Names – how much do they matter to you? I’m working up a really despicable villain – stalker, rapist and serial killer – and I have this weird fear that anyone who shares their name or likes someone with the same name is going to be bothered that I used one similar to their own. So I searched for the most despised names in the US to see if there was any there that struck my fancy. I didn’t end up picking one of them, because most of them are disliked because they are so common (ie; Michael). Same problem with using the name for a victim that might be the name of a reader’s child. But there is no way to know that normally. So that’s probably a good time to use a very rare name.
I also don’t want to use names that are over done for my Heroes. No Jamie or Rafe or Damon. One of my favorite reviews for Arrested said, “Kathleen and Stephen. What common names, what unusual characters and adventures.” I did purposefully choose normal names for them. Makwa is a traditional American Indian name, but Mack is a very common 1930s name. Fiona may have been too common for an Irish lass in books, I kind of regret that one. Juliette and Tristan were very old school romance, but that was the point.
Some folks don’t like names that are just too odd – though I loved ‘Ransom’, others thought it was odd. JR Ward uses some very odd and obvious names (Rhage and Tohrment are just a little too cheesy for me). The name of one of my new heroes is Ash – which feels tough and simple, but also rather dark. I didn’t really think of it when I named him, but it’s also appropriate since he tends to leave things in ashes. Natalie (or Natalia, I haven’t decided) is his possible love interest – but that’s not her real name. Her real name would give away too much so I’m not going to share it here :).
Going Contemporary, I get to play with modern names. Plus monster hunters and hackers, and secret Mages all like to have ‘cool’ names. Like the Traveler, the Clockmaker or the Scribe. (Recently realized most of my Order of Prometheus Mages have ‘The’ as part of their self-given names. So I think I’ll have to tease them about that.)  But another side effect of magic is really long lives. If you could use magic, wouldn’t youth and health be two of the first things you learned to cast? Characters from my 1930s books can and will appear in the modern setting as well. (Writing a chapter with Ed in it now).
I need to come up with a name for new story that features a vampire, so thought it should be an older name – seeing as vampires are immortal – that will be used in a modern setting. I’m going with a WWI vet. That lets me possibly play with him as a human in the 1930s stories and makes him a nice anachronism in the 2000s. His love interest is a young, slightly punk, computer mage named Zoe (which means Life, an important contrast). They are a study in opposites.
How much do the names of characters in books matter to you?