Jade Buchanan asks … What’s in a name?


I happen to think names are pretty important. Mine, for instance, is long and complicated, but I love it. When I think about the fairly common names my siblings got stuck with I start counting my lucky stars.

But what about authors, who are naming more than just a child or two … who instead have to name and populate an entire universe? I imagine some standard favorites come into play, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess.

Here is Jade Buchanan to talk about some of her choices and the fun she’s had along the way.

I discovered the other day that I haven’t been paying too much attention to the names of my secondary characters. Up until this point it really hasn’t been too much trouble, but I realized I’d written myself into an interesting name-box lately. Broken Silence, the second novel in the Broken Trilogy that is due out in August, features Rich Matheson. He was a secondary character in my novel Broken Rules, and now it’s his turn in the spotlight. I’m in love with Rich, and considering his friends all call him Big Dick, I’m sure you can guess what kind of fun I’ve had writing him.

When I went to see what book was next on my list, I discovered Mick Madison, the hero of the next Wolf Nuts tale, and a secondary character in Nut Cream.

Even more fun, I found out that the next Wolf Creek hero, from Hedgehog’s Delight, is none other than Rick Black, who shows up as a secondary character in Black Wolf and Duck Fart.

Rich, Mick, Rick… Do you think I was in a particular mood when I wrote those original books? Oops.

At least it’s served as a humorous discovery for me, and I’m in the process of working on a database for secondary characters. But, it did get me thinking about names. Some authors put an incredible amount of effort into discovering the names of their main characters. Drake, from Duck Fart, is literally named after a male duck. And Bailey’s name comes from the fact that the title, Duck Fart, is actually a drink that features Bailey’s, Kahlua and Canadian Whisky.

My quirked sense of humor also shows up in the Northern Bear stories. The three main characters are called Christopher, Robin and Teddy… What? I was in a Winnie the Poo mood when I wrote the first book ;)

Marshall and Bayard from the Horsfall series both have horse-themed names. In medieval French poetry Bayard was a bay horse. The word marshal originally derives from Germanic words meaning “horse” and “servant”. Even their last name, Stoddard, is the Old English occupational name for a horse keeper. Fitting for a pair of shapeshifting Shire horses.

All of my Felidae characters have very specific names that I spent weeks researching. Asad, from The Felidae 2: Asad’s Mate, means “lion” in Arabic. Durai, the leader of my second pride featured in Pridelands 1: Darren’s Surprise, has a name that means “leader” in Tamil. Pran, from Pridelands 5: Khalid’s Challenge, means “breath” in Sanskrit. I could go on, but suffice to say that I spent a long time picking out the right names for my alien catmen.

I think my favorite is a name that ended up on the cutting room floor, though. When I first pitched Bound to Please to my editor I wanted my two heroes to have names that had distinctly Irish origins. They’re old Celtic vampires, after all. Only, my first choice for the oldest hero was immediately turned down. I suppose Feardorcha (meaning “dark man”) didn’t have the right erotic edge to it, so Dougal (“dark stranger”) was born instead.

As you can probably guess, most of my characters have a specific name for a specific reason. Unless they’ve started out as a background character and have demanded a tale of their own. Hence, Rich, Rick and Mick were born!

I better get working on that character name database…

My question for all of you, for a chance to win an ebook from my backlist (winner’s choice), is whether you pay attention to names when you see them in books. Do you ever search for their meaning? How much of an impact does a character’s name have on your enjoyment of the story?

Thanks for letting me play!

About Jade:

Jade’s writing is as eclectic as her reading tastes, with over thirty erotic romance tales currently published. She’s been known to accept writing challenges from friends and family just to see their reactions and Jade is also a firm believer that love and romance are universal concepts, no matter a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Originally from Northern Ontario, she’s lived in British Columbia and the Sultanate of Oman in the Middle East. Jade currently lives in Calgary, Alberta where she’s hard at work on her next story.

