Scarlett O’Hara. Atticus Finch. Bilbo Baggins. Harry Potter. Rebecca. Oliver Twist. Hercule Poirot. Could any of these characters have been as effective with a different name?
Character names in An Uncertain Grave – the first book in my White Mountains Mystery series – are extremely important because I want the reader to like them, engage with them and come to feel they are friends. At the same time, I wanted the character’s names to in some small way reflect their personality.
Chapter one introduces Kenny Brainerd, a hapless hiker who stumbles across a dead body at the conclusion of a hike gone horribly wrong. Kenny is not a very competent man– at anything – and I needed a name that would reflect that. His first name was inspired by a bungling co-worker in a long ago summer camp job. Next, I needed a last name that also suggested incompetence, someone who didn’t use his brain and seemed kind of nerdy…. So I took the words brain and nerd, combined them, lost an “n” and it was good to go.
The next names, Cliff, Mike and Kurt, were chosen to show the opposite quality – strength. One syllable, they all had a quick, decisive ring to them. Cliff and Mike are the New Hampshire State Troopers that investigate the dead body Kenny discovered and I wanted their names to reflect their abilities. And Kurt, head of a local mountain search and rescue team, also needed a strong name that reflected his major personality trait.
The two New York characters needed names that were a bit on the pretentious side, and Nelson Simon sounded appropriate for a nosy reporter without being too much of a mouthful, while Alyssa gave me a mental picture of a glamorous career woman.
The next book in the series will expand the cast of local and out of town characters even further and their names will reflect their abilities and personalities. Keep an eye out for the flamboyant lady lawyer, the well-educated recluse, and a handful of nosy neighbors!
An Uncertain Grave is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle:
Cathy Strasser is an Occupational Therapist and author whose first book, An Uncertain Grave, has been published by Oak Tree Press. It is a humorous hiking mystery set in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Cathy’s short story “Afterward”, published in the Chrysalis Reader, was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize. Cathy has had short stories published in several anthologies and magazines and was a finalist in the “Family Matters” competition of Glimmer Train Magazine.
Cathy belongs to The New Hampshire Writer’s Project. She lives in Sugar Hill, NH with her husband and is currently working on her second book. Her website is www.cathystrasser.com .