Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cee Cee Bo Bee: The names in Manifesting Destiny

Coming up with names for our characters is sometimes almost as hard as writing the story itself. Everyone has their own ways of doing it. I tend to use placeholder names until the right name pops into my head, usually by accident and usually way past the halfway point of my story.   Thank goodness for the "Search and Replace" function. 

Today, I'm privileged to have M Pepper Langlinais stop by and share how she dreamed up the names for the characters in her new book, Manifesting Destiny.  Take it away, Manda.


Sometimes character names just come to you. That was the case with my main character in Manifesting Destiny, whose name is Cee. I don’t know where that came from. Maybe my kids were watching Sesame Street.

Later I added the surname Klinger as Cee’s foster family’s name. I recall walking to my kids’ school one afternoon, and I was answering a TV quiz about old shows on my phone. M*A*S*H was one of the shows and I remembered Klinger and thought the name suited, especially given the theme of Cee having trouble letting go of her best friend/crush.

Cee’s foster parents are named Erwin and Lynne. Erwin was the name of one of my college professors. Lynne is my best friend’s mom’s name; I’ve known her since I was eight and she’s been like a second mother to me. She spells it without the "e."

I’ve always liked the name Marcus. Maybe I’ve been influenced by my love of Indiana Jones movies, but I also always loved the Babylon 5 character, and my Marcus inherited some of that Marcus’s chivalric tendencies. Doyle was borrowed from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I picture Marcus as looking like Nicholas Rowe in Young Sherlock Holmes, and I started my writing career with Sherlock Holmes stories too, so this seemed like a fitting tribute.

When I wrote Rand Corbin and Guin Dacre, I didn’t originally think they’d be anything more than background characters, but their roles grew and grew. Rand means “shield” and Corbin means “raven.” As for Guin, I’ve always simply liked the name and particularly that spelling of it. I fell in love with Arthurian legend at a young age, and Guinevere remains a highly romantic and beautiful figure in my mind. In Manifesting Destiny, Guin is at first timid, but she grows in strength over time and will even more in the sequel. I don’t recall where I got the name Dacre except that I remember looking at lists of surnames online and that one sounded like a good fit.

Livian is a masculine take on Livia who was the ambitious and scheming wife of Augustus in ancient Rome. I first became acquainted with her character when seeing I, Claudius at a young age, and she fascinated me. I kept with the semi-Latinate naming for the Magi Clan when I created the name Diodoric and Valentian, twists on Diodorus and Valentin. My minor as an undergrad was in Classics, and I like the music of the names. Even Marcus was a common name in ancient Rome. Sabine, leader of the Magi, also has a name derived from ancient days.

I am the kind of writer who cannot be satisfied until the names of my characters are just right. I find it impossible to write unless I have everyone named correctly. I won’t go back and make a name change later. It’s as if I can’t know my characters, not truly, until they share their names with me. And I can’t write them until I know them. Sometimes they’re forthcoming and introduce themselves with no trouble, just as Cee and Marcus did. Sometimes, however, the characters are coy and play Rumpelstiltskin with me, demanding that I guess and guess. They may give me a hint—sometimes I know the letter the name starts with and that it’s, oh, one syllable—and then I’m able to narrow it down from there. But it can still take me days if the character is making it difficult for me.

None of the characters in Manifesting Destiny were particularly problematic, thank goodness. They all wanted to be known, each stepping out at just the right moment. I hope you’ll get to know them, too, through this book and the sequels.


Thanks again, Manda.  And now that you know how she came up with her character names, why don't you check out her book and see if you agree with them.

Sixteen-year-old Cee has a hopeless crush on her best friend Marcus. Unfortunately for her, he’s gay. In the wake of Marcus’s older brother leaving home to join the Aerie, Marcus has become increasingly distant. When Cee discovers she has a troublesome dragon named Livian living inside her things grow even more complicated. 

Marcus urges Cee to go to the Magi to have Livian removed, but the more Cee becomes attached to Livian, the more she questions the decision. Should she change her natural self for the crush who will never love her anyway?

M Pepper Langlinais is an award-winning screenwriter, produced playwright, and author. She is a Master of Arts in Writing, Literature and Publishing (Emerson College) and a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film (University of Texas at Austin). M has performed and taught Shakespeare, interned on movie sets, and worked for Houghton Mifflin and Pearson before deciding to devote her full time to her own writing. She lives in Northern California with her family, a charmingly evil cat, and a hamster she's sure is trying to tell her something if only she could understand. Find her at her website, Pepperwords.

Buy Links:
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  1. Thanks, Ken, for featuring me on your blog today!

  2. I find I can tolerate most names in books I enjoy, but when there is a name I love--like Jack Reacher--that embodies the character, it just makes it so much better.

  3. I really enjoy hearing about how writers pick character names. It can be a lot more complicated than I think people usually realize.

    For me, I usually have names picked well in advance. Names sort of sit in my head, sometimes for years, waiting for a character to belong to.

  4. Very neat! I've always got to push until I find the perfect names too. I've had times when the characters have named themselves, and that can be a little infuriating because I love naming them.

  5. I feel the same way about finding the perfect name. Most of the time, my main characters assert themselves and tell me their first names before I begin the story. Last names often change, however.

    1. Oh, yes, I've been known to change last names later in the process. But the first name must be right else I have trouble writing.