Saturday, January 12, 2013

It’s All In The Name

There are books, songs, and games relating to the “name.” The names of characters in novels are very important to keeping readers enthralled, turning the pages to find out what will happen next to Mr. X or Ms. Y. A great novel must have a powerful story line, excellent writing, fascinating scenes, but it must also have incredible characters. Characters who readers can relate to, have a passion for, that come alive with the words an author uses to describe them. An important element in developing a passion for a character surprisingly can be the character’s name. As they say, “it’s all in the name.” Well, maybe not all, but it really helps if a character’s name captivates readers. 

If a name resonates with readers, if it becomes embedded in their memory they will be more likely to buy the next Cotton Malone or Alex Cross , or Oliver Stone, or Lucas Davenport novel. Steve Berry, James Patterson, David Baldacci, and John Sanford created these memorable characters. The name game plays a role in keeping fans attached to a series, waiting in excitement for the next opportunity to relate to their favorite character.

A great character doesn’t need a macho name. Cotton, Alex, Oliver, and Lucas don’t create visual images of big macho men like wrestlers Hurricane, Hacksaw, Primo, or Undertaker. But they are names readers can relate to and fit the complex, interesting characters the authors have developed. How many readers can relate to Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s character in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST? A character name must be memorable, captivating, and make an impression on readers.

D. L. Wilson is on the board of the International Thriller Writers and the author of UNHOLY GRAIL, a national bestselling thriller translated into 8 languages. His latest bio-terrorism thriller, SIROCCO, is getting rave reviews. Visit his website at

Image courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski.

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