Behind the Book: What readers don’t know about my character names

character name and coffee

Melania — is there anyone in the world really named “Melania”? – Amazon reviewer

CaraBristol_RandCSociety_UnexpectedConsequences_200x300Actually, yes. Melania Traynor in Unexpected Consequences is named after Donald Trump’s wife Melania. Trump was just a businessman (and reality TV star) when I wrote Unexpected Consequences, but I liked his wife’s name. It was the first time I had heard it, and I thought it was pretty. Teresa Guidice ( Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey”) has a daughter with the same name, although she spells it Milania. It’s a real name folks. Or at least, I didn’t make it up.

Melania isn’t the only name I borrowed from a famous person. I got the name for Janelle Gibb in Domestic Discipline from TLC’s “Sister Wives” polygamist Janelle Brown (the Janelle in my story isn’t a polygamist). Rahm Simmons, also in Domestic Discipline, is named after Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago and a former advisor to President Bill Clinton. I liked the name Rahm a lot. It was different. As soon as I heard the name, I knew I would use it for a character one day. Rahm’s wife is named Cadence, because Rahm is an army veteran. A military cadence is the the call-and-response work song sung while running or marching.

Symbolic names

Blame my high school English teachers who made me read classic literature laden with symbolism, but often, my character names have symbolic significance. Most readers will never realize the meaning, but I know.


Coming Sept. 6, 2016

In my Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance series, all the heroes are cyborgs, human beings with have some computer and mechanical parts. To emphasize that they are human and not androids, they have names that mean “man”: Brock Mann, Kai Andros, Dale Homme, March Fellows, Sonny Masters. Carter Aymes does not have a “man” name because when the series started, he wasn’t a cyborg, and because I’m a panster, I didn’t know he was going to become one.

When Brock Mann first meets Penelope (before the story starts), she’s a really big pain in the ass — “PIA.” So I made sure that her initials spelled out PIA – Penelope Isabella Aaron.

In Body Politics (Rod and Cane Society 3), Stephanie is a diehard, placard-toting feminist. As a point of irony, her name is a feminine derivative of a male name: Stephanie =Stephen.

CB_Breeder_coverlgGoing back to Melania from Unexpected Consequences, her husband’s surname is symbolic and representative of their relationship. Traynor is a variation of Trainer and/or Train Her. They have a domestic discipline relationship and he is responsible for disciplining or teaching her.

In Breeder, the name “Omra” is drawn from the meditative chant, “Om.” It sounds peaceful to me, and Omra brings peace to hero Dak.

In Goddess’s Curse, Reena is my variation of Reina, which is Spanish for queen. Reena is the future queen of her people. The name of her villainous cousin, Honna is ironic. I drew Honna from the word “honor,” but Honna is as evil as they come.

Probably, the most symbolic and significant of all my character names are Destiny Grable and Chance Everett.  They are soulmates. Fate has destined these two people to be together. But fate doesn’t make it easy. Fate, like Karma, is a mean bitch. Before they can be together they must take some risks, some chances. So…Destiny and Chance….Destiny’s Chance.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00014]In Irresistible Attractions (Rod and Cane Society 6) I chose Hannah Laurie’s first and last names carefully. I love the name Hannah. It’s a palindrome (spelled the same forwards and backwards). My cat is named Hannah, but I like the name so much, I decided to use it for a character. Years ago, I’d met a woman named “Hannelore.” It’s a German name, not one you hear much in the US, but I liked the flow of the name. I broke it up into a first and last name for my Irresistible Attractions heroine and called her Hannah Laurie.

However, sometimes my character names have no special significance.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe

Pick a name

And off we go!

Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance Series


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8 Responses to Behind the Book: What readers don’t know about my character names

  1. Diane Burton says:

    Good post. We all have different ways of naming our characters. I once named an alien character that began with 3 consonants and nobody could pronounce it. Even me. LOL So when I updated the book, I changed it. Learned a lesson there. Always pronounce a name before choosing it.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      That’s good advice. I think that pronounceable names make it easier to remember the characters as you’re reading. So I try to make my sci-fi romance names look different, but still be easy to pronounce.

      It also matters how they sound–because an author might want to do an audio book. I discovered that the hard way.

      I called the Cy-Ops villains Lamis-Odg (LAMB iss Og). It’s an anagram, and I won’t say for what, I’ll let readers try to figure it out on their own. But, I named them that for a reason. When I did two audio books, I discovered Lamis-Odg doesn’t “roll” easily. In hindsight, I would have named my villains something else.

  2. I love to understand how the writer mind works in others. This was good stuff. Thanks for sharing. One of the things I do at the end of a movie is I watch all the screen credits to find cool names. I’m always amazed at the diversity.

  3. Lisa Medley says:

    Fun post! As a former English teacher, I figured out several of these but not Hannah or Stephanie! In my second book, Reap & Redeem, I named my heroine Alivia because she was a dying woman who was trying to complete her bucket list until she met Kylen, my reaper hero. Harlequin thought the name Alivia was too “on the nose” and changed it to Olivia. I should have changed it back when I republished. Maybe I still will. I’ll never change a name for an editor again! Well done!

  4. ML says:

    When I first saw Hannah Laurie, I immediately thought of the old folk tune, “Annie Laurie”!

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