Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Finding Names for Characters

 One of the many things writers fret about is names.

A primary character needs a name that fits, one that's memorable and projects the right image. This is why the main character's name is often changed during the first draft. It isn't always easy to come up with a name that rings true to what we want to project about this particular character.

Beyond that, most every character in a story needs a name. It's how we're accustomed to identifying the people with whom we come in contact in our daily lives as well as in the books we read or films we watch. For minor characters, the issue is simple. Any bland selection of Christian and/or surnames might do.

Some writers hold contests in which friends, neighbors, and even strangers compete to have their names used in a story.

An easy source of names used to be the telephone book. In this digital age, those handy references are becoming scarce. Still, if you have access to one, pop it open to any random page, run your finger down a row and stop on a surname that strikes your fancy. Turn to another page and do the same in search of a first name that goes with the surname. Why not just use the Christian name of the surname you selected?

There's nothing to stop you from doing so. But suppose this and the devious deeds of your invented character offend the actual person whose name you've borrowed (who you don't know but who might chance to read your tale). You could be facing trouble in these litigious times.

Another useful source of names is television, especially game show contestants. There's an infinite variety available. Again, be wary of combining the name and behavior of those from whom you're borrowing. These people might chance to read your book, too.

A safer resource I've used a few times is to honor/dishonor an ancestor from the family tree by using their name. They aren't likely to sue.

One of my favorite sources of names is old newspapers. There's an infinite variety to select from and you can come up with some very memorable combinations. As I read these papers I make lists of any names that strike my fancy. I may never use all of them. But you never know when you might find just the right handle for a particular character.

In my latest novel, Twelve Days in the Territory, I used a combination of ancestral names, some selected from old newspapers and others that just popped up in my imagination. A few of the names I think will stick with readers are Crawford McKinney, Jubilation Kincaid, and Lazarus Lee.

Finding names isn't the most important part of writing a story. But it can be fun.

Thursday, August 5, 2021


 (I'm hosting my friend Marilyn Meredith today as she discusses her latest mystery. The floor is yours, Marilyn:)

Though this latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery is set in modern times there are two bits of history that I incorporated into the plot.

The oldest was about the Pechanga Indians, who do play a minor part in this story. Like many of the native people of California, they had many struggles because of the Spanish missionaries during the 1700s. In the 1870s they were evicted from their homeland. Over the years, I’ve included much of the horrible things that happened to the California Indians in other Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, most notably the Tolowa tribe of far northern

California which was nearly wiped out. But many other tribes were forced from their homeland to settle in reservations.

Like the Pechanga Indians, times have changed for many tribes because of casinos. The Pechanga casino, located in Temecula, is a popular place. Besides gambling and many restaurants, it has a venue for concerts and other events, and it even has a large campground.

Another historical thread in The Trash Harem revolves around the author, Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner’s primary home was located on what had been the Pechanga’s land. The sprawling ranch had twenty-seven buildings including cabins for his four full-time secretaries. Even his doctor had a home there. When Gardner died, his estranged wife sold the ranch in 1970. In 2001 it was sold again, this time to the Pechanga Indians.

Because I was a huge fan of Erle Stanley Gardner’s books and an even bigger fan of the Perry Mason TV show, it was fun to revisit both as I wrote The Trash Harem.

Marilyn Meredith


Deputy Tempe Crabtree has retired from her job in Bear Creek when friends, who once lived in Bear Creek and attended Pastor Hutch’s church, ask her to visit them in Temecula. The husband, Jonathan, is a suspect in what might be a murder case. The retirement community includes many interesting characters, any of whom might have had a better motive than Jonathan. There is also a connection to Earle Stanley Gardner as well as the Pechanga Old Oak. What is a trash harem? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

To purchase The Trash Harem


Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

She is the author of over 40 published books including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. She’s a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com/

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.meredith