If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


June Interviews













6/3 Gretchen Archer, Double Trouble
6/10 Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth
6/17 Annette Dashofy, Til Death
6/24 Adam Meyer


Saturday Guest Bloggers

6/6 Mary Keliikoa
6/13 William Ade
6/20 Liz Milliron


WWK Bloggers:

6/27 Kait Carson
6/30 WWK Writers--What We're Reading Now

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Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.


KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.


Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel, and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination! All are winners but without Agatha Teapots. Onto 20121!


Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."


Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.


Kaye George's second novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Deadly Sweet Tooth, was released on June 2. Look for the interview here on June 10.


Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Rules to Remember When Naming Your (Fictional) Children by Susan Van Kirk


As a former teacher, I know the old joke about the pregnant teacher who could not think of a good name for her impending baby because each name she thought of had some darker association with a former student. “I can’t name him ‘Ben’ because of that teenager I had in class named Ben who always whispered obscene things under his breath to the girls who sat around him.” When it comes to determining fictional character names, it is not a problem—probably because they are not my real, non-fiction children.

When I write mysteries, I keep a notebook full of the names of people in my three series, each set in small towns. The list helps me choose names for new characters and keeps me from repeating names I have used in the past. Since I’m currently on my sixth mystery with three different towns, I have peopled a rather good slice of my fictional universe, and I need to be careful about how I name new characters. With that in mind, here are seven ideas I follow when naming my fictional children.

First, I need to make sure I do not use a name and location of a real person I’ve known. I found myself subconsciously doing this with a minor character who had the first name of a long-ago college roommate and lived in her hometown. Obviously, my brain had connected the two. A week later, I realized what I had done and changed the name.

Second, the main character must have a name I love because I will use it a great deal in more than one book. It needs to sound perfect. Grace Kimball, my main character in my Endurance Mysteries, has such a name. I love the concept of “grace under pressure” from Hemingway’s novels. “Grace” is also the middle name of one of my grandchildren. “Kimball” was simply a last name that came into my head when I was not thinking about names at all. But it works well with Grace.

Elizabeth Russell, or Beth, is the protagonist in my Sweet Iron Series. I love the name “Beth” because it is short, practical, and is a single syllable. My Beth is practical and no nonsense. It seems to me a single syllable for a main character’s first name is easier to say and remember. Then I have Jill Madison in my current manuscript. Again, a single syllable first name is followed by a last name that simply sounds right to me when I combine it with Jill.

Third, I never introduce too many names of characters at once. I bring in characters gradually so readers won’t get mixed up. When I began my third Endurance mystery, I planned to write about the Endurance school board. Eventually, I changed the plot concept because it was too confusing to introduce seven or eight board members at once. I try to introduce characters in unique ways with different names and not too close together.

Fourth, I make names memorable so the reader won’t have to page back to figure out who this character is thirty pages later. For example, my detective in the Endurance Mysteries is TJ Sweeney, a decidedly detective-sounding name. Not until much later in the book does the reader learn the “TJ”
stands for Teresa Johanna.

Fifth, in a series with history, I try to make connections between names in a family. In A Death at Tippitt Pond, Beth Russell’s uncle is named Jeff Tippitt. When Beth checks her genealogy records, his full name is Jefferson Webster Tippitt. In the second book of that series, I will introduce an ancestor named William Webster Tippitt, a newspaper publisher during the time of the Civil War. Jeff, in the present, has a middle name based on this publisher from the past, his 3rd great-grandfather.

Sixth, I make sure my main characters have names with different vowel combinations and different first letters. This makes it easier for the reader to remember which character is which. I don’t have a Sharon, Susan, Sandy, and Shauna in the same story.

Seventh, I believe a great way to introduce humor is to use a name to indicate what a character is or is not. In my small town of Endurance, the mayor’s name is Mayor Blandford. And, yes, he is bland. I also include a character with a slobbering, pet dog like the Bordeaux bulldog in the movie, “Turner and Hooch.” The dog’s owner named him “Adonis,” a name from mythology symbolizing a handsome male. This dribble-mouthed dog is anything but.

Eighth, I use different names for characters only if I am sure the reader will understand. Otherwise, confusion reigns. Grace would call her friend “TJ,” but others would call her “Detective” or “Detective Sweeney.” Her boss, Stephen Lomas, might yell, “Sweeney.” And to vary descriptions, “TJ” can sometimes be referred to as “the detective.”
            
When I first began to write books, I assumed character names could simply be anything I wanted. Not so. Have you read a book where you couldn’t keep the characters straight?
                       

9 comments:

Annette said...

All I have to say is names are HARD!!!

It's a lament my critique buddies and I make to each other all the time.

Susan said...

You are so right, Annette. I agonize over them. Book titles are worse. I sometimes spend months thinking about titles.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Names are tough, especially in a different time period. Great blog!

Nancy Nau Sullivan said...

Thanks, Susan! You know those phone books someone still prints up and passes around? A great source for names. I just finished a book with long Spanish names. Although the names are beautiful, it was a nightmare to keep track. There's that find and replace button on my computer. I use it to call up a name and make sure I'm not baptizing someone a second time!

Kaye George said...

Yes, it can be confusing when there's Dan, Jim, Tom, etc. I violate your first rule all the time. I don't use the complete name, though. I use either the first OR the last name, usually for people I've disliked in my life. Those can be killers or victims. I'm using a real person in the series I'm writing now, though. My granddaughter has begged to be in a book for years and I finally put her into the Vintage Sweets series. I can't wait until she reads them.

These are all GREAT rules for naming, Susan! Thanks.

KM Rockwood said...

I often look up names to find out their meanings, and choose appropriate ones. Baby name sites are great for first names.

If I'm planning to use a somewhat unique name, I always google it to see how many people actually have that name. If it's only one or two, I don't use it.

Warren Bull said...

Unfamiliar names are especially difficult to remember. In Russian novels, it's easy to get confused.

Susan said...

I’m so happy to hear it’s not just me. I also use baby name sites, and sometimes I use historical sites for names in my Sweet Iron series. Like you, Kaye, one of my twin granddaughters has a name that will be in my next book. She’s too young to read it. Never read Russian books for exactly that reason, Warren. I like the names in your upcoming book, Nancy!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Susan, thank you. This list is very helpful. I try to use names with different letters, but it doesn’t always work out. If they do begin with the same letter, I try for them to look and sound differently.