My Publishing Journey: What’s in a Name? (Part 1)

1839c3c5ce3d43791d1c6986a2c403f4Do you ever wonder how authors come up with their character names? I suspect the answer is different for every author. For this author, the answer is “it depends.” So without further ado, here are a few of my characters’ names from my debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, and the inspiration behind them:

Emily Garland (protagonist)

When I was about eight-years-old, a family friend bought me a hardcover copy of Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (best known for her Anne of Green Gables series). The story goes that Montgomery, tired of writing the Anne series, created a new heroine, copying her journal from her early years, and heavily influencing the Emily trilogy.

I loved everything about Emily’s quest to become a writer. From the moment I read that story, I knew that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. It took a few decades (some of us grow up at a slower pace than others), but it seemed only fitting that my protagonist would be named Emily. As for the Garland, I was named after Judy Garland. Mystery solved!

closetoyouArabella Carpenter (sidekick)

This one honestly came out of nowhere. I was taking a creative writing course and the assignment was to write a mystery with the words “blue” and “dolphin.” I started writing a story about an antiques shop called the Blue Dolphin, and for no reason I can remember, the name Arabella popped into my head. I don’t think I’d ever heard the name before (although I have since…it’s sort of like when you drive a white Honda Civic..all of a sudden, all the cars you see are white Honda Civics). The Carpenter? I was listening to the radio and Close to You,  an old song by The Carpenters, came on.  Arabella Carpenter, I thought. That has a nice ring to it. [Sidebar: I changed the name of the shop to the Glass Dolphin after I found out there was a real life Blue Dolphin antiques shop in Maine.]

elton_john_-_madman_across_the_waterLevon Larroquette (Arabella’s ex-husband)

Another name inspired by a song, in this case the Elton John classic, Levon. Originally on the album, Madman Across the Water, it’s one of my favorite songs by Elton John (and favorite albums). Notice the cover looks like denim. Whenever I’m describing Levon, he’s wearing head-to-toe denim, to match his indigo eyes. As for the Larroquette, I was watching an old episode of Boston Legal and thought…Levon Larroquette. That would work.

featured1Garrett Stonehaven (antagonist/greedy real estate developer)

Stonehaven is actually the name of a upscale subdivision in Newmarket, Ontario,  the town that neighbors Holland Landing, where I lived while writing The Hanged Man’s Noose. I thought it would make a great last name for a real estate developer. As for the Garrett, there was this guy in high school…

AnnvSale-HangedMansNooseAll ebook versions of Hanged Man’s Noose are currently on sale for 50% off ($2.99US) at all the usual suspects (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, GooglePlay, iBooks). The trade paperback version is on for 50% off directly from the publisher, Barking Rain Press ($7.99). Sales ends September 30, 2016.  Click on the image for the link!


10 responses to “My Publishing Journey: What’s in a Name? (Part 1)

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Well you are partly right as Levon from the Elton song was inspired by Levin Helm! And yes, “a drunkards dream if you ever did see”is a definite earworm…
    Thanks for reading Noose!

  2. I’m currently reading Hanged Man’s Noose, and I decided Levon was named after Levon Helm, of The Band. I’ve had “Up on Cripple Creek” as an earworm for the last couple of days. I guess I’ll have to change it to Elton John.

    I use my family tree for names of my “good” characters; but never the villains!

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I loved your book. But what rules did you break? I didn’t really think there were rules…outside of don’t have four characters named John or don’t have all the character names start with the same letter.

  4. eightpawswriting

    I love reading about how you picked your characters’ names. I went against the rules on most of my names, but my first book really came from memories!

  5. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I have done a bit of that. For example, in Skeletons in the Attic, there is a character by the name of Dwayne Shuter (after Shuter Street in Toronto). Thanks for commenting, John.

  6. Many decades ago I wrote a few ‘Business’ textbooks. For hypothetical cases I took the names from the street names in the Toronto City Street Directory. Where people in the cases did dumb or unethical things, I wanted to be able to defend selecting the names in case a person unknown to me had the same name. Sort of like having a random number generator – for names!

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    When I see those Dickens character names, I wonder, would they work today? They sound sort of Harry Potter-ish, don’t they?
    I sometimes chuckle at names in books. I’m a big fan of Giles Blunt’s Detective Cardinal series, set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay (loosely based on North Bay, Ontario). He has this one character named Officer Collingwood. I know Collingwood is the name of a town in Ontario, but I’m guessing a lot of his readers don’t. So it always makes me laugh when I read about Officer Collingwood because I know how he came up with the name.
    I also agree, I can’t write a character if I don’t know their name…it just doesn’t work for me.
    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  8. A fun post! I struggle with names sometimes. And when for some reason I need to change one, I just can’t relate to the new character’s “Identity”! At least not until my brain cells realign. Dickens, who wrote a thousand fleshed-out characters, supposedly selected all their names before starting to write, giving us such unforgettable personas as Miss Havisham, Prince Turveydrop, Arethusa Skimpole, Sir Leicester Dedlock, and all. I borrowed the last name of two Dickens characters in creating an Anglican priest serving in Rome: Oliver Harmon. John Harmon is one of the main characters in my favorite Dickens novel, Our Mutual Friend.
    And, isn’t it obvious sometimes, when a name in the story you’re reading just isn’t right? When you feel the author picked something arbitrary that doesn’t work? I really like Arabella Carpenter, BTW. Works.

  9. Judy Penz Sheluk

    That is such a great story and Theo Malone is also a fantastic name for a homicide detective. Thanks for sharing!

  10. It’s always interesting, as you said, how we come up with names. And I can’t tell you where all mine come from, because they just appeared up in the gray matter somehow. But I needed a name for my main character in my second book. I needed a location for “the first body,” so I gout a map and found one. It is close to an area I’ve frequented, and I noticed the two street names, Malone, and Theo I always saw on a freeway sign in the area. There’s my name, Theo Malone, homicide detective.

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