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Archive for May 3rd, 2015

Lindsay McKenna: Choosing Names for Characters
Sunday, May 3rd, 2015


The name I choose for every character I write about means everything to me.  The name needs to resonate within me, inspire me, sweep me off to the hero and heroine’s personality, their thoughts, emotions, desire, dreams and wounds.  A name has energy to it and a very specific vibration.  That name is a template from which the character “talks” to me for the duration (and sometimes, after) the book.

When I start a new book, I’ll see a character come forward and introduce themselves to me.  I see what they look like, how they are dressed, the expression on their face, etc.  From that, I pick up a vibe about him or her.  I can feel who they are inside and out, as if they are utterly transparent to me on every level with me.  This is the magical part of creation which I love.

The only downer is my characters never tell me their names!  I go through a number of books, thumbing through them, muttering a bunch a names to see if one “fits” them or not.  I go to tons of baby names websites on the Internet.  I look for unique, interesting or oddball names.  I’ve written over 135 books and all my favorite names have long ago, been used up!

Choosing every name of every character is one of the most important things I do when developing a story.  Every time I say that name out loud, I get an instant telepathic and emotional hit on that character.  I never go out-of-character because of this.  Choosing a name that embraces the particular character’s personality is vital.

I favor short names over really long, convoluted ones.  I like names you can create a nickname from or around. For example, the hero of RUNNING FIRE is a US Navy SEAL named Kelly Ballard.  But everyone has, forever, called him by his nickname, Kell.  And so, he grew up with it.  There’s usually a reason why some people get nicknames spinning off their given name.  Sometimes, there isn’t.   In Kell’s world, people around him just automatically shortened it.  Besides, Kell is an easy going sort of man and wasn’t one of those people who went around correcting everyone every time they didn’t call him by his real name, Kelly. (There are people out there like that, believe me).  I also don’t care for a name I can’t pronounce without stumbling all over it.  I figure if I do, so will my reader.

It was tougher for me to find the heroine’s name: Leah Mackenzie.   Names sound strong or weak to me.  When I say the name, I want to investigate the layers  enclosed within its vowels and consonants.  In Leah’s case, when she came forward to introduce herself to me, I felt layers of steel, of grief, of suffering, but also, family meaning everything to her, a kindness and a loyalty that ran deeply through her.  She was a highly complex and compartmentalized person, so I needed a name that had far more layers than normal to it.

Above all, Leah was a person who cared deeply for family, and less for herself.  I needed a name with vulnerability built into it.  I wanted that softness that I felt deeply hidden and guarded by her.  I had to have a name that contained those juxtapose polarities:  marshmallow combined with steel.  I spent seven days and finally discovered the name that resonated with her:  Leah.

Afterward?  I always have fun looking up on the Internet what a name means by the country of its origin.  And also, any historical or religious significance to it, or not.  I’m always amazed, after I choose a name and then scour the basics of the name through history, that it ends up reflecting some basic tenets of my character. Go check the name Leah on Google, and you’ll get a ton of information!

I hope you enjoy the many layers, twists and turns of Running Fire!  Please run over to my website and sign up for my quarterly newsletter (free).  It contains exclusive information, giveaways, and surprises that only my subscribers will receive!  I love to hear from my readers, so make yourself known to me at


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