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.