What’s In A Name?

I haven’t run out of story ideas, but naming characters has gotten to be a challenge. After fourteen books, I’ve used up all my favorites. My husband and sons are Mike, Joe and David, so those names are out. For heroes, I’ve used Jake, Ethan, John, Rafe, William, Dylan, Beau, Gabe, Josh, Matt and J.T. aka Jonah Taylor. There’s also a Zebulun in there for the book I wrote for the “After the Storm” series. I didn’t think that one up. He came as Zeb and I picked Zebulun over Zebediah because it’s a little easier to say.

When I started Marrying the Major, I was blank when it came to the hero.  This book is the fourth in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series, so I had the heroine firmly in mind. Caroline Bradley was already a real person to me. But the hero?  Where to start? Because of the three prior books, my favorite hero occupations were already crossed off the list.  He couldn’t be a preacher, a lawman or an outlaw. 

So what were the choices?  School teacher? No, not for Caroline. She needed someone with an edge. A newspaper man with a cause? Maybe, but the idea didn’t catch fire. A railroad detective? That was in the lead until  things came together I ended up with a hero unlike any of I’ve written before. Why not go with a man who’s a stranger to the Wild West? Given the history of Wyoming, it made perfect sense to give Caroline an English aristocrat.

That’s how the hero for Marrying the Major became a retired British Army officer. He’s also the third son of a duke, a widower with two children, and a man coping with malaria.

Okay, so what to name him?

I needed something English and adventurous. Something romantic. The “ding-ding-ding” moment came when I rewatched Legends of the Fall. Anyone else see it? It’s an awesome movie about three brothers with very unique personalities. Brad Pitt’s character is named Tristan, and he’s definitely adventurous and romantic. 

“Tristan . . . “ I said it out loud a few times. “Tristan Willoughby Smith . . .” It stuck.

So that’s how I found the name for the hero of Marrying the Major. Apart from being “Tristan,” he isn’t at all like the wild and carefree brother in Legends of the Fall. My Tristan is done seeing the world. With two kids to worry about it, he’s become cautious. He wants only to stay in Wyoming and raise his family, but he’s got some problems. For one thing, malaria is threatening his life.  He also has family ties to England that are threatening his son. Things get even more complicated when he meets Caroline and falls in love with her.   

Here’s the back cover blurb . . .

He hired a governess, but what retired officer Tristan Willoughby Smith needs is a wife. Not on his behalf, but to protect little Dora and Freddie.  When Caroline Bradley arrives at his Wyoming ranch, she seems perfectly suited–capable, efficient, intelligent . . . if a trifle too appealing.

Caroline knows what a real union of heart should be, and the major’s polite, non-nonsense offer hardly qualifies. Still, she accepts for the children’s sake, little knowing the complications the marriage will bring to test her confidence and her faith. Yet in this unusual match, Caroline starts to see a glimmer of something strong and true–the makings of the family she never thought she’d find…

 Hope you all enjoy the story!  It comes out October 1st and is available for preorder at Amazon.

Victoria Bylin
Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

26 Comments

  1. Naming my characters is sometimes the hardest part of getting my story started. If the name isn’t right, the character doesn’t seem to come to life as he or she should.

    Marrying the Major just went on my tbb list. Congrats on the release, Vicki!

  2. Love your hero’s name, Vicki. Legends of the Fall is one of my favorite films, have seen it at least 4 or 5 times.
    Like Tracy, I can’t get on with my story till the characters have their names. I’ve used baby books, the phone directory, movies, my relatives, etc. It’s always a challenge.
    Marrying the Major sounds, and looks, like a wonderful book.

  3. Marrying the Major has been sitting paitently in my Kindle pre-orders for a few weeks. I can’t wait to read it.

    Great name for the hero. I love Legends of the Fall and can’t flip past it when I see it’s playing on t.v.

    Like everyone has mentioned, naming my characters can sometimes be the most difficult part of writing, but it can also be the most fun.

    –Kirsten

  4. I ordered Marrying the Major from eharlequin. Received it last week. I will read it when I finish the Jo Goodman book I am reading now.

  5. Vicki,
    I am like that about naming my characters. In fact, I have a couple of names that I particularly love. So when I start a story, if I haven’t come up with “the” name yet, I will use one of those names. As the character develops, I always come up with the right name for him/her. Oddly, I usually have the heroine’s name picked, but it’s the hero’s name I have to “channel”. LOL I can’t wait to read Marrying the Major. I loved Legends of the Fall and have always loved that name, Tristan. I might have named our son that if my husband would have gone along with it, but he wouldn’t. LOL This story looks wonderful. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one coming up with the perfect name. I think it’s because we have to make the hero so “manly” that there are a lot of names that are just left out automatically, don’t you?
    Hugs,
    Cheryl P.

