Bonus Material: The Name Game

Character names are incredibly important to a story. Not only do I want the names I select for my characters to sound good and roll easily off the reader's tongue, but I love to give extra meaning to the names, perhaps a meaning that no one else will ever pick up on besides me.

I love using biblical names and historic names, but the real fun comes when I start playing with them. Sometimes the meanings connect to the novel's theme or some other deeper meaning, but more often they employ a play on words in a way that gives me a reason to smile even when working with these characters day after day.

Here are a few samples of my name play.

Photo Credit: alexkerhead via Compfight cc

  • A Tailor-Made BrideJericho "J.T." Tucker. Jericho hated his name, but it symbolized the walls he had built up around his heart. Walls only the lovely Hannah Richards could break down. Hannah Richards. My father passed away when I was 16, and I wanted to honor him in some way in my first published book. So I named my heroine after him. My dad was Richard Gaskin.
  • Head in the CloudsGideon Westcott. Gideon was a British nobleman who ran a sheep farm in Texas. Seemed fitting that a man who dealt in fleece would share the name of the Bible character who tested God with the same item. Adelaide Proctor. Adelaide was a teacher by trade, so I thought it would be fun to use a play-on-words for her surname. Proctor is synonymous with teacher.
  • To Win Her HeartLevi Grant. I've always like the name Levi. It's strong, just like my blacksmith hero. And I thought it was a bit ironic for a man who had spent time in prison to be named after a tribe of priests. Eden Spencer. Eden was a garden of perfection before Adam and Eve corrupted it with sin. Eden Spencer was the daughter of the town founder, always in the public eye, always so careful to preserve her "perfect" reputation until Levi challenges her to move beyond appearances in her faith. She also surrounds herself with flowers. Pressing wildflowers and making art from them is her favorite hobby.
  • Archer BrothersTravis, Crockett, Jim, and Neill are all names for heroes from the Alamo. You probably already knew this. But did you notice that the heroine who paired up with Crockett - Joanna Robbins in Stealing the Preacher, had a play on her name as well? Her father was an ex-outlaw who robbed stage coaches and trains. (Yes, I see your eyes rolling.)
  • Full Steam Ahead Darius Thornton. Darius's family ran the company King Star Shipping. You might have noticed that the name Darius is a king's name from the book of Daniel. Well, I thought it would be fun to give the entire Thornton clan kingly names. Darius's brother was David. Their father, Saul. And though his sister and mother are not actually named in the book, I did have names picked out for them. Darius's sister was Esther and his mother was Candace, both biblical queens.
  • A Worthy Pursuit - I chose the heroine's name after a fan on Facebook suggested I should use her daughter's name – Charlotte. Since Charlotte Bronte is my favorite classic author and the name is a beautiful, historic name that would fit well with my prim headmistress, I did just that. I had a little more fun with the hero. He is a tough, loner type who had been making his own way in the world since he was a boy orphaned at an early age. Stone just seemed like the right name for him (even though he's gooey on the inside, like all good tough guy heroes). There is actually a play on his name inside the book where he is written into a dime novel under a not-very-well-disguised pseudonym – Stone Hammond becomes Hammer Rockwell in his dime novel debut.
  • The Ladies of Harper's Station - In this series, all of my heroes sport biblical names: Malachi Shaw, Benjamin Porter, Amos Bledsoe, and Pieter van Duren. Pieter holds a little extra sentimentality, however. You'll notice the unusual spelling. In 2015, I had the honor of visiting The Netherlands for a book tour with my Dutch publisher, and the readers and shop owners were all so welcoming and wonderful, I couldn't help but be inspired. I promised to write a Dutch hero, and Pieter is the result. Not only that, but my youngest son is named Peter, so this name just "rocks" all the way around. (Little biblical humor there. Feel free to groan.)
  • Gift of the Heart in The Christmas Heirloom - This story was inspired by the biblical account of Ruth and Boaz, and I really wanted to find a way to use those classic names. Naming the heroine Ruth was easy, but then I started mixing things up a bit. For example, instead of giving Ruth a mother-in-law to provide for, I gave her a seven-year-old daughter and named her Naomi. And since the name "Boaz" never really caught on in heroic circles, I decided to get a little creative there, too. Enter Beauregard Azlin. Shorten his first name to Bo, add Azlin, and you have [BoAz]lin.
  • Hanger's Horsemen - The four ex-cavalry officers who comprise the Horsemen have names inspired by the four gospel writers. I didn't want to be too predictable, however, so I gave one a twist: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Jonah. Not too much was made of this in the book since they call each other by last names, rank, and nicknames frequently, but sometimes I have fun including things just for my personal enjoyment. This was one of those times.
  • Inn For a Surprise in The Kissing Tree - All four stories in this novella collection center around a giant oak tree where courting couples carve their initials through the years. Since the oak tree was so central to the plot, I thought it would be fun to create character names that tied into the tree. The heroine's last name is Woodward, paying homage to wood, and the hero's last name is Ackerly which derives from the Olde English words 'Ac leah' with 'ac' meaning oak and 'leah' meaning an enclosure in a forest. And since I love biblical names, I used those as well. Phoebe, a servant commended by Paul, and Banabas, the son of encouragement. In my story Phoebe thinks of others and builds an inn to serve them and foster healthy marriage relationships. And Barnabas offers instruction laced with much encouragement as he helps Phoebe create a successful venture.
  • A Texas Christmas Carol in Under the Texas Mistletoe - In this western re-imagining of the Dickens classic, I wanted to pay homage to the original characters with the names I chose. Our hero is Evan Beazer, reminiscent of Ebenezer. Our cheerful heroine is Felicity Wiggins, inspired by the jolly Fezziwig. There is an adorable beagle named Humbug and a loyal horse named Fred. Mrs. Bell keeps house for our hero, giving a shout-out to Scrooge's youthful sweetheart. There are a few other hidden gems in the story as well, but I don't want to give away all the surprises. I hope you enjoy this western, romantic spin on a Christmas favorite.
  • Fairest of Heart - In this retelling of the classic Snow White tale, I had a lot of fun utilizing names that play off the original Disney characters while still being true to my western story. My Texas Ranger hero is named Titus Kingsley, giving a nod to royalty. Our heroine is Penelope Snow. The mirror-loving villainess is an actress with an over-the-top stage name that also plays into her vanity - Narcissa LaBelle. Her henchman (or in this case, the huntsman) is Cecil Hunt. Then we have the seven retired drovers who live at the Diamond D Ranch. I wanted to give them all cowboy names, but three of them had direct tie-ins to the dwarves we all know and love. Dr. Enoch Kingsley, Titus's grandfather, is the owner of the Diamond D, and as a retired physician, he is lovingly called "Doc." Then there is Dusty who plays the role of Sneezy with his terrible hayfever, and kindhearted Coy, a name that is a synonym for Bashful.