What’s In A Name?

- by Leslie Langtry

I love naming characters.   Naming a character helps me set up her/his personality.  I’m not saying names are easy, because they’re not.  I have at least a dozen name books.  But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be any fun, right?

The characters in my Bombay series about a family of assassins kind of grew around the name of my first heroine – Gin Bombay.  The name popped into my head when I woke up from a dream about a family of assassins who’s business has been assassination for 4,000 years.  I had the name – Gin Bombay. 

Gin had to be short for someone.  No one looks at a baby and says, “Gin!”  At least, I hope they don’t.  Anyway, I decided Gin was short for Virginia.  I also decided that the nickname, Gin, was one she was plagued with in college when drunken kids equated her name with a brand of gin. 

Naming her Virginia gave me an idea for the rest of the names in the family.  I decided that it was a Bombay Family tradition to use place names for first names.  That made her mother – Carolina, her brother – Dakota, her cousin (and best friend) – Liv(erpool), and so on.  She named her daughter Roma in keeping with tradition.

The stage was set for the series.  So then I had to name her love interest.  I decided he was an Australian bodyguard.  I came up with the name Diego Jones.  Diego’s mum was a huge fan of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.  His sister was more unfortunate and ended up as Frida Kahlo Jones.

My editor was totally on board with all this, until I came up with a name she thought was ridiculous in STAND BY YOUR HITMAN.  In that book, Missi(ssippi) Bombay hooks up with a stuntman named Lex.  But that wasn’t my first choice of a name.  I’d wanted Uncas.  Blame it on my Last of the Mohicans fetish.  My editor said it was “ick.” 

Which is why I went with Superman’s nemesis and named him Lex.  My editor was actually right. 

How do you come up with names?



  1. Internet. If the character is an ethnic, you can find sites listing names for that ethnic.

    Look around a bit; most sites also give the derivation or “definition” of the name. “Rex” can be from the Latin — probably name your hero that rather than the villain.

  2. The article is good, but you use “who’s” (abbreviation for ” who is” instead of “whose” which is what you meant. When writers don’t get the language right, I cringe. If we don’t, who will?

  3. My bad! Sorry about that.

  4. I use the Internet and search for French or Cajun names as I’m on the Louisiana thing. And sometimes, I just like a name so I work it in.

    Uncas was awful, BTW. LOL I have to agree with your editor on that one.

  5. I have to agree with her too Jana! I think that was a weekend where I watched Last of the Mohicans three times in a row.