my characters after my sweet little Yorkie who is no longer earth bound.

    Hi, Julie,

    Congrats again on you wonderful book!

  16. I named one my of my characters, 'Estella' from Great Expectations (an old fave). I always loved the name and it would have been given by parents who lived a very long life and travel extensively - variations of this name are all over, and well, I just really liked it. :D I don't think there' was much thought other than that. I did call another Lucy Best (which I read somewhere, used to mean beast - so it fits!) I also chose a few name for the second book, my present WIP, by researching common names for their age and nationality. And of course, my protagonist - Luna - means moon. :)

    Julie, I love your book cover, congrats! X

  17. Like Annalisa, the names just come to me. It's like they're a part of the character before I even come up with them.

  18. That's a great insider piece of information about character naming! I guess I'll have to go get me a few more animals! :-)

  19. @Richard, oh, that's so cute! Very fun. :)

    @Stina, I know, sometimes it does take forever. Authors probably spend more time on name sites than expectant parents LOL.

    @Mama, oh, I've done that too! I love looking up historical names.

    @Kittie, you have such a great resource there with the French names, so many great ones.

    @Michelle, thank you!

    @Cherie, yeah, there have been times when I just knew what a character's name was going to be right from the start.

    @Michael, aww, I bet your Yorkie was a doll. Thank you again!

    @Shah, thanks so much! And I didn't know that about best and beast, how fun!

    @Rena, I've only had that happen once or twice, it's a great feeling though.

    @Lee, LOL, I'm always tempted to get more pets so I better just ignore your comment or I'll use new characters as an excuse LOL.

    Thanks again for having me here, Misha!

  20. Love this, Julie! My characters need the perfect name, too. I'm bookmarking the site you shared - it's new to me. Thanks.

    Hi, Misha!

  21. Great post! Naming characters is so much fun. I usually go through baby name sites. Though there are those that name themselves.

  22. I LOVE naming characters. (Like everyone else.) Half of my characters arrive with their alias, the other half I get the joy of discovering. It's such a blast puzzling a character's name together based on meaning, time period, geography etc.

  23. I enjoy naming characters, for the most part. Some come to me via the character, but there are those I agonize over for ages, scoping through naming websites and the like until I find just the right fit. I like when they come easily. ;-p

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  24. yay for julie! great advice on names, the characters have to like their names or they get ornery with me!

  25. The book sounds great Julie! And I love naming characters! Granted, there are times it can be frustrating because I want the perfect name, but I still love it! Names are so much fun!


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