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  • Jo McCready

What's in a name?

Names are an integral part of our identity, so it’s important to get them right. Whether that’s getting just the right name for a character in a book or trying to ensure we pronounce someone’s name right in real life. I recently found out I was pronouncing the name of a friend of my husband’s incorrectly. I felt bad about this, as I know exactly what it feels like to have my name misspoken – It has happened to me my entire life, even if I have literally just told someone my name. I should point out that it was my husband who told me how to pronounce his friend’s name so…

If names are so fundamental to our sense of self, then it’s important to choose appropriate names for characters. I choose my character names in a variety of ways. Sometimes they have a personal meaning to me (an example being RJ Rox) and sometimes I choose names that I simply like the sound of, perhaps due to number of syllables, origin, phonetics, for example. I pick names that are familiar to me, and those I might not have heard of before, and often trawl through baby name websites. There are also a number of name generators on the internet that are helpful in looking for names from a certain era and country of origin. Picking names can be fun, frustrating, and at times, extremely difficult. For me as a writer, getting the right name helps me develop the character and imagine them more fully. Having a well-defined character makes it more difficult to choose an appropriate name. For example, what’s an appropriate name for a cold-blooded killer? Is there one?

The sheer number of names a writer has to come up with can be huge. Even if a character plays only a fleeting role, most often they have a name…but sometimes they don’t. I purposely didn’t give the twins in The Hunted names, for reasons that will hopefully be obvious to readers – one of which was that I wanted them to remain in the background. They are part of the story, but are more like important tools in the narrative than main characters driving the story onwards.

I’ve had quite a few people ask if I can name a character after them. It’s not an easy task, especially if I know that person well. For me, their own characteristics are too intertwined with their name for me to develop a fully-fledged original and fictional character. Or perhaps a character has yet to arise that would suit that particular name. It may happen in a future story, who knows, but I make no promises to anyone.

Of course, my interpretation of a name might be totally different to a reader who knows someone with that name personally. I hope you’ve liked the names I’ve used so far, and if not, there’ll be plenty more in future books.

And, just so you know, McCready rhymes with ready, teddy, and steady.

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