When are character names too unusual?

caution tape over doorI seem to like the most unusual names for my characters. In an earlier novel I was working on I had a female protagonist named Hero. In Driftwood Island, I had Alley, as in the small side street. Along with her friends Cherry and Champaign. Even in Monster in the Basement, which out of all my books has the most average names,  I still had Archer Lee Grant Garfield Haversham the third. Though, he just went by Archer.

I’m not really sure why I like odd names for my characters. Maybe because I personally have such an average, forgettable name?


Like a tiny island lost at sea, is the character name way out there?

Whatever the reason, I often go tiptoeing along the borderline of “too weird to work” for my character names. And in the book I’m working on now, I have a character that is hanging on a cliff’s edge by a fingernail. At any moment, ready to drop into the “Just too weird to be believable” category.

He’s the co-protagonist and love interest, a snobby vampire librarian, and his full name is Saint Crispin Saint Paul Saint James. Of course, typing all that out throughout the manuscript would be a royal pain so he’s Crispin St. James for short.

I don’t know why, but part of me really likes the name. There’s something old fashioned, and formal about it. I can imagine that name popping up in a Shakespearian play. And another plus about it is I can’t think of a single other book character that has a name like Crispin. Original names stick out a bit, don’t they?

Then there is the question of, how much weird is too weird? To me a name like Saint Crispin Saint Paul Saint James isn’t that unusual, but to others, it might be way out there. It’s always a difficult balance between expressing your own artistic tastes and writing something readers would like. My rule of thumb is: Name them whatever the heck I want, and then let the Beta readers comment if they think the name is too distracting.

glass colors frame

Character names make things colorful!

How do you know when you’re being too artistic with your character naming? Have there ever been unusual names that you just loved but couldn’t use? Please share them in the comments area below.


Spot light on Archer!


I would really love for everyone to get to know the people in my novels a little better, so I thought it might be fun if I interviewed the lead roles in the stories. I’m planning for this to be a multi-week blog article featuring Driftwood Island‘s Alley and Skyler, and also Monster in the Basement‘s Madeline and Archer. And then I’ll (hopefully) wrap it all up by introducing my two newest characters from my third book No place for fairy tales. I hope you enjoy this special feature article. Happy reading!

monster in the basement smash words coverArcher

Me: Okay (against my better judgment) let me introduce Archer, the sort of almost hero of Monster in the Basement.

Archer: What do you mean “almost hero”? I’m totally a hero. I’m awesome in that book!

Me: Um. . . yeah. . (nervously shuffles papers around).

Archer: I’m way better than even that Skyler guy. Psh, why did you even put him in a book?

Me: Uuuhhhhh.

Madeline: No you’re not! Skyler is soooo hot, and super sweet.

Archer: What?! How would you even know that, you’ve never met the guy.

Madeline: (shrugs) I talked to him in the green room before my interview.

Archer: Hey, no talking to hot guys without me in the room! And why didn’t anyone tell me there was a green room? What did you eat there? Was it the little donuts that I like? It was, wasn’t it?

Madeline: So you admit that Skyler is hot?

Archer: What?! NO! But you can’t talk to him without me there. ‘Cause, uhh, ’cause he’s got shifty eyes, yeah, and he might try something.

Madeline: Psh, shifty eyes!

Me: Okay, could we please get to the interview questions?

Archer: The guy doesn’t even eat pizza. You can’t trust a man that doesn’t eat pizza. I mean, I’m not even human, and I still eat pizza.

Madeline: Wow, your use of logic is. . . . stunning.

Archer: Thank you, smoochy bear.

Me: (I don’t think she meant that as a compliment)

Me: Okay, pizza, that ties right in with one of my interview questions. So, Archer, what is your perfect pizza?

Archer: Soft corn crust, refried beans and ground meat topped with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. And then you fold it in half and eat it.

Me: Isn’t that just a giant taco?

Archer: Yes, yes it is. (smiles creepily)

Madeline: Just like Skyler, Archer doesn’t really eat pizza. He just eats whatever flavor I order.IMG_0194

Archer: What?! I’m nothing like that pansy Skyler! I’m super tough!

Me: Uh huh, so your favorite song is. . . .?

Archer: Bad little boy cover by Ashe (he puffs out his chest a little)

Madeline: (she crosses her arms over her chest and raises one eyebrow)

Archer: Okay, maybe it’s Classic by MKTO. It reminds me of Madeline. (he looks over at Madeline with big doey eyes. . . she seems to be completely unaffected)

Archer: It’s our song.

Madeline: It’s totally not our song.

Archer: then what’s our song?

Madeline: The boy who murdered love by Diana Vickers. (shrugs)

Archer: Madeline, you’re so mean! (and he runs away sobbing)

Me: Uh, I guess that means our interview is over.IMG_0155