Where Inspiration Lies: What’s In A Name?



I’ve used this title for blog posts before, after all it’s a question that’s often asked. Why do we choose the names we do? Parents to be spend hours pawing over books full of baby names, name their children after famous celebrities, people they admire or names passed down from generation to generation.

As a writer, naming a character is also very important. I can’t get a real feel for the character until I have a name for them. It can sometimes be really distracting if you’ve given them a name but it doesn’t fit right with the character as they unfold on the page. So how do I chose the names of my characters. Where does my inspiration come from?

Christopher Fowler got the inspiration for the names of his two detectives, from the famous brand of matches – Bryant and May. Ian Fleming’s character of James Bond was said to have been the name of and American ornithologist and Fleming was a keen bird watcher.

There are plenty of random name generators available on the internet but I try to find a different way to create the names of my characters.

Sometimes names just come to me, sometimes I need to think about them or I get inspiration from somewhere else, perhaps as Fowler and Fleming have.

In my anthology ‘Under The Patio’, in the story Lovemore Flynn, the first name of the title character was inspired by the name of a fuel station attendant who had the name Lovemore. The minute I saw his name badge I knew I had to use that name in one of my stories.

In the Blake Hetherington Mysteries, Blake’s name came to me one day and I knew with a name like that he would be a strong character that would carry my stories.

In Hats Off To Murder I tried to create names that reflected the hats the characters wore. For example, rightly or wrongly, I associate the bowler with successful upper class business men and therefore champagne sprang to mind and Henry Bollinger was born. Hank Cartwright is a typical American name for a typical American ranch owner who wears a Stetson. In the case of Mademoiselle Derrene and Signor Gagarno I looked up family surnames for Italian and French families. The names I chose just seemed to fit the characters well. Delilah got her surname from one of my favourite composers, Delibes. I always felt it was a refined name and the alteration suited her personality.

In One For The Rook, a lot of the characters have names that are based on the latin genus for certain vegetables, or the English name for a vegetable translated into a different language. The vegetables they are named after often represent their personalities. The first victim’s name is Peter Kürbis, his surname is pumpkin in German. Olea Faba, is the Latin name for oil and bean and in the name Professor Malus, the malus is the genus for apple. You’ll have to read the story to find out why, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

In the next book I’m writing the names are a little more organic, evolving over time and again sometimes referring to the origin of that character.

So that’s a little insight into how I name my characters. I’d love to hear how you think up your character names or if you have any names that are bursting to get out and onto the page. Who knows maybe I could work them into the next story. For now I better get back to the proof reading.

Toodle Pip!

2 thoughts on “Where Inspiration Lies: What’s In A Name?

  1. D.S. – I think names are very important. For one thing, I think they are best chosen if they’re inspired by something, as you’ve shown here. For another, I’ve found that it’s best if the names of different characters are not too similar to each other. That way it’s easier for readers to keep up with them. I like your plays on words with names, and as a side note, I like the alliteration in the name of your character Delilah Delibes.

    • Margot – I completely agree with making sure names aren’t too similar and I love it when a name just comes to me from something around me that has sparked my imagination. You can’t beat it.

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