  6. Hi Tracy, I know what you mean about a name sounding right. I’ll start a story before I come up with the names, but it doesn’t feel comfortable until I know what to call the characters.

  7. Great name for your hero 🙂 Love the cover. I’m going to jet over to Amazon and pre-order for my Kindle.

    Have a wonderful day everyone. It is sunny, blue skies and 39 degrees here in Colorado 🙂

    Cher

  8. Hi Elizabeth, I just got back from a doctor’s appt (routine). Didn’t mind waiting at all because of a long article about Brad Pitt. He was great in Legends. It’s a favorite!

  9. It always amazes me how names come to me. Sometimes out of the blue and I immediately know it’s right. And other times I have to think about it long and hard. And when I’m stuck a name comes from the most unlikely sources. Thanks for sharing your method of naming characters. Great stuff.

  10. Howdy, Kirsten! Thank you for preordering Marrying the Major. I love my Kindle, especially the ease of shopping. Preorders are especially nice because one day they just show up. I agree that naming characters can be fun 🙂 I tend to lean toward “J” names.

  11. Hi Goldie! I hope you enjoy MTM! It’s nice to know Harlequin gets the books out early 🙂

  12. Howdy, Cheryl! We have a similar method re: names. If I don’t have a name in my head when I start a story, I call the heroine Susan and the hero John or Jake or something with a J. I have no idea why I latched on to Susan. Maybe it goes back to elementary school and the reading books with Tom, Betty and Susan. Remember those???

  13. Hi Cher! Many thanks for pre-ordering for Kindle. Want some company in Colorado? 39 degrees is a tad chilly, but I love that state. I’ve visited a couple of times and would love to live there.

  14. Howdy, Linda! I love it when a name comes to mind and sticks. I’ve had that happen a few times, but then there are the times where the name keeps morphing on me. That happened with a Christmas novella. I finally settled on Dylan, after Daniel and Connor and bunch of others!

  15. Your book sound fabulous and I can’t wait to read it. I can sure see how it would be hard to come up with names in your books. Because you want something different for each book. That has to be hard.

  16. Hi Quilt Lady! The other thing that happens is that a perfectly good name will remind me of someone, and that makes it hard to apply to the character. You know that wierd cousin? Or the crazy neighbor? Those names don’t work at all! Hope you enjoy the story . . . 🙂

  17. Your book sounds great. I have a list of names I keep filed. I add to it sometimes when I hear or read a neat name. I actually do read it over now and then to come up with something that fits my story. It has to fit or sound right or I can’t use it. And for the movie Legands of the Fall. I watched it once and cried when what happened to Tristan’s wife. Couldn’t watch it again. (I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it.)

  18. HI Vicki, I too agonize about names and you’re right. Some sudden thing inspires you and you figure it out! The story sounds amazing and the cover really reaches out to me. I loved J.T. and I know Tristan will become a favorite, too. Congrats and best wishes on the new release! oxoxox

  19. Hi Mary J, Years ago I worked with company mailing lists. It was a great place to name shop, not only for characters but for towns, etc.. I wish I had those old lists!

  20. Hi Tanya! Glad you like the cover . . . The Harlequin Art Dept. does an awesome job. Tristan’s clothes and hair are perfect 🙂

  21. Come on out! It’s a fabulous place to live. 39 out here doesn’t feel like 39 back east because we don’t the humidity.

    Cher 🙂

  22. Hi Cher! Thanks for the invite! Low humidity makes such a difference. In California, we lived at 6,000 feet altitude in the mountains. I really enjoyed the climate. You can imagine what a shock it was to move to Washington DC where the summers are 90 degress with 90% humidity.

  23. Vicki,

    Cannot wait to read this. Love the cover. Yes, picking out the right name is one of the hardest things.

    Congrats

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  24. Hi Melinda! Hope you enjoy the story! Thanks for visiting P&P!

  25. Sounds like a wonderful combination of elements come together for this story. Military men and governesses always make for good stories, together or separately.

    They did a lovely job on the cover.

    Tristan is a great name. It must be hard to think up a dozen or so names each time you write a book. I would almost think you’d have to start writing, then when you got to know the character decide what name fits best. I’m sure some show up with personality and name already there, but you always have those problem children who don’t cooperate and give you their name easily.

    Good luck with the release.

  26. Hi Patricia, I’ve always enjoyed governess stories. Both “Jane Eyre” and “Sound of Music” are favorites.

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