Naming Literary Characters II: One author’s choices

Naming Literary Characters II: One author’s choices

Best-selling, prize-winning mystery writer JEFF ABBOTT takes us further inside his character-naming process in the second part of his guest blog. Today he presents concrete examples  of some of his popular characters, and how he chose their names–with the help of our very own site and books.

These are some character names I picked for my novels, using nameberry and Pam and Linda’s books:


AUGUST –From Adrenaline, Sam’s best friend, a Minnesota farm boy and college football player turned CIA agent. I liked the name’s old feel and new trendiness, and it felt solid, like the character.

BEN — From Collision, a young business consultant, very much ‘the guy next door.’

DESMOND/DEZZ–(From Panic, a young  psychopath who has spent his life doing dirty jobs for his rotten father. I wanted a name that sounded much softer than the character is, for constrast.

EDWARD — from Adrenaline, a young former actor who has turned to the dark side, let’s say. He is violent but tightly controlled, and I wanted a formal name. I actually like this name a lot.

EVAN — from Panic, a youngish film maker who finds out everything in his life is a lie. Pam and Linda described it as a “mellow nice-guy” name and it fit the character, who is entirely unprepared to go on the run for his life.

HECTOR — from Trust Me, used as the surname of a former soldier to suggest a warrior type, a la The Iliad.

LUKE — from Trust Me, a young graduate student. I wanted a name that carried toughness but would also tie in with some of the religious imagery in the novel.

MILES— from Fear, an offbeat hero who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and overcomes huge odds to get his life back. When I hear this name, I first think of Miles Davis, but this was a very symbolic name for a character who has a long, difficult journey ahead of him.

NATHAN –from Fear, a young soldier who very much wants to be a hero but is not sure how to be one yet. I like this name a lot and think it has a striving quality to it.

SAM — From Adrenaline. A name that can work with both spy and bartender.

WHIT — from the Whit Mosley novels, short for WHITMAN. I didn’t want it to be short for WHITNEY. I liked that the name was short, sounded a bit Southern in style since those books are set on the Texas Gulf Coast, and had not been used before for a series hero in crime fiction.


AUBREY— from Trust Me, a survivor of a character; I wanted a name that was both boyish and a bit feminine.

CLAUDIA— from the Whit Mosley novels, a police investigator. I love this name and chose it for its beauty and strength.

CARRIE— From Panic, the girl next door who is not at all what she seems to be. I wanted a simple, sweet name for her, even though she has more the personality of a ninja.

CELESTE –from Fear, a character who can be a bit spacey and has not left her house in three years.

DELIA — From Collision—a hippie-ish free spirit who is a bit more serious and brave than she first appears.

JANE — From Trust Me, a tough former spy. A brisk, no-nonsense name that suited the English character’s singular focus.

JOANNA — From Collision, a courageous FBI agent. I love this name and think it sounds feminine and strong.

MILA — from Adrenaline, a tough, capable fighter.

YASMIN— (From Adrenaline, the victim of a kidnapping, a young woman who must deal with a domineering father. Chosen for its flowery connotation, but a name with strength.

My best advice for any writer struggling with a name is to think of some elements of the character you’d like to express with that name, then go to Nameberry, or grab one of Linda and Pam’s books, and start sifting through the lists. I’ll always be grateful to Pam and Linda for making the tough job of naming characters that much easier.

For more on naming characters, read Jeff’s first post on the subject.

JEFF ABBOTT is the internationally bestselling author of twelve novels, published in over twenty languages. His latest, Adrenaline, is just out in the UK and will be released in the US in July 2011.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.