In my exhaustive search for the best southern name ever for a continuing character I plan to introduce in my next thriller, I ran across an article called “Namestorming” by Lisa Tribolo. It’s a great article and it reinforces the importance of choosing the right name for your characters. Like naming a baby, the moniker will follow that character for the rest of his or her life. But what I really loved was the whole concept of namestorming—brainstorming for the perfect name. Because let's face it, names do make an impression. A great name affects the reader on both a conscious and subconscious level. Even changing the spelling of a common name--Emily, Emilie, Emilee--can create a completely different perception of the character.
Think of some of your favorite continuing characters and how their names help you perceive them. Could James Lee Burke’s alcoholic Cajun detective be called anything but Dave Robicheaux? You can almost smell the bayou when you say his name aloud. Or how about Amelia Peabody, the Victorian-era spinster daughter of a reclusive scholar created by Elizabeth Peters? Can you not picture Amelia serving tea in the drawing room of an English country estate (whilst secretly daydreaming about her next trip to Egypt)? The name suits her perfectly. As does Nina Zero, the ex-con, celebrity-paparazza protagonist in Robert M. Eversz's stylish noir punk series by the same name.
Names do matter. That’s why I’m agonizing long and hard over the one I give my continuing character because it’s my hope she’ll be around for a while. And I want my readers to remember her long after they finish the book.