Hi, all! I’m Brenda Huber, author of Mine and Shadows, both titles coming soon to the Black Rose Line of The Wild Rose Press, and Texas Blaze, coming soon to the Cactus Rose line. I’m sure everyone has some bit of advice, some little quirk or routine they follow religiously. A method to the madness, if you will. Different trips and ticks…excuse me, tips and tricks work for different writers. Obviously I can’t touch on every trick I use while writing, or let’s face it…Lill and Callie would ban me from the site. So please, bear with me while I ruminate on the tips that get me over the bumps. Hopefully somewhere in my ramblings you’ll find something useful to help with your own writing. Where to start?
How about we focus on a basic building block? I’m sure we’ve all heard the time honored phrase, A rose by any other name… But what’s really in a name?
The answer…more than you may realize. The name you choose for your characters (particularly your primary characters) helps define them every bit as much as a physical description, or an individual quirk or catch phrase your character prefers to use. For example, picture this… You’re browsing through your favorite book store/library and you come across this fabulous cover. A terrific title, a gorgeous man, a sensual woman, an exotic locale. Hmm… This might be an interesting read, you think. The back cover blurb has just enough detail, just enough hook to convince you that this would be the perfect book to take home and dive into. So you check out/buy the book and take it home in anticipation of losing yourself in a darkly sensual paranormal romance/an edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense…or whatever fascinates you. You eagerly open a cover promising a sublime setting and passion that will all but boil off the page…until you realize the hero’s name is…Lester. And the heroine’s name is Bessie. And the antagonist’s name…Bob. And you’re instantly pulled out of the story before you’ve even begun to drift away.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Those names are all perfectly nice names. No insult intended for all you Lester's, Bessie's, and Bob's out there. But, let’s face it, we all…every last one of us…have some version of a preconceived description that goes along with most every name. Now, I realize that everyone has his or her own “built in” picture to go with each name, and I also realize that as a writer, you’ve done your very best to feed bits of the characters description to the reader, but (as a reader myself) I often find my own preconceived picture taking precedence, regardless of how thoroughly the writer has described his or her hero/heroine/villian.
For example, when I see the name Lester, I picture a short, middle-aged man in brown polyester slacks and a tan cardigan, with thick rimmed glasses, a pocket-protector, and a receding hairline. Hardly the chiseled, testosterone-laden alpha male who charges in and sweeps his heroine off her feet. Now give me a Cole, or a Garrett, or an Ethan and I’m jumping, head first, into the story.
Likewise, nothing pulls me out of a story faster than if I have to stop and spent ten minutes guessing at how to pronounce a lead characters name. Not that the name has to be particularly long or exotic to be difficult to pronounce. I recently read a book by a very popular author. The story was great…except every time I saw the heroine’s name I found myself taking a mental step back as I consciously made the effort to connect the odd spelling with the way the name was supposed to sound. In the end, for me at least, I found that because the name was so distracting, the story lost something in the translation. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive for individuality in your characters—and a unique name definitely stands out—but that name also helps to define the character. The name gives flesh to the character every bit as much as telling your reader he has blue eyes, or red hair, etc.
At this point, I’m going to send a special nod of appreciation to my wonderful editor, Joelle, who also gave me a very helpful tip when it comes to names in your writing. Be particularly careful as you’re naming your secondary characters as well. It can be confusing to the reader if you have several names that sound the same, ie: Cam, Carla, Chloe, Tom, Tim, Jim, Terry, Sherry. The reader finds himself/herself thinking…was it Chloe that worked at the diner, or was it Carla? Did Terry lose her bracelet, or was it Sherry?
So, I believe that about covers what I can offer as far as naming your characters. And, at the risk of rambling too much, I’d like to offer one last tip. Flesh out your secondary characters. Give them personality and an unique identity of their own…because you never know when the right one might just pop up and demand a book of his/her own!
Warmest Wishes for productive writing, and I hope you'll come visit me on the Darker Side of Romance!
coming soon to the Black Rose Line:
and coming soon to the Cactus Rose Line: