Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday Guest- Jannine Corti-Petska

What's in a Name?
A very short analysis of naming my characters.

There is a reason behind my hero's name in LOVE'S SWEET WAGER, my recent release. Reno Hunter didn't just appear out of the blue. He's a gambler, well-known on the gambling circuit in 1852. I thought what better name could I give him than Reno, as in Reno, Nevada, a gambling destination for many people. I wonder if anyone has picked up on that connection.

Hunter was a bit more complex. Did Reno hunt for games to sit in on? Or for women? Maybe, but gambling was his sole mistress. He certainly is on the hunt for Rachel, the heroine, for...let's just say, matters of the flesh. Every good hunter gets what he goes after, right? I was intrigued by the movie title Heart is the Lonely Hunter. Although my books has nothing in common with the movie, doesn't every hero in a romance lose his heart to the hearoine, something he fights against? But I wanted something to connect the story to gambling. After you've read the book, you'll understand why.

The heroine's original name was Candi Garrett. My thinking behind her first name was her being a sweet treat for the hero. LOL, for a story set in 1852, it was a terrible choice. Eventually, I settled on Rachel, which is more appropriate for the era. Rachel has many meanings, among them "sheep," "little lamb" and "one of purity." Okay, see where I'm going here? A lamb for the hunter. Is she pure? You bet. All my heroines are virgins at the beginning of the story.

I suppose there are no mysteries to picking a character's name. Sometimes I choose by the sound of it as I speak the name. I ask myself if the h/h names compliment each other. Can the name be pronounced without the reader slamming my book against the wall because she has no clue about how to say it?

Naming characters is extremely important to me. If I'm not comfortable with a name, I can't get into the story. After a plot idea comes to me, I brainstorm my characters' names, then the book title. I must have those elements before I begin to write. In most of my books, my h/h have nicknames. I still haven't figured out why that is, but I do contribute it to breeding familiarity by those closest to the hero or heroine. One of these days, I might research which names in history have been the most popular. Often, though, I try to stay away from every day names, even if they were used centuries ago. I think it comes down to giving your characters individuality for the era of their story. I do use John, Mary and others we see often today. But those names are reserved for the supporting cast, with the exception of the secondary male and female characters. After all, they may eventually tell their own story.

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Her gambler father murdered, Rachel Garrett joins a wagon train west to be with her aunt and the fiancé she's never met. Her dream is to forget the life she led performing on stage to earn the money her father gambled away and settle down in one place. But along the trail, she is helplessly drawn to a priest--forbidden fruit--and her hopes are shattered.

Professional gambler Reno Hunter is wanted for the murder of James Garrett. His disguise as a priest on a wagon train is foolproof, until he discovers the woman the old gambler wagered in that fatal card game and Rachel Garrett are one and the same. Can he protect his identity and his heart, or will he surrender to his desire for Rachel and risk being apprehended by the law?


In this scene, Reno is jealous that his brother Alex accompanied Rachel into the fort to shop. Because of his disguise

as a priest, Reno couldn't do anything about it. Neither could he suppress his strong attraction to her.

Reno shrewdly watched Rachel ride into camp alongside his brother. His gut twisted every time he saw the two together.

He was still irked at Alex for accompanying Rachel into the fort on the premise that Mrs. Larson called for the priest. The lie

battered his mind, and he’d conjured up many reasons for Alex’s duplicity. The moment his brother left Rachel alone, Reno

walked up to her before she had the chance to dismount.

“A new hat?”

She touched the hat, seemingly guilty for wearing it. “Yes, it is. Alex bought it for me—I mean…he—” She

pressed her lips together in displeasure then stated bluntly, “I didn’t ask him to buy it.”

Her familiarity with Alex’s name raised Reno’s suspicions. It slipped off her tongue as if she’d spoken it a hundred

times before. He doubted the gift didn’t mean anything. Knowing his brother lavished gifts on the women who had

succumbed to his charms turned Reno’s gut inside out. He scowled while thinking up ways to make Alex suffer for his

indiscretions. Reno inhaled deeply to collect his unhealthy thoughts and control his precarious temper.

“I see you have your own gloves.”

She bunched her hands into her skirt and indignant fire flared in her eyes. When she sat up taller with a look of challenge,

his gut twisted tighter.

“I cannot lie to you, Father. Alex bought the gloves, too.” She pulled blue material out of her saddlebag. “And the reticule.”

Apparently, guilt rode her to tell the truth.

She swung her leg over the horse’s neck to dismount. Reno curved his fingers around her small waist, forcing her hands to

his shoulders as he set her to the ground. Remembering his place, he dropped his arms like felled trees.

