May 4, 2011

Choosing Character Names for Die For Me (Guest Post by Amy Plum)

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.

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 I haven’t yet told you Ambrose’s past (in Book 1 or Book 2), so I will only say that I looked at a historical document and chose a first and a last name from two separate people on that list.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


  1. It's really cool getting to hear how the names came about ... I think they all worked perfectly... I love Vincent's name because it's not one you see every day and seems to suit him.

  2. Love hearing D4M's character names! I think I would enjoy naming characters since I love naming pets. A friend of mine's dh has the middle name Augustin which is a cool name...

    Kate is the perfect name for our present times;)

  3. I love hearing how authors come up with names!

  4. Very cool! Naming a character is hard!!! I really liked Amy Plum's character names (especially Vincent and Georgia). Loved this book :)

  5. Loved reading about Amy's process for naming her characters. Great idea for an interview!

  6. I loved reading about the name-selection process! Kate is a surprisingly strong and beautiful name for such a common one. Charlotte and Vincent I also like. :)

  7. Woaa, I SOOO loved this post!! For me, Vincent and Kate... there are remarkable names for a remarkable couple.
    And Jules...! *drools* I'm expecting GREATEST thing for him in 'Until I Die'. What a shame that we must wait like a century for Book 2 :(


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