No Homers – what if the name doesn’t speak to the author?

by Linda Winstead Jones, author of Come to Me (Silhouette Romantic Suspense, April 2010)

I have been accused by a good friend (who shall remain nameless) of naming my heroes “Homer.” I’d like to point out that’s not true. Malcolm, yes. Truman, yes. But there’s been no Homer. Not as a hero, anyway.

Malcolm Bridger was the hero of my first book for Silhouette. The name popped: it was right for him. At one point the aforementioned friend told me that name wouldn’t work. Taking her word, I did try to change it. Nick. Jake. (Names I have used since, and they worked perfectly for those characters.) But it didn’t work for this one. As soon as I tried to give Malcolm the wrong name, he stopped speaking to me. I gave in and Malcolm he remained.

Truman came later, in Truly, Madly, Dangerously. The men in his family were all named for presidents. He simply wasn’t a Sam or a Cole. He was a Truman. I wish I could tell you that I have an explanation for this phenomenon, that I can tell you why characters stop speaking to me if I give them the wrong name. I can’t. I only know that names are vitally important, and taking the wrong path can stop me in my tracks.

In a Special Edition that’s in the works, the hero started out a Nate. I wrote several chapters with Nate, but I reached a point where I realized that he faded into the background while all the other characters came to life. His name was wrong. I stopped, and thought a bit, and leafed through baby name books. I changed his name to Cole, and he began to come together for me. It’s like naming a baby. Maybe you’ve planned to name the newest member of your family after a favorite uncle, but when he comes into the world you look at him and you know that’s not right. He’s not an Edward, he’s a Homer.

I shouldn’t be surprised. If someone called me by the wrong name, I probably wouldn’t speak to them, either.

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Comments ( 7 )
  1. SheliaG
    November 2, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Linda, wow. Glad to see I’m not the only one. If my characters name isn’t the RIGHT name, the character has a way of keeping quiet.

  2. ChrissieSue
    November 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    This has happened to me, too. In one MS I had all the women’s names starting with the same letter and I didn’t realize what I’d done until I was in the last chapters. I went back and changed the names of the secondary characters and they clammed up on me. I didn’t recognize them when I came to their part.

  3. Linda Winstead Jones
    November 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    SheilaG, isn’t it the truth! And there’s nothing worse than a character who won’t talk.

    ChrissieSue, it’s maddening when the names you have feel right but they’re all five letter names starting with the same two letters. I’ve had to sacrifice a secondary character or two, in the past.

    Thanks for commenting!


  4. Debra Glass
    November 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Linda, if anyone could make a Homer sexy, it would be you! (and maybe Vickie Lewis Thompson) 🙂

  5. Linda Winstead Jones
    November 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Debra, my one and only Homer was NOT sexy. He was a wicked stepbrother in my take on Cinderella — Cinderfella. And I have yet to live it down . . .

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  7. Stephanie
    November 2, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Great blog! As others have mentioned, I am glad to see it isn’t just my “name problem” as my writing partner calls it.

    I even had to ask my writing partner to change a name once to something with harder consonants. She won’t ever let me forget it. She sometimes says now, “Does that have enough consonants?” lol

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