What’s in a Name?

Last time we chatted I was waiting on some editorial feedback, keeping myself busy (distracted) with card making and staring at The Rock, and playing around with a few story ideas in my head wondering which one would take hold and become my next manuscript.

Well, the feedback is in, and it’s good. A little more work to do (not surprising), but hopefully I’ll be ready to send Shadows out into the query trenches at the end of next month (fingers crossed).

I’m sure you’re all dying to find out whether any of the story ideas that were floating round stuck. Guess what? They didn’t. But no need to despair. As I was playing with the characters in my head, sussing them out, getting to know them, an entirely new story came to me. I should say scene, really, not story, because it is far from a fully fleshed out idea. But this one scene kept popping into my mind – think of it like a 30 second clip from a movie (because that’s how it is in my head) – and it just wouldn’t go away.

So I madly scribbled some ideas and I think, just maybe, this is the one I’m going to run with. Now, it will be a while before I can give it the attention it needs, while I finish off Shadows, but I’m finding that in those quiet moments, like driving to school pick up, doing the dishes, the story is firming up and I can’t wait to get started on it.

One of the biggest problems I have when starting something new is figuring out the name of my main character (MC). Even harder than naming my own children.  The supporting cast I manage well, even the male MC I seem to name easily, but my female lead, man she always gives me trouble.

As the lead, she is kind of important, so it’s important to get her name right, and there are so many things to consider.

  • Age and era appropriateness – let’s face it a girl in her thirties in 2015 Sydney is unlikely to be called Eunice (unless there’s a deliberate plot point around that).
  • Cultural appropriateness – a girl born in rural Australia in the 70s probably isn’t going to be called Shakira or Amandine. Likewise a German girl born the same time probably isn’t going to be named Sharon (or Shazza as we Aussie’s like to say). And if her father is Italian, her last name is unlikely Smith.
  • Then there’s your own personal bias – if your arch nemesis in high school was a girl named Kylie, you’re probably not going to call your heroine that. Or if it’s the name of the school mum in the playground who always thinks everything is about her, she’ll think the story is about her when it totally isn’t and you don’t want to go there. And for me whenever I see a character with a name like Tallulah Blossom, I find it hard to cope with the fact she’s supposed to be a doctor. (That may be unfair, and sorry to any doctors out there named Tallulah Blossom, but I did say it was a personal bias.)
  • And then, of course, there’s the ‘it just sounds right’ component – again this is quite personal. I love the name of my MC in Shadows – Alice Pond – but one of betas really doesn’t like it.

Trouble is, I find it hard to move forward with a story unless I have my MC’s name locked in. Probably because it goes with truly knowing your MC, and how can I write her story if I don’t even know her name? I’m not someone who can write a story leaving the name blank to come back to later. With minor characters, yes, but not with my MC. If I don’t know her name, I can’t picture her in my head.

So, I thought maybe we could have some fun together, and you my lovely readers and writers can help me brainstorm some names for my new MC. First name a must, last name a bonus (I have trouble with that too).

To help you, a little about her – She’s going to be in her mid-to late 30s. Born in Sydney, lived there all her life. Ethnicity of parents undecided yet so knock yourself out with that. But I do see her as a brunette, not blonde. Intelligent but not a genius – corporate type. Quite serious (part of her journey is going to be ‘lightening up’). Has a secretive grandmother and trying to find out more about her is what puts MC on her new path. That new path leads her to a small coastal town with an amazing little bookshop owned by grandmother’s estranged BFF. Male lead who may or may not be a romantic interest (still deciding) is named Shawn.

Not a lot to go on, but as I said, a bit of fun. Leave a comment with suggestions. Unfortunately no prizes for the winner, except the honour and glory of acknowledgment when I finally get published.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.


As always I’m hoping with Julie again. Check out what other writers are up to… Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click herehttp://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015





28 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      oooo Audrey could work for one of the other characters I think. I love the name Claire, it’s the middle name of one of my sisters-in-law, so I don’t think I’ll go there!

  1. Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie

    Hmm… So I did a little research on pop culture in the late 1970s – about the time she’d be born and her parents would be choosing her name. (Funny, it’s her PARENTS that named her, not you, correct? Because you’re a writer and they are her parents. Wait. Oh, gosh. I’m so confused…)

    Anyhoo, in 1978, Grease was a hit – and the world fell in love with Olivia Newton-John. Now, I know she’s UK born and only lived in Australia for 10 years . . . but would Olivia be a possibility?

