Naming DIE FOR ME’s Characters

The month-long DIE FOR ME blog tour is over, and for those of you who didn’t get the chance to follow along, I thought I would post some of the highlights on my own blog. One favorite guest post that I did was for YA Bliss. You can see the original article here, where I explained how I came up with the characters’ names in DIE FOR ME.

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Naming characters is one of the most fun parts of writing a story. And with DIE FOR ME’s names, I really had a blast. But from the very first draft of DIE FOR ME until the version I submitted to my agent several of the characters’ names changed at least once. These are the five ways my characters ended up with their names.
1. I started with one name, but swapped it for another because it didn’t fit the character’s personality. In my first draft, Kate’s name was Tallulah. I love the name Tallulah. It’s my daughter’s middle name. But as I wrote the first few chapters, shortening it to “Lula” as I went, it just didn’t seem right. I asked a group of friends to for advice, and they suggested some cool, contemporary sounding names that would fit perfectly in a romance novel. But none of those sounded right either.

I wanted a name that sounded both feminine and powerful. And one-syllable “Kate” did that for me. I asked my name-squad and they unanimously approved it.

2. I started with one name, but changed it because it was too hard to pronounce for English speakers. Vincent started out Aurelien. When my name-squad told me that was too weird of a name to their American-reader ears, I tried a few others out on them: Amaury, Julien, Florian, Theo…and Vincent. The girls jumped at Vincent, and so did I.

Charles and Charlotte were Aurelien (I REALLY wanted to use that name!) and Violaine. I stuck with those names for a long time, and it wasn’t until a late draft that I decided to choose names that would be easier in English. Naming twins similarly seemed like something a mom from the 1920s would do—like dressing them the same. I love the name Charlotte, so Charles was drawn from her name, and Violaine and Aurelien became their middle names.

3. Some names I got right the very first time. Georgia is a Georgia. She just is. No questions asked. And it was after I had named her that I decided that that’s where her mother was born.

J ules was always Jules. It’s a gorgeous, old name in France that’s just come back into style. Pronounced “Zhool”. Like a jewel. Which is exactly what he is. Gaspard couldn’t be anything but Gaspard. It fits his personality. Full stop.

4. And some names I had to search for. I haven’t yet told you Ambrose’s past (in Book 1 or Book 2), so I will only say that I looked at a historical document and chose a first and a last name from two separate people on that list.

Lucien’s character was based on Philippe Henriot, the Vichy regime’s Minister of Information and Propaganda (known as “the French Goebbels”). I didn’t want to name him the same thing, however, because I didn’t know if Philippe Henriot still had surviving family in France who would come after me for making their ancestor an even more evil monster than he was in real life. So Lucien’s middle names are Philippe Henri, even though no one will ever know that. (Except you!)

For Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Balthazar Grimod de La Reynière, I went down a list of aristocratic names from the 18th century and picked and chose the ones I liked!

5. And then there are the “homage” names. Kate’s last name—Mercier—is an homage to a friend of mine, Nicolas Mercier, a screenwriter here in France. He was one of the people who encouraged me the most with my writing, told me I had talent, and invited me to come write with him. He and his boyfriend lent me their various homes when I needed writing getaways, and naming my main character for him was the best way I could think of thanking him.

And for all of the French characters’ last names, I used the names of the people who live in my village. None of them know this, however, so if they do pick up my book they’ll be in for a surprise!

20 Comments to Naming DIE FOR ME’s Characters

  1. by Lindsi (BSAOT) - On May 24, 2011

    Ohh, I love this! I have always been curious about how an author chooses a name for her characters. I love every single name in DIE FOR ME. They fit the characters perfectly! (The names for the boys are super sexy…lol)

  2. by stephanie - On May 24, 2011

    Very interesting…the characters names fit so well…yet you went through such a process to find just the right name…

  3. by Leanna - On May 24, 2011

    I love hearing the stories behind the names. I agree that Kate’s name really suits her. I love all the French names you used or wanted to use, especially Aurelien. I know a girl called Aurelie and I’ve always thought it’s a pretty name! 🙂

  4. by Petra - On May 24, 2011

    I love Aurélien, but I can imagine how many different ways people would of pronounced it. Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Balthazar Grimod de La Reynière! A kid with that names has no choice, but to achieve greatness 😀

    Thanks for the insight!

