What's in a Name? 🌹


Hi, all—

What's in a name? Quite a bit, actually—especially for writers. I'm not talking about author names, but those we give our characters. Writers love words. And the words we choose to attach to our characters as names are some of the most near & dear to us. We can spend hours searching for that perfect tag to convey the essence of our heroes & villains—along with everyone who populates our fictional worlds. After all, the right name can convey everything from stubborn to passionate, to flighty, to brainy—or even an innate, quiet resoluteness. (John Garrison, anyone?)

Of course, names come with baggage too. For writers & readers. The baggage can be sleek & pretty, but it can just as easily be tatty & ugly. The emotions are often deeply personal. If you knew, say, a Kandi growing up & you just couldn't stand her—well, that baggage weighs down your impressions of characters who bear that name...at least until you've had a chance to dig into the book & possibly alter your opinion.

If you're a parent, you've probably baptized your children with the names you love the most. If you're a writer and a parent, you've undoubtedly done the same. But this can also mean you will never use those particular names in your fiction. (See that baggage analogy from above.😏) If you're a writer & you've written a stack of books, you might feel you've run out of names—your favorite ones, at least.

I have a confession: I'm perilously close to joining that category. When my brilliant alpha reader suggested I weave a new character name into a scene he'd read...part of me balked. But he was right—so I attacked the scene a few nights ago. It was late and all four of my baby name books were across my office, so I began running the names of people I know through my head—and one jumped out. Ivan Zanchetta. Yep, my cover artist is about to be preserved in print. Which is nifty for him—but even better for me, since this is a great way to show my appreciation for all the amazing graphics Ivan creates for me.

But that got me to thinking...

You all have names—and you have friends & relatives with names. (I know; I'm so smart, right?) But seriously, you might like to thank or honor someone you know in print, too. If so, it could happen. My inaugural Frame A Relative, Kill A Friend contest begins today with my coming Deception Point thriller, Chokepoint. This new Reader Crew extra will only ever be open to active newsletter subscribers. (So if you're reading this blog post on my website, make sure you join my reader email list!) For each new book I write, the corresponding contest winner gets to provide me with a name—first & last—and I'll weave that name into the manuscript...somewhere. Most likely, the name will be attached to a minor, "walk-on character". But if it really works for say, a victim or a villain, that could change.

Frame A Relative, Kill A Friend contest winners will receive 2 autographed print copies of the book in which their suggested name appears—1 to keep & 1 to give as a gift to the person they're honoring. I'll even tuck in a few of the snazzy 2-sided bookmarks that Ivan designed to mark the spot where the name first appears. Finally, the owner of the name that I use will need to return a simple permissions release to me via email. While names are not copyrighted, it's nice to know I haven't offended folks. 😁 

Oh, and about the nickname above? Kandi? My mom saddled me with that gem when I was too young to argue. In 7th grade, I officially rebelled, albeit quietly. I began signing all my schoolwork as Candace. Most of my teachers picked up on it. My dad was quick off the block too. But not my mom. She just loved that name. And since I loved her, I didn't push it. 

When I got to college though & I walked into my NROTC unit, my new company lieutenant greeted me & immediately said, "You go by Kandi, right?" Guys, I looked that steely, naval fighter pilot square in the eye—and I lied. "Nope. Never." The name finally died then & there...almost. It still lived within my mom.

Fast forward a few years. I was lieutenant myself then. My parents had come for a visit. My husband & I decided to take them into San Francisco & Chinatown for the day. As you know, my dad was a crusty old retired boatswain's mate chief, so we had to stop in Alameda so I could show off my current ship. Once aboard, I changed into my uniform as required & gave 'em all the nickel tour. Since I was in charge of damage control on that ship, we ended up in Damage Control Central at the end.

Because I was a qualified Engineering Duty Officer & that duty section's EDO wasn't currently in DC Central, one of the electricians asked me to verify his towering stack of lockout tags for the maintenance he was about perform. The petty officer & I chatted as I signed my life away (if there's a casualty during the maintenance & the lockout is found to be at fault, it's the officer who gets courtmartialed). When I finished, I turned around & my mom was slowly shaking her head & staring at me with the oddest look. I promptly asked if she was okay. Her response: "You are not a Kandi."

Yep, it took 25 years...but she got there. 😉



Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.