Jade loves to hear from readers! You can find her on her website at http://www.jadebuchananbooks.com

Email: jade.buchanan@yahoo.com
Twitter: @jadebuchanan
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jade.buchanan1
Livejournal: http://jadebuchanan.livejournal.com/

Jade is offering up a digital copy from her backlist. To enter, comment below in regards to Jade’s questions stated above. Open until Friday, July 6th at 11:59 pm (PST)

Jade has added a print copy of Broken Silence to our GRL Reading Challenge Grand Prize. Remember to post your list for your chance to enter.

24 thoughts on “Jade Buchanan asks … What’s in a name?

  1. Well, first off, I was born w/my given name – William (Bill) Gay – so, it’s VERY appropriate for me!! As for using/researching a name – I did that for my first dog. A character I loved in a book that I loved – a baby book of names said it meant “majestic”. My dog was half shepherd, half lab, and looked very regal, so, I gave him the name. It wasn’t until his first vet appointment that I realized I should’ve considered his entire name. Needless to say, his name was Shea (pronounced Shay) – yep, you got it – Shea Gay!!!! Consider me entered and having a fun, and slightly twisted, sense of humor!!!

  2. I don’t search for meaning in the names of characters I read, Jade, but there are times when it becomes necessary to find the right name (and meaning) of one I write about. It plays in to who they are.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Bill! Awesome name and I’m half in love with your dog already :) I too have a slightly twisted sense of humor so I’ll always appreciate it in someone else LOL!

    And thanks, Lizzie! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who searches for just the right name.

  4. I’ve never thought to look up the meaning of a name from a book that I’ve read – however, being the lazy sort that I am, I do really appreciate it when the author tells the meaning in the book. It helps me to get a better idea of the character. I have a really hard time when I am reading a book with lots of difficult or unfamiliar names – I never could read The Three Musketeer as a child, mostly because I couldn’t keep track of who’s who. I’ve passed on some interesting Science Fiction stories, too, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able keep up with the strange names.

    I read somewhere, that if you give your kids a strange name, you should have a ‘story’ of some sort to give to the kid as they grow up so that they can have an explanation to offer those who are curious – as someone with an odd name for my part of the country, I can tell you from experience that I really wish that I had something to offer every time someone asks where my name came from.

    Bobbejean

    bobbejean@msn.com

  5. I usually go with the first name that pops in my head. For my first pirate book, though, I wanted a heroine who’s name could be shortened into a man’s and I wanted her real last name too “frilly” to keep as a pirate name. It needed to be tougher. So Samantha Fine became Sam Steele.

    When I owned my llama, however, I wanted a name that befitted him so I named him Andy, after his origins in the Andies.

    Nice blog, Jade!

  6. Great point, Bobbejean! I have trouble with stories that have character names that I can’t pronounce! I’ve even thrown in pronounciation hints in some of my Felidae stories, because I was worried others wouldn’t be able to pronounce some of the foreign names.

    I hear you on the name, too (love yours, by the way!). I know exactly why I was named my real name, and I do have a story for why I chose my pen name whenever anyone asks. It’s important to me :)

  7. Love Sam Steele, Michelle! That’s such a great pirate name. And how did I not know you had a llama? That’s just awesome!

    I think I have a reason for everything I’ve named, even if it’s silly. I’m blessed/cursed to belong to a critique group that names their electronics, so my mac laptop has been coined Mac-Kenzie and my ipad is Paddy Mac-Donald. I’m just weird like that.

  8. Great post, Jade. I, too, just go with whatever name pops into my head at the time as I’m visualizing what the character looks like. Of course, my beta readers or line editor will point out that I have a ‘Belle’ and a “Bella’ in the same story. Yikes! Thank goodness, for beta readers and line editors! Love the electronics’ names.