    Maybe the intelligent/corporate aspects of her character can be communicated through her last name? Olivia Westwood, Olivia Whithouse, Olivia Claiborne?

    Good luck. If you can’t figure it out – can you go to the government officials in Sydney and look up her birth certificate? Oh, no. Wait. Um . . .

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      You crack me up.
      We Aussies are happy to claim people as our own. Olivia N-J is 100% Australian. So is Russel Crowe, who was born in NZ, and Nicole Kidman who actually born in the States. Funny aside – at uni I received an award named after ONJ’s father, so maybe that’s a sign. I do like Olivia.
      I do like those last names too….

  2. paulinewiles

    I agree, this is hard. I can’t stand non-age-appropriate names; one problem though is for characters in their 30s, when I look up the popular baby names then (in the UK), they’re all kind of dull!
    But I really like Olivia that Julie suggested. And I was thinking maybe Nicole, although I see, coincidentally, she commented here. I googled and found Cate, Naomi and Toni too.
    I keep a list of names I like (and some for the arch nemesis, too). One thing I’ve noticed is that gazillions of female names end in A… Although, interestingly, no-one who’s commented here 🙂

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Nicole who commented is one of my oldest friends, and the MC in The Point is named Nicole, so already taken.
      My list of potential names for potential novels is quite long….
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Krystal Jane

    All right!! Getting so close. 🙂

    I find naming my female leads difficult, too. Unless I just get lucky and they tell me their name. And I’m with you, I absolutely can’t move on until I have that name! It solidifies everything for me.

    I have a long LONG looooooong list of names between my phone and computer. It comes in handy sometimes, but I just about always have to pull at least one off the recesses of the internet somewhere.

    Some suggestions! ^_^
    Amberlynn Mitchells – Caitlyn Trunken – Emilie McWayan – Claire Travers

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Very close.
      Yep, once I have the name I can picture her in my head and full speed forward. Like you I have a list, but I still seem to have trouble and have to search elsewhere.
      I have a Caitlyn in The Point, and Emily is my daughter’s name, so Emilie might not work. I love Claire, but sister-in-law owns that!!! Maybe I can put it on the short list anyway.

  4. Jayne Denker

    I am strong in the ways of Google-fu, so when I need a name, I hit the search engine and dig into the decade the character was born. Like Julie said, you’ve gotta think like her parents. I found this: http://www.baby2see.com/names/australian_baby_girls_names.html According to that list, the most popular girls’ names in the ’70s and up to 1980 were Michelle, Nicole, Lisa, Melissa, Kylie, Rebecca, Sarah, Amanda, Joanne, Belinda, Samantha, Natasha, Anna, Jennifer, Kelly, and Shannon. Do any of those strike a chord? I *so* know what you mean about the name just having to FIT, so maybe some of the other charts on that page might have what you’re looking for, even if it’s not exactly era-appropriate. Good luck! And let us know what you pick!

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Thanks for sharing your Google-fu with the link.
      I’ve used Nicole, Becca and Mandy in other MSs. My middle name is Michelle, so that might be a bit narcissistic (!). I do like Natasha and Samantha, and I’m kind of loving Belinda.
      Thanks for all your suggestions.

  5. Melissa Field

    I couldn’t help smiling at the name “Eunice.” That would certainly be a plot point if it was in a modern novel! I have changed my MC name several times in my latest novel, I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggles with this. The current name is Tess, and I think it’s going to be the one I keep.

  6. cassiepiat

    Love your post – I’m the same with MC names – have to know their names before writing their story. Good luck with the names – you have quite a choice there. I like Noami, Christina, Tess 🙂

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      It makes it so much easier to think of them as real people when they have a name. And let’s face it, they ARE real people. Thanks for your suggestions and for stopping by.

  7. lahowlett

    Karen was popular in the ’70s. I have a friend with that name who was born around then and she hates her name. She goes by Kate or her initials (K.C.) She insists that her mother was influenced by Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters. 🙂

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Karen is my sister’s name. And she told me just the other day to name the character after her, even though she has no idea what sort of a character she’s going to be 🙂
      I think I might leave that one alone.

  8. Gail

    So many names and so little time? Mid thirties now, Sydney…Katherine (Kate or Katie), Emma and Emily, Alexandra (Alex or Lexie) were all popular at the time. All nice and really you could go anywhere with a surname depending on the ethnicity of the young lady.

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      You know I won’t be using Emily! 😉 And I actually have Sydney reserved for another novel. I’ll run the name I think I’m going with when we catch up next…


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