  5. by Jessica - On May 24, 2011

    Just want to say that I just finished DIE FOR ME. I read it in about three hours. I couldn’t stop reading. Vincent is so crushworthy :). I can’t wait to read the next book.

  6. by Stacia - On May 25, 2011

    Wow. I’ve never heard an author’s thought process for the names of her characters. Such a wonderful insight!

    Thank you for the wonderful (and mysteriously sexy) names in this tantalizing romance! Love it!

  7. by amy - On May 26, 2011

    I’m glad you guys enjoyed this (and approve of the names I settled on). 🙂 It is such a fun part of the process to choose character names!

    And I’m so glad, Jessica, that you enjoyed the book!

  8. by Deb - On May 27, 2011

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for sharing this. I sometimes worry that I am changing the characters names too much, or think what the heck is wrong with me that I can’t pick a character name. So _great_ to see your process.

    _Loved_ your book, it’s ordered for the library, can’t wait to take it in to my teen book club…course I already book talked it-yeah, could not help myself-so now they are anxious for it to get here, may have to pick one up from the book store to share while we wait (my copy is on a kindle and as much as I love my b/c kids I will not be lending it out:P).

    Anyway…way too much info. Enjoy your weekend!

  9. by Andra - On June 20, 2011

    It took me a full minute and google translate to pronounce JB’s name. It was strange, but I love it. 😀

  10. by amy - On June 21, 2011

    Deb, glad you enjoyed the post. I think that changing until something sticks is the best way! 🙂 And thanks so much for talking up my book. I really hope your book club enjoys it!

    And Andra – ha!

  11. by Andra - On June 21, 2011

    Haha.

    I forgot to mention that i just ADORE Vincent, Jules and Ambrose’s characters in the book. They’re just so different from what I usually read. 🙂

  12. by amy - On June 22, 2011

    Thanks so much, Andra. I really love all of them – it must come across in the story! 🙂

  13. by Andra - On June 22, 2011

    It really does.

    Page 180 in the book made me cry. (almost :D)

    And then the rest made me wish all of it was real. Revanants, that is.

  14. by Valerie - On March 7, 2012

    I just finish Die for Me this morning and I want to praise you on the way you chose your names. I am a teen, but I love to write and I might try this thought process. I’ve always really liked Sapphire, Roxi, and Griffin and I tend to use those in my books. Im happy I can finally shoose something else.

    Wonder ful job on Die For Me. I will be waiting for bk 2 in may!

  15. by Alea - On July 16, 2012

    This is really interesting because I dont think Vincent could be anything other than Vincent his name sounds classic and simple and like the name of a gentleman and I soo think he is one 🙂 and Kates is just perfect for her its simple pretty and just fits her and sounds good through the entire book.

  16. by Kitty - On December 20, 2012

    I am now reading your work “Die for me” and I must say your work is amazing! The characters are perfect and I must say I have a bit of a crush on Jean-Baptiste. (What can I say, I love Aristacratic gentalmen!)

    Keep up the good work!
    A writer in training: Kitty Marie

  17. by amy - On December 20, 2012

    Valerie, Alea and Kitty – thank you so much! 🙂

  18. by Tiffany - On January 26, 2013

    Idk y but I’m drawn to Jules character will he get a happy ending in the up coming books and Charlotte will she find happiness. It’s already clear that Kate and Vincent will find a way to be together tho I believe she’ll become one of em and her sister it seems is gonna be with Andrew and least for awhile but will anyone else find there happy ending.

  19. by Johne43 - On May 29, 2014

    Hi, yup this post is truly fastidious and I have learned lot of things from it cdcdeedgfgfe

  20. by demi - On June 2, 2015

    Hi Amy.
    I’m currently reading the Revenants trilogy and I just love it. I quit for a while because I started writing again. I’m still a hobby writer but one day I want to finish my first book. It’s really hard to write something that hasn’t been written yet when every possible Fantasy subject has already been explored. But I’m not giving up.

    I really love these books and they’re different, in a good way. I love these books and I love Kate.

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