Monday, January 10, 2011


By Nancy Lee Badger

One facet of creating a work of art we authors call ‘a novel’ is naming our characters. From the all important hero and heroine to the friends, villains, coworkers, and family members, we need them to make our novels come to life.

I have a hard time naming characters. For one novel, I called my heroine FH (female hero) and called her true love HH (him, the hero). Dumb? Not to me. I had to creep inside their heads as my plot moved along, adding characteristics to a chart that grew and grew. This particular story was set in both present day USA and Scotland back in 1598. Can anyone say ‘Time Travel’?

The names came to me, finally, and I grew to love Haven and Kirkwall. I came up with Haven long before the TV show of the same name debuted. Haven has many meanings and is described as “a strong new name ready to blossom” by The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenburg. This book of names was recommended by a friend who writes as Lydia Dare, author of The Wolf Next Door. I grew up enamored with Star Trek’s Captain Kirk. One problem; Kirk is the Scottish word for Church. I could not name him after a house of worship! So, in the story I have him named after the Scottish town of Kirkwall where he was conceived instead of named after his sire. Sort of a slap in the face to my larger-than-life Highland warrior!

I finished the book and have queried several agents. I know I must be open to accepting that someone up the ladder may not like my chosen names. This also happens with book titles and I am grown-up enough to accept changes. We shall see. No bites yet, so I keep writing.

In the first book I ever wrote, I chose the heroine’s name because a girlfriend named her daughter with a variation. (Sounds the same, but is spelled differently) Having chosen the name right off the bat, I then had to decide on a title. I realized I referred to a mountain where my heroine lives and where lots of the action occurs, but I never named the mountain. So, in DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN, released last September by Red Rose Publishing, the mountain is all hers.

My own name is coming back into vogue. I was named Nancy for family members and it works for my personality. At I confirmed my name also means ‘Grace’. I refer to this website quite a bit, especially when looking for names with roots in other countries such as Scotland and France. In my book DRAGON’S CURSE, released last June by Whispers Publishing, I name my hero Draco. It means ‘dragon’ in many languages including Latin and has been around for many, many centuries. I felt the name could easily show up on a Scottish island in the 16th century. My heroine, who hails from the mainland, is Brianna, which means ‘the strong’. I wanted my hardworking heroine to come across as strong, but the femininity of the name fit the woman in my head.

Another reference book on my bookshelf is The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names. It was recommended by my friend Sabrina Jeffries, author of The School for Heiresses. This handy reference book gives the origin of many names and the dates they came into use. This is very helpful when writing a historical fiction. Leah, a name made popular in the seventies due to the Star Wars trilogy, was first used as a Christian name in the 17th century, so you will not find it in one of my 16th century Scottish historicals. A handy reference book indeed.

Have you looked up your own name? It’s a hoot, but the real reason for this little talk is to help an author when naming characters. I also wanted to let readers understand and gain a little insight into certain names that appear in the book on their nightstand (or, in my case with my four e-books, on their E-reader) Happy reading!

Again, here are my favorite resources:
The Baby Wizard by Laura Wattenberg, Broadway Books
The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names by E. G. Withycombe, Oxford University Press


Nancy grew up on New York’s Long Island then attended school in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. She earned a degree in art education. After meeting her husband there, they raised a family in a small, nearby town. She was am EMT/firefighter on their small fire department then worked for the State of New Hampshire as a 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Dispatcher. Nancy now writes full time, lives in North Carolina, and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, and Sisters-in-Crime. She also writes as Nancy Lennea. For a full list of her books, which are all available from Amazon for Kindle, visit:

DRAGON'S CURSE, a historical paranormal from whispers Publishing-Buy Link:


  1. Thanks for posting, Nancy. Hopefully you gave people some ideas for the dreaded-name-selection chore!

  2. Excellent post! I think naming our characters is as difficult as naming our children. I like the way you get to know your "friends" before selecting the name. Not a bad idea at all!

  3. Nancy I have used babyology as well. But I found that Sherrilyn Kenyon along with other contributers came up with the The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook.

    I love this book and even if I can not find a name in there I can make a hybrid name. In the book there are little tidbits from other writers. The book is broken by region and then by female and male, list of popular names according to year and also the meaning of that name. In the back there is a shortcut list.

    For instance if I want a name that means WISDOM I would look up Wisdom and all the names that apply to that word (male or female) are listed with the page number so that you can go back and see if it is the Region you want. I found my name Alisa (Lizzie is my nickname) under that word.

    The only issue I have is with the Native American section. Sorely lacking and I believe due in part because names varied by tribe and certain tribes only issue a name when they know the character of said child usually done by the tribal chief. Oh well I guess I can't name my child Dances with Wolves. LOL

  4. FH and HH is hysterical. Would drive me crazy to write with that in the mss. But what ever works, right? Great post and thanks for the resources. Very helpful.
    Liz Arnold
    Message to Love
    The Wild Rose Press

  5. I love naming characters. I write down names that interest me as I hear them. I always tell readers to be wary, that I will eventually use their names in a story. I also try to make names fit so if I am writing a story about Asians- I look up Asian names. I have had times where the name I started out with just didn't fit the character and I had to go back at the end and change all of them to something else. Great topic!

  6. I love learning about what some names mean in different countries! I assume you just can't give a name even if you feel it for the characters, since you'd have to research it to make sure its fitting for that time period too? Love TT and Lairds (and all those characters from Scotland!) , so I hope that book happens for you soon!

    I just looked up my name (and going to look up more later, I just put it in a google search! Wasn't sure if there was a specific site for this). Mine as Catherine is a variant for Katherine. Its known to be from Greek and borne from a 4th century saint and been common in England. I need to find out more. Awesome post! Caffey

  7. Names can certainly do a lot to establish character and make or break (in the case of using an anachronistic name, wrong for place or time) a book. Great post, Nancy!