Naming Characters in Unscientific Ways

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a book is coming up with all of the names. Character names, town names, store names. I wanted to write a blog post about how I go about this process, but after thinking about it, I realized I have no scientific method for naming. As so many creative endeavors go, it’s all just stuff I think up randomly.

So here’s your advice: There is no advice!

(Kidding, sort of.)

I still remember writing my first book, Motocross Me, in 2008. The main character’s name, Hana, kind of came to me instantly, so I went with it. As for the other main character names, here was my thought process:

Hana’s last name Fisher: from Jenna Fisher, the actress who plays Pam in The Office, which was a totally relevant show back in 2008.

Jim Fisher: Jim, from The Office

Molly Fisher: Since she was a kind, loving, caring, amazing motherly figure, I named her after Molly Weasley. (I don’t do this anymore, btw, otherwise all characters would be HP names.)

Ash: He’s the love interest and I thought it was a sexy name, so that one’s obvious.

Ryan: I chose the name Ryan because it sounded like a jerk’s name. (Sorry to any real Ryan’s out there, I bet you’re probably not really a jerk.)

Shelby: I kid you not, I was looking around the room trying to think of a name and saw a Shelby Mustang on the calendar on the wall. Boom, name chosen.


See? Not very scientific. Now that I have a dozen or so novels and twice as many short stories under my belt, I can no longer choose names based off TV shows I like, or else all my characters would be named after the Belcher family from Bob’s Burgers. Now I go about my naming process in a few ways.

First names ALWAYS have to be something I like. Something that sounds good. I can go through a ton of names in my head, but until one just snaps into place and fits with the story, I won’t choose it. Sometimes I hear names in real life that sound cool as hell, and so I’ll save them in my head in order to one day write a story about a character with that name. I’m not listing them here because I’m secretive and mean.

Last names . . . well, I usually cheat and find something on here.  I like this website because it’s not full of ads and popups and crap like those baby naming websites that show up first in a Google search. It’s just a simple, very huge list of last names.

As for naming places, this is one of my favorites. A long time ago, I decided that I didn’t want to set my characters in REAL, real cities, because then I might get some of the facts wrong. Plus, it’s just more fun to invent my own places and smack them on the map wherever I see fit. However, because I’m a Texas girl, and most of my stories are set in the great Lone Star state, I like to pay some homage to the towns of old.

Texas Ghost towns < This is one of my FAVORITE websites ever. It’s a little historic record of towns that used to be towns in Texas but never survived. Some of them even have pictures of the remaining one room school house, or a solitary church that’s still standing.

Mixon, Texas from Motocross Me is a Texas ghost town and so is Peyton Colony, the town in the newest book I just finished writing. I think this is a really fun way to pay tribute to the past and give it new life in a fictional story.

When it comes to naming places, sometimes I make it easy and send my characters to Starbucks. Other times, like when my characters are personally working somewhere, I like to invent the place so as not to write about working at a real chain. In Somewhere Only We Know, Sadie works at a pizza shop called Magic Mark’s Pizza. This is a direct rip off of the real place Simple Simon’s Pizza, the uber-delicious pizza joint I worked at in high school. I liked the fake Magic Mark’s so much, that I often have my characters ordering pizza from there in every book I write.

What can I say? I also love pizza.

There’s one final technique I use to name characters, specifically, those NPCs you need to name quickly and won’t ever see again. Like when your characters walk into a hotel and have a one time conversation with the concierge, whose name-tag says his name is:


I usually look up from the computer, call to a family member who is in the vicinity and say, “Quick, I need a name for a guy who works at a hotel.” Whatever response I get, is the name I use. If the husband is at work and the kid is at school and my dog isn’t answering, I usually Google search a random name, but that’s not as fun.

So how do you name your characters? Do you have any hard and fast rules or do you just wing it? Let me know in the comments!




May Wrap up

How the heck has it already been another month? With summer fully here in Texas, I am so ready to spend a lot of time at the pool–wishing I was swimming but instead writing my book while the kid swims. You know how it goes.

This month was pretty productive for me, although I wish I would have read more books. As it is, here’s my bookish wrap up:

I spent the second half of May plotting and starting a new book that I am incredibly passionate about. So passionate, that I’m not sharing any details right now, but I have dubbed it PYA and you’ll probably hear me talking about it all over social media. This is the kind of book that makes you excited to be a writer. The characters feel like dear friends and I wake up each morning excited to dive back into their story.

