May 24 2011

Beyond Jack and Jake: What to Name Your Hero

Guess who? We have Jennifer Shirk here today! Yay! Let’s talk character naming!

Beyond Jack and Jake: What to Name Your Hero

I talked about this subject this time last year, and I thought it was so interesting, I figured I bring it here for cool discussion.

A few things struck me as I picked up yet another romance novel that had Jack as the hero’s name.

1) It’s a GREAT name for a hero. (I confess I used the name, too, in a story) and
2) Romance writers don’t really like to mess with what is already deemed a good, strong hero’s name.

It’s kind of funny how we romance writers have no problem seeking out extraordinary heroine’s names, though. I’ve seen Wanda, Sierra, Prudence, and even Tandy. But when it comes to male hero names, we tend to stick with old standbys like Jake, Sam, Keith, Mike, Matt, and Nate. And of course, Jack.

(I’m over generalizing a bit here, but stay with me anyway)

Why do we contemporary romance writers linger around these names so much? I think it’s because a name carries an IMAGE. And we all want our hero to have the image of being strong and masculine. We don’t want our heroine to fall in love with a wienie. So we don’t want a wienie name for our hero.

But what about the in-between names? The names that go beyond Jake but don’t quite reach the Roark, Tyler, or even Brent Alpha-unique level. I’m talking about names that according to one baby name book are in “fashion limbo”.

  • Bruce
  • Clark
  • Dean
  • Dennis
  • Don
  • Grant
  • Glenn
  • Lance
  • Neil
  • Jay
  • Todd
  • Vince
  • Walt

Why don’t we see these names more in books? I have to say I’ve met some REALLY hot, fun (and young) Vince, Walt, Len, Jay, Grant, and Glenns in my life. But can an author convince a reader of that? Is it possible to break the image barrier with these names? Well…I don’t know.

(I am trying, though) My hero in GEORGIE ON HIS MIND is named Walt.

I write more lighthearted reads, so I think if a writer writes romantic comedy she might have a little more reader forgiveness if she uses a borderline name, but of course I could be wrong. The point is I love a good challenge!

Have you or would you use any of those fashion limbo names for your hero? What names have you liked for heroes that you’ve read?

Jennifer Shirk fancies herself a more prolific writer than she really is and has an unnatural tendency to use words like “fancies” and “prolific” when describing herself.  Please feel free to check out her recent romantic comedy, THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME and GEORGIE ON HIS MIND—where she promises she didn’t use either of those words anywhere in her story.
Also, check out her BLOG anywhere blogs are available.


Georgie Mayer has no boyfriend and rarely goes out. In short, she needs a life. Since she’s graduated college and returned back home, her brother’s protectiveness has been in overdrive, and she hasn’t been able to have any fun, never mind get a date.

So what’s a poor particularly attractive girl to do in a situation like this? The only thing she can do: find him a woman!

He’ll thank her for it in the end. That is, if his best friend Walt Somers would stop interfering with her plans. The handsome pharmacist has made no secret that he doesn’t approve of what she’s up to. Unfortunately, having Walt hanging around does strange things to her mind, and suddenly she can’t help but take a healthy interest in him. But how can Georgie entertain thoughts of the two of them together when Walt still treats her like his best friend’s little sister?


Nov 10 2010

Character Naming with Ambrielle Kirk!

It’s Blog Wednesday and we have lovely paranormal/contemporary romance author, Ambrielle Kirk, in the house! Pull up chairs, grab a drink and start naming that character! Just joking. Let the woman speak first, then you all can party!

Do Character Names Matter?

Naming characters is very much a part of my novel plotting process. I give as much thought into character names as I do titles, concepts, or anything else when starting a work in process (WIP). What’s in name? Does it really matter what you name your character? If you ask me, my answer is yes.

There are two main reasons why I spend an adequate amount of time on selecting character names: to distinguish and prevent confusion and to compliment that character’s personality.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any benefits to having two characters (major or minor) in a novel with similar names. If the heroine’s name is Maria, calling her best friend Mary might not be a good idea. It confuses readers and just might confuse you. As cute as it may sound, coupling Maria with a hero named Martin may be too difficult for a reader to keep track of, especially if your book has many major and minor characters.

Another naming technique to avoid are names that are difficult to pronounce. Lets take Nimmaeschenbach, for example. Majority of readers don’t like to spend the length of any book trying to figure out the many different ways to pronounce Nimmaeschenbach. Names should not distract readers from your plot.

Choosing the right name for the personality is an important one for me. An old technique that I use are baby name resources, like An age appropriate name is also a good idea. If the main character is a fourteen year old living in twenty-first century Los Angelos, California, I definitely would not name her Ernestine, but that’s just me. Likewise, if that same character had the leading role in a 1920s-1930s historical novel set in Scotland, her name would not be Bonquisha. Those types of names did not exist in those places while in that era.

Another idea is to choose a name with a meaning that closely matches your character’s personality, where the meaning of the name may have some important bearing in the story.

However you prefer to choose names, I hope you have as much fun with it as you do with plotting.

Ambrielle Kirk is an author of erotic and paranormal romance. You can find her most recent releases at Breathless Press and on her website: Feel free to drop her an email at ambrielle(dot)kirk(at)yahoo(dot)com.