Skip to main content
site map
rss feedemail usour twitterour facebook page pintrest
Latest Posts

Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, July 30 2022

July’s Round Robin asks us about the inspiration behind our characters. Have we ever killed any characters, cut some of them out of our stories and how do we go about naming them.  And what about troubling scenes?


Well, considering I’ve already published one mystery and have another in the works, I have to say yes to killing some of my characters. Kind of a requisite for a murder mystery. But there’s also the old saw in mysteries, “If your middle is sagging, kill someone.” And, yes, I’ve used that strategy, too. But so far, I’ve never killed one of my good guys. And, of course, I’d never kill the dog. That’s a quick way to kill what might have been a blockbuster story.


As for inspiration, my characters are a very mixed bag. One was inspired my one of my own adventures so I guess I’d have to confess there was some of me in her. Intrigued by the history of the Maine Islands that preceded the arrival of the Pilgrims in Plymouth Mass, I sailed out to one I could see from my home on the shore. It was no longer occupied but I wanted to explore the ruins. And my writer’s brain kicked in on the way home to ask the question, “What if I’d fallen into that old cellar hole and woken up in a different century?” So that was the inspiration for the story and the heroine.


My mystery heroine was a mixture of two wonderful deputies I met and got to know with our local sheriff’s office. My character was very much a fiction, but she was inspired by these two wonderful women in law enforcement. Many of my heroes are creations inspired by what I personally find attractive in a man, but one of the most intriguing heroes I wrote, walked onto the stage about 2/3 of the way through one of my series books, sat down and introduced himself, almost out of nowhere. I had realized I needed to have such a character appear, but having him just show up, so vivid and real, was a delightful surprise. He was a secondary character in that book, but reappeared in the book I just finished that will be out later this year and at the moment, I am writing his own book where he is the main character. I have no idea what inspired him. He has a troubled past, and perhaps his having overcome that is what is intriguing about him.


Some of my characters have been named after friends who are delighted to find themselves in my books. While the characters themselves are not mirrors of my friends, they possess some of the traits that make these friends special. My teen and child characters are inspired by memories of my own kids growing up and my current grandchildren. In fact, I have used a couple of my teen-age granddaughters as resources for likes, language, favorite bands, dress etc. Since it’s been an age since I was a teen and the world has changed dramatically, consulting with my grands has made my teen-age characters more authentic.


Getting just the right name for my characters is one of my sticking points. First off, I follow the general smart idea of not having too many names for a reader to remember and definitely not a bunch that all start with the same letter. My stories include men and women from all races, faiths, nationalities and ethnicities so I look for names that fit. I’ve also checked the Social Security site for the most popular names in a given year. Gone With the Wind features a male character named Ashley, but that wouldn’t fly in a contemporary story, so checking to see what people were naming babies in any given era is another way to pick names.


But then I’m into making sure my nicknames fit, both with the last name and with the character. I’ve been known to change the character’s name once I get writing and discover it just doesn’t seem to fit the character who is emerging in the story. I say the names out loud both the full name and the nickname with the last, to make sure it’s both memorable and flows smoothly. Occasionally I give a character a name deliberately difficult for effect. In the book I just finished writing my hero, everyone calls Mac, is actually Malcolm Beauregard Riggs IV. His father is an arrogant, egotistical attorney who likes being called Malcolm Beauregard Riggs III and because there is no love lost between them, Mac has always been Mac. In my mystery, everyone calls my female detective Jesse, because she has done her best to divorce herself from the debutant world her mother brought her up in along with her former life as dutiful, subservient wife. Only her Ex and her mother call her Jessalyn, which never fails to irritate my heroine.


And then there are the pet names. Given that my series is contemporary romance, there are always pet names used and I don’t like to be repetitive so thought goes into what lovers call each other, too. Even the pets who appear in my stories get thoughtfully chosen names depending on how I want the pet to impact the story. Seamus is a fat, self-satisfied cat who reigns supreme in his world, and Murphy is an inquisitive half-grown golden retriever who has a knack for finding trouble.


We were asked to blog about one of a list of writerly things and I’ve covered most of them. I’ll let some of my other Blog Hoppers discuss cutting scenes and characters. (I do it, but usually during edits when I realized a scene has no impact on the overall story. Same as I’ve eliminated characters that also end up having no real role. Best to dump the stuff that slows the action and brings nothing to the table.)


Marci Baun 

Helena Fairfax

Dr. Bob Rich

Anne Stenhouse 

Judith Copek

Rhobin L Courtright

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:02 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Hi Skye, Lovely post. I do experience the character who turns up, too. Possibly our subconscious has been at work with an accumulation of what we need to round things off? Another manifestation is the sentence that writes itself and 50 pages on turns out to have been foreshadowing. It's a strange business writing. anne
Posted by anne stenhouse on 07/30/2022 - 02:41 AM
I like your methodology for finding names and testing them out. I, too, find each character has to have the 'right' name to be effective.
Posted by Robin Courtright on 07/30/2022 - 01:07 PM
"If your middle is sagging, kill someone." Skye, THANK YOU. I'll use that as soon as the world allows me time to get back to writing. Not being a crime writer, I haven't been sawn by this old saw. :) Bob
Posted by Bob Rich on 07/30/2022 - 10:23 PM

Post comment
Email Address

(max 750 characters)
* Required Fields
Note: All comments are subject to approval. Your comment will not appear until it has been approved.

    Site Mailing List  Sign Guest Book  View Guest Book 

    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida

    Site Powered By
        Online web site design