  9. Yes, Jade, I always note the names in the characters in the books I read, the good, the bad, and the fugley. Some I fall in love with immediately, especially those with a regional flavor or Roan from the Infected series, with a name that clues you into the character in some ways. Galen is great or Renee for New Orleans. But then I might see a Slade or something that makes me think of gay porn or an over used name, and that will bring up a snort. So, to get back to the topic in a round about way, yes names definitely contribute to character layering for me.
    Melanie
    Melaniem54@msn.com

  10. I always notice names, but I agree with earlier posts about difficult names.
    I love the Melusine books by Sarah Monette, with Felix and Mildmay, but she
    had another book that I finally quit reading because the names were so hard to
    read and keep straight. I thought about going thru the book and renaming
    everyone, but finally just gave up. :-)

    Barbra
    aelnova@aol.com

  11. That was a fun post, Jade. I found it interesting to see how much work you put into your character names. I just try different first and last names until I find the ones that “fit” my characters.

  12. finding the right names are important for me and my story. I don’t look up their names but I will look up the most common names at the time of their births. Oh yeah – I also name my cars LOL

  13. It really depends on the situation. When I was reading THE ART OF FIELDING, I found that the character names (Henry Skrimshander! Pella and Guert Affenlight!) felt a little ostentatious, and got in the way. (I’m sure there was some Melville in-joke there that I didn’t get, but all I could think of was that skit in KIDS IN THE HALL where a character is taking the writer to task and asks “What’s my name? Buford Picklefeather? REALLY?”) And romance novels are full of names like Brock and Dex, but you don’t see too many Freds, for instance. Still, something unusual can be a refreshing change, too. It just depends on what the character’s identity speaks to you.

  14. A big thing for me is that I know how to pronounce the name. It really breaks up the story for me if every time a name comes up I look at and think how do you pronounce it? Some names in some books seem to be just a collection of letters. A few names just get used too often. On the whole, as long as it is not a really silly name, and main character not called ‘Baby’ all the time, does not matter. Good subject!

  15. Thanks for all the comments! Loving how other readers view names in general. I agree, there need to be more Fred’s, although on that note I swear to you that I met a man named Mustang Randall the other day. It was seriously his real name lol! Mmm, I like Galen, although I laughed like a lunatic at the Buford Picklefeather and I’m going to have to go through my current WIP and make sure I don’t overuse Baby… Thanks all!

  16. I do take notice of names in books, and will get an impression about the characters just from their names. Many of Charles Dickens’ characters had names that gave initial impressions to the reader about them.

    Or look at Scarlett O’Hara, it wouldn’t be the same if her name had been Ethel.
    I’m impressed by all of the research that you’ve done for some of your characters’ names and how you chosen such unique names. Very good post.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  17. The only names I have really looked up the meanings for and researched were for the characters in The Harry Potter books. Beyond that I just enter the world of the writer and go with it and don’t put much more thought into it. With the exception of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series. They’re centered around a werewolf named Kitty!

  18. I just read the first two in your series and can’t wait to read Rick Black story!!! The first two were great!!! I was wondering since I haven’t seen anyone ask…. why did you pick your pen name! My name is from my grandmother! I love that it is so original. When reading books I don’t really mind the names but if they are hard to understand I love when the author tells you in some way how the name should sound out loud. My sister and I are both coming to GRL and can not wait to meet all (welllll some) of our favorite authors!!!!

  19. OMG OMG OMG like my sister said earlier we are coming for GLR. My family got together and got me the trip for my 30th birthday!! I was so surprised!!! I don’t really think too much about names in books I just like reading them. LOL Thank you for the contest
    terrilee.byles@yahoo.com

  20. Congratulations Foretta … you won an e-book from Jade Buchanan’s backlist. I will contact you directly about claiming your prize.

    I look forward to meeting you and your sister in New Mexico.

  21. Thanks all, and congrats to Foretta! To answer your question, Jade is from the daughter of my friend. Her little girl was only four and going through chemo and I was blown away from how strong she was that I named myself after her (and she made a full recovery, in case you were wondering). The Buchanan comes from my favorite hero and favorite author ever, Brodick Buchanan from Julie Garwood’s Ransom. And my two middle names (real name lol) are from my Grandma’s too, so that’s awesome! Looking forward to seeing everyone that is going to GRL! Thanks again for letting me hang out here :)

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