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?

Leslie

6 comments

  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.

  6. HEY! I MARRIRD A LEMON! LOL BUT HE’S REALLY A Le Mon!