What’s in a name?

by Laura Marie Altom, author of The Bull Rider’s Christmas Baby (Harlequin American Romance, Dec 2010)

For me—EVERYTHING!!!  My characters are my “people.”  And when it comes to telling their stories, I literally can’t write the first sentence until hammering down their names.  There’s something inside me that just knows when the name fits the person.  Until I get the name just right, the person won’t come alive.  Wacky, but true!

For my new series, The Buckhorn Ranch, I’ve been working with cowboys.  I think of them as earthy, hunky, manly men.  As such, I needed special names to fit.

Dallas is the eldest of four siblings.  His name not only calls to mind the modern strength of the Texas city, but the old TV series featuring J.R.  Dallas has a huge heart, but is gruff and rough around the edges.

Cash is the youngest.  He’s sexy as sin and knows it!  Only trouble is that like money, he can be shallow!

Daisy’s the only girl in the bunch.  From her name, you might think she’s a flighty, free spirit.  In her younger days, she was pretty wild, but not for the reason folks expected.

Wyatt’s name evokes the old West.  He’s a restless rogue who needs taming.

Next time you’re choosing character names, try looking beyond literal meanings to the feelings the names evoke.  You might be surprised by “people” who show up!

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Comments ( 7 )
  1. SheliaG
    November 2, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Laura, I’m the same way. I can’t write the story unless I know my characters and knowing my characters first start with their name.

  2. Laura Marie Altom
    November 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Shelia–Thanks for chiming in!! I’m so relieved to hear I’m not the only one with this naming “sickness”!!

    I’m working on the final edits for the third book in my new series, Buckhorn Ranch, and just found out I have to change my hero’s name because another author with the same release date used “Tucker”. Since she first claimed the name, I’m now scrambling for a new one and coming up empty!! Suggestions??? LOL!!

  3. Cheryl
    November 2, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Amen! No name, no life. Even harder than the right name, is a name that’s right, and not already overused. I try to come up with nicknames too. Amanda Quick has great ones, in my opinion. Ok, you need a new hero’s name…I just moved from North Dakota, (next to Montana), and lots of manly men there have interesting names:
    My favorites would be
    Clint McKay, & Les Roberts; Then there’s Zachary, Tyler, Tanner, Jared.
    Congratulations on the new book!

  4. Laura Marie Altom
    November 2, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for the help, Cheryl!! I used to read Amanda Quick all the time, but fell out of the habit. Guess I’ll have to start back up!!

    You are sooo lucky to be living amongst all those manly men!! Bless you for the name suggestions!! I like Zach!! My fave place to hunt for cowboy names is on the pro bull rider lists. Gutherie is one I love, but sadly, my editor doesn’t. LOL!!!

    The name hunt continues . . .

  5. adelheideh
    November 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I’m right there with you. The characters personalities are built around their names.

  6. Laura Marie Altom
    November 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Hey Adel!! Thanks for chiming in!! I’m still stumped, trying to think up a new cowboy name . . . 😉

  7. Tweets that mention Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. -- Topsy.com
    November 3, 2010 at 11:42 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Malle Vallik, Dawn P. Dawn P said: What's in a name? #SYTYCW http://t.co/PJiBtbw via @HarlequinBooks […]

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