Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Choosing a Character's Name

My parents were both professional writers. I picked up a lot of know-how about writing just hanging around them. Every time I sit down to write, I am grateful for some lesson I didn’t’ t have to learn “the hard way.” Both my parents made a big deal about the fact that characters needed striking names – names that not only said something about them, but also would stick in the reader’s head. Trust me, no character created by my mother or father was ever named “Michael.”

Naming someone is an important step in the evolution of how I write the character..  Once I know his or her name, I instantly have more of a handle on things. In WELCOME TO FAT CHANCE, TEXAS, my female protagonist ‘s traits were going to include being gentle, sweet, innocent – but super eccentric. When first reading about her – she is actually introduced in another series called THE VENICE BEACH ROMANCES), I wanted the reader to wonder if she’s even completely sane. That was my first clue to choosing a name.  I looked up “patron saint of the insane” – and her name was Dymphna.  I loved the fact that it was such an elaborate name. When she introduces herself, Dymphna adds “I’m named after the patron saint of the insane.”  It makes you wonder…

The hero in WELCOME TO FAT CHANCE, TEXAS is Professor Elwood Johnson.  At first, I planned on referring to him as “Elwood” – which to me sounded stuffy, learned and humorless.  It’s a really serious name. But when another character asks him if he had a nickname, Elwood replied “Yes, Professor Johnson.”  This dialogue came as complete surprise to me – and in one sentence, I knew exactly who this man was!

Because WELCOME TO FAT CHANCE, TEXAS is an ensemble piece – there are nine main characters.  Names that resonate is vital to keeping track of them! Besides Dymphna and Professor Johnson, I have Pappy, Wally Wasabi, Powderkeg, Titan and Old Bertha. There is also a rich Beverly Hills matron named Cleo – and my personal favorite, Polly Orchid.  Polly is a tough Goth girl who take no guff from anyone. While “Polly Orchid may sound like a pretty, but common, name, ‘polyorchid’ is actually Latin for “multi testicles” – a private joke, but once you’re in on it, you definitely have a sense of her character!  

I hope by having interesting names that hint at a character’s personality, it’s easier to keep track of all my townspeople. 

I guess we’ll see.


For champion professional knitter Dymphna Pearl, inheriting part of a sun-blasted ghost town in the Texas hill country isn’t just unexpected, it’s a little daunting. To earn a cash bequest that could change her life, she’ll have to leave California to live in tiny, run-down Fat Chance for six months—with seven strangers. Impossible! Or is it?

Trading her sandals for cowboy boots, Dymphna dives into her new life with equal parts anxiety and excitement. After all, she’s never felt quite at home in Santa Monica anyway. Maybe Fat Chance will be her second chance. But making it habitable is going take more than a lasso and Wild West spirit. With an opinionated buzzard overlooking the proceedings and mismatched strangers learning to become friends, Dymphna wonders if unlocking the secrets of her own heart is the way to strike real gold…

Celia Bonaduce is a producer on HGTV’s House Hunters. She is the author of the Venice Beach Romances and lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband in a beautiful, “no-pets” building. She wishes she could say she has a dog. You can contact Celia at www.celiabonaduce.com.

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