Characters…Choosing names to Suit

Published January 26, 2016 by Lorraine Nelson - Author

Do you struggle with naming your characters? Believe it or not, I don’t. A name is sometimes the first thing that strikes me…as in Zakia and the Cowboy.

I worked at a call center in town until my health got the best of me. One night, while I was answering phones, a caller named Zakia came on the line. The name stuck in my head long after the call ended and I found myself jotting quick notes to go with the name.

Zakia, exotic name, needs a hero with simple name, ergo, Luke.


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Zakia, long blond hair, emerald green eyes, 5’8″ tall

Zakia, banker’s daughter, wealthy family, used to socializing, partying, and having attention

Zakia, interests include, cooking, baking, gardening, and charity work

Zakia and Luke, married young, divorced young

Luke, third generation rancher in Alberta

Luke, collar length blond hair, sapphire blue eyes, 6’4″

Luke, rancher, thinks Zakia left him because she got bored with ranch life, when in truth she hated competing with the ranch for his attention.

All of this I jotted down between calls that same night and Zakia and the Cowboy was born. I now had a NanoWriMo project for November.

Only I couldn’t wait. πŸ™‚

Nano was only about a week away but the characters kept talking to me (Yep, they really did!) until I sat down and began writing their story. At first, it was just hand-written pages between calls at work, but when I sat down to type up my notes, the story kept unfolding. It was getting really good and by the time Nano officially started on November 1st, I was 13042 words into Zakia and Luke’s story, and I now knew that it would be a romantic suspense as the villain had also popped in to speak his mind. lol I really had a lot of fun writing this story.

2009 was my first Nano and I was determined to write 50,000 words, which was required to finish Nano through the Harlequin forum. (I didn’t realize there was an official Nano site at that time).

Here’s how it went:

National Novel Writing Month, 2009!

Zakia & The Cowboy: Started with 13042 Words
Nov 1 – 4791…17833
2 – 3990…21823
3 – 2995…24818
4 – 4778…29596
5 – 3523…33119
6 – 0
7 – 3060…36179
8 – 1618…37797
9 – 3217…41014
10 – 1135…42149
11 – 4340…46489
12 – 3134…49623
13 – 3693…53316
14 – 3620…56936

(NaNo words: 43894)

I finished Zakia and the Cowboy, edited it, and sent it off to my critique partners. As we were only halfway through November and I already had the outline and beginning of another story, Daydreams & Night Scenes, I decided to finish it.

In this story, I needed a name for the heroine that could double as a man’s name. She became Miranda, Randi to her friends. The hero is a rich playboy and I decided on Alexander, a strong name that the hero has to live up to by the end of the book. πŸ™‚

This novel is, as yet, unpublished, but I just submitted it to a publisher. If they don’t offer a contract, I’ll self-publish it as planned.

Daydreams & Night Scenes: Started with 12604 Words
15 – 0…12604
16 – 1477…14081
17 – 4968…19049
18 – 2517…21566
19 – 3581…25147
20 – 1459…26606
21 – 573…27179
22 – 5163…32342
23 – 3256…35598
24 – 4402…40000
25 – 5110…45110
26 – 3265…48375
27 – 1726…50101

(NaNo words: 37497)

Urgh! This story was finished and I still had 3 days left. I was on a roll! Went searching my files for another story not finished (I always have a few. lol) and found Once in This Lifetime.

Her Unlikely Bodyguard_200x300Jemma Leigh is the name of the heroine in this story. Why? Because it popped into my head at the right time. πŸ™‚ It was a distinctly feminine name for a strong woman, proving that a woman could be both. Theodore, her Teddy Bear from high school, had graduated and joined the army. Years later, Jemma Leigh and Ted are both back in their hometown and second chances just might be possible as they reunite and he appoints himself her bodyguard against the stalker who’s threatened her.

I later changed the title to Her Unlikely Bodyguard as Danielle Steel, one of my favorite authors, has a book out titled Once in This Lifetime. πŸ™‚

Once In This Lifetime: Started with 18169 Words
27 – 1433…19602
28 – 6068…25670
29 – 6374…32044
30 – 5418…37462

(NaNo words: 19293)

I’d finished two novels and got well over halfway through the 3rd in 30 days. (28 really as I had two 0 word days) My end total was 100,684 words. Needless to say, I was impressed. I never thought I had that many words in me, but my poor fingers. lol I’d really put my 30 wpm typing speed to the test.

I’ve never managed to write that much in one month since, (Marketing and Promo take its toll) but it sure gave me a jump start in the publishing world. I submitted Zakia and the Cowboy to various publishers and suffered through 14 rejections until it was picked up by Evernight Publishing. They’ve been an excellent company to work with. By then I was writing the sequel, Covert Mission: Undercover Cop. I now have 7 books in the Thunder Creek Ranch series and #8, A Cowboy’s Drive, is in the works. I hope to finish the series this year with book #10, A Manning Christmas.

I hope this post has helped you in some way. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Just post in the comment section. In the meantime, happy reading and writing to all of you. πŸ™‚



4 comments on “Characters…Choosing names to Suit

  • I’ve always been the reader who wished she had the magic ability to see behind the scenes and learn how a book came to be, so a blog post list this is better than a box of chocolates. πŸ™‚ And I would love to be able to write as quickly as you do–because not only do you have the gift of words that flow, your writing is SO GOOD! Would that ever make a great blog post, your advice on how to pick up the volume pace. Truly, it would take me five years instead of weeks or months–and that’s with following the daily chair glue rule and giving permission for free writing … yikes!

  • Michelle, you are so kind. I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts on writing. I’ve always loved English from grade school on, writing short stories, poetry, and such. My love of writing grew as I got older, but as a single parent, I worked full-time and just didn’t have time to write. Mostly, I wrote for children. Nowadays, I write what I enjoy reading and, yes, when I sit down to write the words are there. I don’t write every day. Haven’t written a word in two days, except for this blog post, thanks to a sinus infection. Haven’t slept in two days either, but that’s another story. Are you going to hit me if I tell you I edit my work as I go? LOL I always give my stories a full edit once the book is complete, but that first edit is done while I am writing the novel.

    We all write at our own pace. Some books require more research than others, too. But I’m impatient. Once I start writing I want to know how it all ends. I know, I know, I do a general outline (sometimes only in my head) but those are just points of reference, if I get stuck, which I never have. (Knock on wood.)

    • That’s part of the “secret” right there–writing what you love. Sometimes we might only think that we love what we’re writing, but maybe perpetually slow writing is a sign from the muse. I know you said that when you sit down to write the words are there, but the way you write, I think, shows that you’ve been thinking about your book, both consciously and unconsciously, when your fingers aren’t at the keyboard, so when you do get to the computer, it’s more ready to flow. So that’s another big thing to remember–instead of pushing too hard, let the muse flow freely so it knows its welcome.

      It’s also really good to know that even though “chair glue” is important, it’s just as important to know to take mental breaks. But it’s not so good that the reason for your latest “vacation” is due to a sinus headache; I sure hope that gets better really soon. Now that’s just adding insult to injury to not be able to sleep and get some healing relief time.

      And no way will I be upset that you edit as you go! I’ve always tried to break myself of that, thinking that is what makes me such a sloooow writer, but you can’t deny that it sure makes the final editing processes faster, LOL. I just try to be mindful that I don’t want to edit so much at that stage that the ideas stop flowing, but on the other hand, since my day job was as an editor, it just drives me crazy to see errors, even if I know they’ll get edited out later.

      Hey, I love that idea–let “impatience” be a virtue, as it pulls you along to the ending faster, LOL.

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