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Third Post in the 31 Day Book Giveaway: Hero Names
January 3rd, 2014

Congratulations to  Yati Hadi, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Yati to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

I thought I’d take a break from the seriousness of goal setting and talk about something completely different. Today’s topic is Hero Names.

When creating a hero, an author needs to name the character correctly in order to get the right image for him. For instance, you’d have different first impressions of a hero named Kade vs. one named Oscar.

Different things have to be considered when naming your hero. In my case, I think about things like ethnicity, religious background and where he is from. These are all things that affect how people name their children. Also time period. Is this a historical hero, a contemporary hero or one from the future or another world entirely?

I once gave a hero the wrong name. The hero of DONOVAN’S BED, my first Western historical, was originally named Donovan Cain. This guy is the son of a saloon girl. He doesn’t know who his father is, and at age 16 he tracked down his mother’s killer and accidentally killed him. This is how he got into bounty hunting. When we meet Donovan, it’s fifteen years later, and he’s retired from bounty hunting to a small town where he’s trying to settle down and leave his past behind.

This is a guy who never had a real home, never learned a lot about manners and never really socialized with people. Yet every time he opened his mouth on the page, he sounded like he’d been raised in high society and gone to some fancy schools. This is when I realized I had the wrong name.

The name of the book is DONOVAN’S BED, and I wanted to keep that. So I changed his name to Jack Donovan.

Immediately I had a different character. I have no trouble believing that the guy with the simple name of Jack is someone who never had fancy schooling. The harsh J and K sounds in his name give you a sense of hardness that make you think this guy is tough, a guy who doesn’t require much in the way of material possessions. And that’s what I wanted. Though his first name is Jack, the other men call him Donovan. This was very common in the Old West.

In my book THREE NIGHTS, the hero Lucien’s mother was French. He was illegitimate, so he took her last name: DuFeron. Later, his father the duke recognized him as his son, but Lucien kept his mother’s name. I picked Lucien because this is a wicked hero, and it sounds like Lucifer. I picked DuFeron because, loosely translated, it means “made of iron” and gives you that fire and brimstone essence. Lucien hangs out with a guy named Dante in the book, and together they are called Hell’s Brethren.

In my recent paranormal, PRODIGAL SON, the hero’s last name is Montana. I decided that it is a variation of montaña, which is Spanish for ‘mountain’ and could be a place name. My hero is part Spanish and part Native American with ancestors from Atlantis. His first name is Rafe, because I wanted something wicked sounding. This brother is the wild child of the three Montana siblings.

One person who succeeds in using names most people wouldn’t consider heroic with remarkable success is Jayne Anne Krentz. Some of her heroes’ names are Baxter, Matthias, Harry, Joel, and Mack. I bet she could even make Oscar work. 🙂

What are your thoughts on hero names? Are some overused? Overlooked? Do some need to be retired? Comment and get your name in a drawing for a paperback book from my backlist!


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4 Responses to “Third Post in the 31 Day Book Giveaway: Hero Names”

  1. Diane Benefiel says:

    I like alpha males so I like strong-sounding hero names that aren’t too unusual. I think solid, old-fashioned names might be making a comeback; I’m thinking Matthew (Downton Abbey), George (Hart of Dixie) and Eli (Nora Robert’s Whiskey Beach). That said, NR used Brooks for her very sexy hero in The Witness and I just loved him.

    • Debra Mullins says:

      I agree, old fashioned names seem to be making a comeback. That’s especially helpful when writing historicals. They don’t sound quite so fuddy-duddy!

  2. Raonaid Luckwell says:

    Some are overused… I am weird in that I like unusual names. Especially when highlander books and the author chooses good gaelic names!

    Now there are some names that just irk the heck out of me. I don’t know why. I always snub my nose at it. Names like “Harry” “George”. They just don’t inspire my imagination

    One name that I feel will never go out of style is “Gabriel”. Which is my youngest son’s name. I just love it.

    Too bad I never seen my hubby and oldest son’s name in books. It’s unusual. Though there is an author with that name which surprises hubby. The name is Harlen. Something you don’t see all the time. I understand it was a famly surname at one time.

    • Debra Mullins says:

      I have a hero named Gabriel in my Scottish curse book, THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING. I also had a Jedidiah in one of my Western historicals. He was a U.S. Marshal. Doesn’t that sound like a marshal’s name?


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