I’m in the process of renaming the romantic hero in my new book. Right now, his name is Connor Bray. I thought it was sexy. My writing group says it makes them think of a donkey. Not good.

Names are never arbitrary. Even if you name a character on impulse, that impulse comes from some subconscious connection. So do I think this guy is a donkey? No. I knew someone with that last name once, and liked him. And that’s the problem. Everyone has their own preconceived notions about any given name – and other people’s instinctive image of a character with a particular name may be totally different from yours.

For example, both my agent and her intern objected to my protagonist’s name in “Hell’s Angel.””The character is a little loose in her ways – oh, heck, she’s a slut, really. And LeeAnne Reynolds,my agent declared, is a “nice girl” name, not a slutty one. I checked with a few other people, and they all agreed.
Time to come up with a new name.

Of course, my girlfriends were happy to help. The dialogue began with the observation that the “i” names – Mandi, Tammi, Randi, and so on – were deliciously slutty . The dialogue degenerated into hilarity from there. I can’t even print some of the monikers they came up with.

But what really highlighted the subjective nature of the art of naming characters was my boyfriend’s suggestion that I call the character Bernadette.”

“Bernadette? That’s not a slut name,” I said. “That’s a saint’s name! How could you think Bernadette is a good name for a girl who sleeps around?”

“Well,” he said. “There was this girl in middle school…”

That’s what makes the art of naming so difficult. We all associate names with the people we encounter in real life. Every moniker is open to as many different connotations and associations as you have readers.

My character in Hell’’s Angel is now named Randi Reynolds. Not because of the “i” ending, but because it has alliteration – just like all those classic stripper names.

And my romantic hero? I’m still working on finding a suitably hot and hunky last name. Suggestions, anyone?