Thursday, June 3, 2010

Selecting Character Names

The main characters in my novel, The Ride, are named Barbie and Ken. I’m often asked if I chose those names intentionally or if it’s simply a coincidence. The answer is—intentional. The dolls, with their shapely bodies, flawless skin, matching accessories, nice houses, and fancy cars represent perfect people and an ideal life. My characters, Barbie and Ken, couldn’t be more opposite in appearance or lifestyle. They were also aware of the irony of their names. In one scene, when speaking about her husband, my protagonist says, “Our appearance may not resemble the dolls but our relationship is as plastic as they are.”

Deciding on a name for each of my characters is an important step in my writing process. After all, I can’t help but wonder if Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind fame had been named Joe Smith instead, would the character have had the same impact? If Hannibal Lecter had been called, John Davis, would we feel the fear run down our spine at the mere mention of his name? If the Great Gatsby had been the Great Jones? Or if Sherlock Holmes…well, you get the idea.

For advice on naming characters, I’d recommend the article by Linda Schab of Wow! Women on Writing. How 2 Choose Character names for Your Novel, If you’re writing a novel set in a certain era, you may also want to check out the Social Security site Here you can find a list of the most popular names for any year after 1879. It’s a fun site to visit even if you’re not looking for a character name.

As a writer, how do you come up with character names? As a reader, how important are the names of the characters to you?

Jane has had several articles published and has won a couple of short story contests. Her first novel, The Ride, received an honorable mention for best first chapter of a novel. Her second novel, Reigning Cats and Dogs, (due to be released later this year) was a finalist in the 2009 Royal Palm Literary Contest.

Jane lives in Florida where she’s an active member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association and the Florida Writers Association. When taking a break from writing, she enjoys walks along the beach or in the park, bicycling, kayaking and playing with my grandson.

The Ride is available in hardcover or Kindle on It is also available through other online bookstores or can be ordered by your favorite brick and mortar store.

To find out more, please visit her blog or her web page