What’s in a (Character’s) Name?

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As an adoptive mom, I didn’t get to name my children; at ages 4 and 7, my darlings already had names when they joined our family. Good thing for me I get to create plenty of names for characters!  Sometimes I put a lot of research into names, choosing them based  on their etymology and past usage in literature and history. But sometimes the sound of something strikes me and I can’t call a character anything else. I almost always check a name’s meaning to make sure it doesn’t clash with the character’s personality.

Click the image to find out more about How Beauty Loved the Beast

For The Tales of the Underlight, coming up with Jolie’s name was easy. She comes from Houston, Texas—right near the Louisiana border. Her family moved to Texas out of Acadiana (southern Louisiana), so her name reflects the French influence of that area. Beauty and the Beast is a French fairy tale, after all! Jolie means “beautiful,” and Benoit (pronounced Ben-wah in her family’s case) is a French surname that means “blessed.” I like the way Jolie Benoit sounds, and it makes sense for the character. I had also thought the last name a rarity…and then a fellow Carina author and I had a laugh when we discovered the heroine of her book releasing the same day as my series opener How Beauty Met the Beast (the amazing Undercover Professor—if you like contemporary romance, check it out!) was also named Benoit. What a wild coincidence!

Naming hero Wesley Haukon, or “Hauk” as everyone calls him, was a little more complicated. Since he is Heathen and worships the Norse gods, I decided to pull from Scandinavian names instead of French for him. Though Hauk is a working class hero, his last name is an Americanization of Håkon, from Norwegian royalty, and means “noble son,” a reference to his status as the prince of the tale. It also allowed me to use the nickname “Hauk.” As he is our beast, I wanted to use an animal-related name just as I used the word “beautiful” for the beauty of the tale. Plus he has a phoenix tattoo to represent him rising from the ashes of the fire that scarred him, so I liked the idea of using a bird instead of a more traditional furry beast. (Hauk is the opposite of furry, after all, as his burn scarring doesn’t allow hair to grow!) His first name has a far simpler origin. I paid tribute to one of my favorite movie heroes of all time—farm boy Wesley from The Princess Bride.

What are some of your favorite names? Does the meaning of a name matter to you, or is the sound of it more important?

Jax Garren is descended from Valkyries and Vikings (she’s part Swedish) but was raised a small town girl in the Texas Hill Country. She graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in English and a minor in Latin then found her own Happily Ever After with a handsome engineer who is saving the world through clean energy technology. Jax loves meeting new people, so if you see her out and about say hello! She’s always happy to raise a glass with her readers (or anyone else) to toast courage, adventure and love.

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a (Character’s) Name?”

  1. I’m currently reading a novella where the main character’s name is Silence–and the thought of a character who’s deliberately chosen to be silent is a large part of the reason why I picked up the book. Names with less obvious meanings matter less to me.

    BTW, I finished reading How Beauty Loved the Beast yesterday and LOVED it!

  2. Reese Ryan says:

    It’s primarily the sound of the name and whether it seems to fit the character that I’m most concerned with when selecting a character’s name. However, in Making the First Move I did purposely select the last name of the heroine’s ex who break her heart many years ago. His name is Jaxson Payne.

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