Literary Lagniappe

Bloopers, bonus features, and behind the scenes views from all your favorite romances

Naming Characters for Fun and Profit by M. S. Spencer


One of my favorite parts of writing is coming up with names for the characters. I probably spend twice the time on those tasks as I do drafting the story. Thank God for the internet, which allows me to search hundreds of sites for name etymologies, foreign names, animal, goddess, and fish names—even airplane nicknames! I’m going to let you in on the secret meanings for some of my character names and one lucky reader will receive a pdf of her choice of one of the four books mentioned here.

LapsesofMemory_M. S. Spencer_MED

Lapses of Memory, my May 10 release, is a story within a story, in which Sydney Bellek relates her own romance to her daughter Olivia.  Every few years from the age of five Sydney meets her true love Elian Davies, but while he remembers her, she doesn’t recognize him. Only after surviving wars, revolutions, and years of separation does she realize they are meant to be, but this time it is Elian who has lost his memory of her. In the contemporary shell story, Olivia chronicles the ups and downs of her parents’ romance while simultaneously dealing with her own dilemma. She must choose between the rich and dashing Rémy de Beaumec, who wants to take her around the world, and the strong, silent, American-to-the-core, Benjamin Knox, who wants to make her happy.  Since Sydney is half Turkish, I chose Bellek as her last name because it means “memory” in Turkish. Elian is Welsh for “a moment in time.” De Beaumec, the third wheel in Olivia’s triangle, means “hunk” in French. I loved that one.

In Triptych, my fourth romantic suspense, both Miranda Cabot and her sister Honor prefer their solitude to romance, Miranda having watched her husband die in flames on the Potomac River rocks known as the Three Sisters. Not so the youngest, Sybil, who invites a mysterious Frenchman calling himself the Chevalier du bon Arnaque to stay with them in their mansion overlooking the Sisters.  The Chevalier claims to be a fine art dealer, but Miranda has her suspicions. It doesn’t help when she learns that “du bon Arnaque” is French slang for a charlatan—a scam artist!

Artful Dodging_M.S.Spencer

In Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders, we meet Milo Everhart and her merry band of artists. Milo creates delicate needlepoint and her friend Tekla Spirikova creates large metal objects. Together they fight City Hall (literally), which wants to give their beloved Torpedo Factory Art Center away. Things get complicated when their greatest adversary turns out to be the man Milo loves, and even more complicated when too many murder victims turn up. Along the way she must deal with an assortment of bad guys, including one seedy fellow named Eustice von der Dieb. Her tiny, orange-haired artist friend Morgana laughs and explains that “dieb” means thief in German.

MaiTaisandMayhem by M. S. Spencer

For my sixth book, Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine, I had a blast choosing fish names for all the characters. There are twenty-three people in the novel who are named after fish. Of course, I didn’t want it to be too obvious, but so far no one’s remarked on the fact that the janitor is named John Dory and the dolphin trainer Dolly Varden, nor on Dugan Trevally, Noah Sculpin or Angus Pollock.

I suppose it doesn’t matter whether readers catch on or not—but they might find it amusing that the author spent hours poring over lists of fish species and ethnic names!

Leave a comment to win your choice of the books mentioned!

Contest ends 5/19/13 at 11:59 p.m. EDT

Here are links:

Lapses of Memory

Secret Cravings Publishing (May 10, 2013)

eBook, 70,000 words; Contemporary romance, M/F, 3 flames


Secret Cravings Publishing (November 2011)

eBook, 70,055 words, Print, 206 pp.

Contemporary romantic suspense, M/F, 3 flames

Buy Links:

Amazon print:

Artful Dodging: The Torpedo Factory Murders (an Old Town Romance)

Secret Cravings Publishing (April 2012)

eBook, 65,000 words, Print, 202 pp.

Contemporary romantic suspense/Murder mystery, M/F, 2 flames
Buy Links:


Amazon print:

Mai Tais & Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine (a Sarasota Romance)

Secret Cravings Publishing (January 2013)

eBook 64,848 words (208 pp)

Contemporary romantic suspense/ mystery, M/F, 2 flames

Buy Links:

I’d love to hear from you, especially if you read the books and can find the meanings behind my characters’ names. There is always at least one!






Author: Lisa Fox

World-renowned neurosurgeon, master chef, secret member of American royalty, seducer of legions of beautiful, outrageously sexy angels and demons and vampires and werewolves and the occasional pirate, Lisa Fox has done it all… in her own mind. In reality, she can generally be found at her desk with a cup of coffee close at hand. Or maybe a martini. It really depends on the day.

5 thoughts on “Naming Characters for Fun and Profit by M. S. Spencer

  1. Good morning everyone and thanks so much for having me here today. I only have a minute because the movers are about to take my desk away! Hope you enjoy my little essay. M. S.

  2. That is so fascinating! I’ll have to pay better attention to the names next time I’m reading a book!

  3. Names are so important in fiction. Getting a name to fit the time period is essential. I check out the historical names site to get those right. I also like to make up names for characters in paranormal stories just they won’t sound too ordinary. Ever notice how we pin certain values and ideas to certain names? Scrooge would be one of those villainous types. Wendell would not be a good name for a hero because we often connect that name with weakness, but it would be great for a no account type of character. Good sturdy names like John, Thomas and Mac automatically make us think of strength and courage–good hero names. Oh yes, I thoroughly agree in the importance of names for characters.

    • I can always count on you for a thoughtful comment, Sarah! I agree-names are so important to defining your characters–it’s also a lot of fun to pick them! M. S.

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