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Choosing Names for Your Characters

One thing I see a lot of in the Twitter writing community is authors trying to figure out character names.  Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.  Sometimes, I just choose a random name, while other times, I know somebody with that name.  Sometimes I’ll change the name halfway through, while other times, I just know that’s their name.  In one of my non-Kiamada books, I have a young woman who’s part Native American, so I did a search for Native American names, and the name “Anari” popped up.  Something about it just caught me, and I said, “That’s her name.”


In this post, I thought I’d introduce you to the characters of my first book, The Lost Tayamu, and explain how I came up with their names.

Alistair Doyle: I saw the name Alistair somewhere, and loved it.  For Doyle, I had a deck of playing cards sitting near me.  I liked how Hoyle sounded, and thought of Doyle.  It stuck.

Jeniah “Jen” Aston:  Jen was easy.  My sister’s name is Jenny.  (There’s no other connection between them besides the name.) Originally, Jen’s last name was going to be McNamara–chosen randomly–but I didn’t like it, and switched it to Aston.  I used Scrivener’s Name Generator to come up with the name.  It probably caught my eye because there was an older couple in my childhood church who were always very sweet and kind to me, and even attended my wedding as “grandparents”.  They were the Ashtons.  

Elowyn “Ellie” Aston: This series started off with Ellie as the primary character, but has since evolved to be about her and Jen.  As Jen’s younger adopted sister, the last name has the same story.  Ellie’s first name, however, was actually chosen intentionally.  Originally, her name was Kirsten, and everybody would call her Kir for short.  However, the character Kira was also in the book, and that would have gotten confusing.  Besides…I just didn’t like the name.  So, what to do, what to do?  Then it hit me.  My grandfather, one of the people this book is dedicated to, hated his middle name.  He always complained that it was a girl’s name, not a man’s.  I did some research, and centuries ago, it had been a girl’s name, but transitioned to be used more by men, before disappearing.  His middle name was “Elwyn”.  (Fun fact: the man who interviewed me for my first teaching position had the first name of Elwyn.  He was shocked that I knew somebody else with that name.) 

So, to both honor and annoy my grandfather, I added an “o” to his name and came up with Elowyn.  (Pronounced “Elle-oh-winn”.) Like him, she hates her name, so she had to have a nickname, so Ellie seemed natural.  I didn’t even think about this until after the fact, but my stepsister’s name is Ellie.  (Why didn’t I think about it?  Because our parents got married when we were already grown, after my mom passed away.  When I renamed Elowyn, I had only known Ellie and her mom for a year or so.)

Theonus: Theonus is Doyle’s dog.  I don’t want to give too many spoilers, so all I’ll tell you is that he is no ordinary dog.  He is the “otherworldly” thing, as mentioned in the book’s summary, that convinces Ellie that Doyle is not a teacher.  Theonus was inspired by our dog, who has since crossed the rainbow bridge.  Trig (short for Trigonometry) was the most expressive dog I’d ever met.  She could use her eyebrows like a human, and we could clearly tell what she was thinking.  I wondered what she would be like if she could talk…and Theonus was created.  My first thought was that if Trig could talk, the onus of dealing with her would be immense.  The phrase “the onus” became Theonus.  (Side note: the critique partners who helped me whip this book into shape are all self-proclaimed “Team Theonus”, and I hope others will be, too.  He’s my favorite character in this book.)

Kira Vogel: Doyle’s twin sister Kira is a force to be reckoned with.  The name “Kira” just popped into my head one day, and I used it.  If anything, it might have come from my son’s middle name of Kirian, which I made up when he was born.  I created the character of Kira when my son was an infant, so it’s possible his name influenced hers.  I didn’t choose a last name for her until a few drafts in, because I just didn’t care about her last name.  It was such an unimportant detail to me.  I chose it because of my history with studying the German language, and I like how the word sounds.

Jerry Vogel: Kira’s husband, Jerry’s name was also randomly chosen. 


And that’s the story behind the names of the primary characters of The Lost Tayamu.  Maybe I’ll do a second post about the secondary characters.


Honestly…don’t spend a lot of time obsessing over names.  Obsess over the plot.  That’s far more important!


Until next time!



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