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Where Character Names Come From
By Lorie Lewis Ham
I love coming up with names! In our home, I am usually the one who comes up with the pet names—including when I ran a small pet rescue—and that was a lot of names. Our current pet names are Lestat, Huey, Phoebe, Xander, Willow, Sam, Dean, Merlin, and Sidney. It is also one of my favorite things to do when writing a book.
My character names have come from many different sources. One name from my first series was an interesting one that I found on a tombstone in our cemetery, Hunter Edgington. I have used first or last names of favorite fictional characters, favorite actors, and mash-ups of names from people I know. Sometimes, a name will just pop in my head ready to go. The name of the main character in my first series was a name that I had wanted to use for our first child, but had gotten a definite no on from my husband—Alexandra. I named Alexandra’s daughter Jessica, after Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. Their last name, Walters, was my Grandma’s maiden name.
My new book, One of Us, features Roxi Carlucci. She is a part time private detective and podcaster who moves to the Tower District in Fresno when her life is in need of a reboot. I try to find names that fit with the character’s personality as much as possible. I had been playing with story ideas for her character for so long that I can’t remember how I landed on Roxi—but it fits. It’s fun and tough like she is.
Her last name, Carlucci, has a history. One of the first characters I ever created was Stephen Carlucci. Stephen is Roxi’s cousin. When I was in my early twenties, my brother and I liked to write mystery parties for our friends—they were full-blown scripts with unique characters for every guest to play. Stephen was one of those characters. Stephen’s family is connected to the Mafia, so I knew his last name needed to be Italian. One day while driving to the coast for a vacation, we passed a street sign with the name Carlucci—right then I knew that was Stephen’s last name. Now it is Roxi’s too!
The origins of some of the other names in One of Us include Nathan Gilmore (Nathan Fillion—one of my favorite actors, and Gilmore Girls), Lucas Shum (Luke from the days of Luke and Laura on General Hospital, and another favorite actor, Harry Shum Jr.), Humphrey Clark Halliwell (Clark Gable, Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl, and Halliwell from Charmed). Most of the other names in the book just came to me as I was writing the character—somehow, I just knew that was their name. Those include Chloe, Teresa Moran (okay, her last name came from Sherlock Holmes), Tabitha, Alec Dunne, and Walt Wood.
Even the pet names in One of Us have similar inspirations—Merlin the pet rat (King Arthur), Dan the black cat (that one is a surprise), Bogie the Dachshund (Humphrey Bogart), and Watson the Pit Bull (that one is obvious).
Right now, I am starting to work on book two in the series, so I am looking for inspiration for some new names. I may need to take a walk in the cemetery to see if I can find some more ideas. Or perhaps there are some names from the British Mystery TV shows I have been binging during the pandemic that I could use. I hope you will consider reading One of Us and getting to know all of these characters.