“Apparently you and Alex are on friendly terms now.”

Her sunny smile stole his breath. “Yes, he and I are on friendly terms now.”

A tick worked along Reno’s jaw, and he couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it. He felt a burning need to ask how friendly.

Instead, he chomped his teeth together and pried his lips apart with a reserved smile.

“May I help you unsaddle your horse?”

“Don’t trouble yourself, Father.”

“Believe me, it’s no trouble at all.” He clenched his jaw. Better me than Alex.

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Susan Blexrud said...

I'm fascinated that your heroes and heroines have nicknames, Jannine. I'd never considered that it could make them more human. Like Char for Charlotte, eh? Fun post!

Terry Odell said...

Figuring out nicknames and terms of endearment are part of the writing process, but I usually have to get to know both characters before I figure out what they'll call each other.

I write contemporary, so I'm often searching the web for 'most popular names of XXXX year' to get some ideas.

To make things even tougher, my book, What's in a Name? has a variety of aliases for my main characters, so I had to come up with more names than I had characters.
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Christine Young said...

Interesting blog. I too do a lot of research while naming my characters. I need to know the meaning of the name and many times axe a favorite name when the meaning does not fit my character. Nicknames just happen and most of my hero's and heroines have nicknames.

Marie Andreas said...

I find names everywhere. I work at a major University, so I see lots of unique names to steal and modify ;). I also have a world baby name book as well as a celtic baby name book. Then sometimes I just make them up ;).

My two peeves about names as a reader are not being able to pronounce it, and using the same first letter. I don't want to have to stop and figure out if it's Jessica or Jackie who just entered. ;)

Joanne Stewart said...

Love seeing how other writers do things. Me personally, I let my characters tell me their names. One hero introduced himself to me while I was reading another book. I usually go name sites for the last names, and just read through them until the right one jumps out at me.

Love your blurb. Sounds like a story with loads of conflict!

Jannine said...

Yes, like Char for Charlotte. And it was shorter to type in each time, lol.

Thanks for commenting.

Jannine said...

Hi Terry:
Whether I write a contemporary or a historical, the thought process behind my characters' names is the same. But with the historicals, I have to make certain each name is agreeable to the location of the story, and was the name even around at the time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jannine said...

Christine, it's interesting to learn how other writers come up with their characters' names. I often wonder if readers think about where we got the names from.

Thanks for your comment.

Jannine said...

Marie, a university is a great place to find names. For my Italian historicals, I go to the Italian Soccer's National Team website. Where else to get a variety of Italian last names? LOL

Thanks for stopping by.

Jannine said...

I'm not sure I've ever had a character tell me what they want to be named. That's an interesting concept.

Glad you stopped by and left a comment.

Pat Marinelli said...

As a short story writer, I have to avoid using the same names over again so I keep a list. Every time I use a name I cross it off.

Where to I get these names from? I have a character names' list that I add to all the time with names that I hear and like, reading movie and TV credits, phone book, and my SPAM file. I figure if some SPAMmer took the time to think of names, why not use them.

I have had characters tell me their names, but not as often as I would like.

Emma Lai said...

Love that you made your hero disguise himself as a priest. Talk about conflict. I've never not read a book because of the hero or heroine's name, but the right name does seem to add a little something special to the plot.

I've been known to change the name of my hero or heroine as I write because as they evolve, the name I originally chose just doesn't fit anymore.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great excerpt. I spend a minimal amount of time doing nambe On story I'm working on I purposely called the heorine Jane. It's popular in the time period, but it also reflects the heroine, who has a disability.

And you are so right about the names you give your secondary characters. Be careful, because just tossing out a name may come back to bit you in the behind, when you decide to write their story.

Lynne Marshall said...

I can't say that as a reader I've ever put down a book because I didn't like the name of the hero or heroine, but I'd have to think long and hard before picking up a book with a hero named Jethro or Cledus.

Fun blog. I enjoyed seeing the thought process behind your chosing of character names.

Jannine said...

Pat, Emma Lai, Anna Kathryn, and Lynne:

Thank you so much for your comments.

Pat, I have a notebook with the names of my characters (and secondary/minor characters) for each of my books. This helps me to avoid using the same name twice. However, I did have a Giorgio (minor character) in one of my books. My present WIP has a minor character named Giorgie. Two totally different books though.

Lisa Kessler said...

Great post!!! :)

I have lost interest in books when the hero has a neutral gender name... Like guys named Kelly and Tracy... LOL


Janice said...

Fun post. I love how you decided on your names for your hero and heroine. And I got the Reno connection right away. ;)

I try to have pet names for my hero and heroine, once they're on a more intimate relations.


Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting post. Thanks!