What’s in a name: Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth

…. so I was laying down to go to sleep and I had one of those moments where you suddenly remember there was this super important thing that you were supposed to do. Yup. It’s today’s post for Naughty Quills. It’s 1 am, so if I start to ramble on, someone should just cut the power on my mic like they do at the Emmy’s.

I’ve been stewing about this since the age of thirteen. I might have mentioned that my grandma got me hooked on romance with a trash bag full of old Harlequins. The first romance I ever read? Summer’s Pride by Angela Wells.

To this day, the story stands the test of time. There’s an internal conflict, an external conflict. Suspense. Drama. But something has always nagged me about the book. The character names.

The hero’s name is Rico. He’s a suave, sexy .. doctor, I think? I can’t remember exactly. We’re doing well so far, yes?

The heroine? Merle. Yep. Her name is fucking Merle. Now, this book was copyrighted in 1990 originally.. which is a long time ago. But… Merle? This makes me think of a blue haired lady that you’d run into at church. Not a 20-something year old woman in the prime of her life. I re-read the book a while back and cringed every time he said her name in the heat of the moment.

I have a few simple guidelines I follow for picking out names:

  1. The name is not overly complicated like Martin Anthony Christopher Waldschmidt-Jones II.
  2. It rolls off the tongue when being screamed out in bed.
  3. It doesn’t have a stupid spelling like Hayzley or Madysynnnn.
  4. It’s not a name combo that I google and can come up with 40000 hits on.
  5. It doesn’t inspire incredibly unsexy thoughts.


You’ve got a rough, tough bartender. He’s a wolf shifter. He’s raw, animalistic. Ronan Kelly is a nice name. The first name is unusual, but the surname is relatively common. It’s not a confusing mix, nor is it spelled ridiculously. Definitely something you could scream out in bed without wincing.

Once I have one name, I think about a complimentary name. Since his is kind of uncommon, maybe hers shouldn’t be. My female character is a sassy southern woman. She’s a little wild, but not over the top.

How about Moira Devereaux? That’s sexy, free spirited. None of you pictured an old lady clutching at her pearls, either, right? Ronan and Moira. Those names sound okay together, right? They don’t rhyme or sound too close to each other.

It’s a small detail, but.. those details matter. The romance market is flooded with tons of people doing the same exact thing we’re all trying to do. Stand out.

I get that we’re artists. We want our books to be unique and riveting. Once a reader stops being engaged in your book, they rarely re-engage. I’m not suggesting that you limit yourself but maybe we need more Ronan Kelly’s and less Fenyx Rainwater Von Hovercraft III’s in the world, eh?

*music fades in. microphone gets cut*



This entry was posted in General Information, Michelle Roth by Michelle Roth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michelle Roth

Michelle Roth is a novelist from the Great White North (Toronto, ON). When she’s not disappearing into foreign lands, or making two perfect strangers that she invented fall in love, she’s probably curled up somewhere with a glass of wine and a good book. In her spare time she is typically hanging out with her awesome boyfriend and their two equally awesome cats. She likes taking road trips to nowhere in particular, cooking elaborate meals then making other people do the dishes, and being nerdy on the internet. Her books are currently available on http://www.bookstrand.com/michelle-roth

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