I hate to say it guys, but this might be my favorite book ever. (Please don’t tell my other books.)

In other news, I will be a guest author at this year’s Houston Comicpalooza in June. Find out more details here.

I also made these super cute City of Legends keychains that I tried giving away on Facebook, but apparently no one saw the post because FB is the worst sort of company ever. But keep an eye out for other giveaways, maybe on Twitter where the owners aren’t total money-grabbing A-holes.

That’s my May in a writerly-oriented nutshell. How was yours?

April Wrap Up

This has been a busy month! I haven’t been this exhausted in a while, but it’s been totally worth it and now I’m gearing up to be just as productive in May.


April’s Writing News:

I got to announce my new book deal with Swoon Romance, an imprint of Month9books. Definitely the highlight of the month!

For the month of May, I’m planning to plot and write PYA- my newest WIP. Currently PYA stands for Perfect Young Adult book, an acronym Christina Channelle and I came up with since I don’t have a running title for the book yet. You’ll probably hear me talking about PYA a lot because I’m fairly obsessed with it.


Books I read in April:

Not a huge reading month, but I was so busy writing, it was a little hard to balance the two.

Fun other stuff:

CITY OF LEGENDS got to #473 in the entire Amazon store last weekend! This is the highest any of my books have ever ranked, so I’m pretty excited about it.
SUPERCROSS ME was released into the wild! It’s the sequel to my YA book, MOTOCROSS ME, and the reviews have been great so far. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing!
That’s all for this month. Make sure to hang out with me on Instagram and Twitter to keep in touch and get up to date info on my writing progress!

2016 Goals

It’s a new year and it’s time to set some goals publicly on the blog. Because nothing helps with accountability more than posting your business online for all to see. In 2015, I managed to quit my day job, pursue writing full time AND get my first real book deal! I’m hoping the successes only get better in 2016.

Reading Goals:

  • Last year I set a modest goal of 30 books for the Goodreads reading challenge and I read 38. So this year I’ve upped my reading goal to 45 books and I’m excited to use the new Paperwhite I got for Christmas to help reach that goal! If we’re not already Goodreads friends, you can add me and we can cheer each other on as the year progresses!
  • I also have a goal of organizing my bookshelves. They’re pretty bad, and it’s mostly because I have run out of bookshelf space and so now books are two rows deep and scattered all over the place. You know how heavy bookshelves start to sag in the middle? Yeah, that’s all of mine. So I plan on taking care of this problem in 2016. I wanted to turn the entire living room into a floor-to-ceiling library, complete with that awesome rolling ladder, but my family kind of thinks I’m crazy. So I guess more bookshelves will have to do. 

Writing Goals:

  • Write and publish Supercross Me, the sequel to Motocross Me.
  • Promote the hell out of City of Legends, which releases in a month!
  • Get an agent. Yep, this is very scary but I am jumping back on the query train this year and hoping to find a literary agent as I pursue my career as a hybrid author.
  • Finish BUSG (the secret YA project) and pitch it for traditional publishing.
  • Plot, Outline, and write SDS, another secret YA project. 

So there they are! My writing/reading related goals for the year ahead. What are your goals? Do you set them ahead of time or just wing it? Let me know in the comments!

My Behind-the-Scenes year

I know the year isn’t over yet but given the infrequency in which I blog, I think it’s a good idea to write this end of the year blog post while I have the energy/time to do it. So here’s the deal: these last few months of being a full time writer have been a little blah. I’ve spent a lot of time lamenting poor book sales and watching them slip further and further into the black abyss that is the Amazon KDP flat line of zero sales.

I wondered why the books weren’t selling as well as they always had in the past. I knew that promoting books is a big part of success and I also didn’t bother doing any of that. Why? I don’t know. Apathy? Fear of rejection if I ask a blogger to leave a review? Social awkwardness and a severe hatred of trying to “sell” myself to people? Yeah, it’s probably all of that.

But then I realized that I haven’t published a single thing this year, and it all kind of clicked. I’ve spent all of 2015 doing behind-the-scenes work that I am unable to talk about right now, and because of that, I didn’t get any books published. No books published = total author obscurity.

So that’s why everything is so blah lately.

But that’s okay. This was a behind-the-scenes year. I was able to quit my corporate job to pursue writing full time which was a huge blessing and a challenge all in one. (Turns out sitting at home in your pajamas DOES get old after a while. Who would have thought?) And for the last nine months I’ve been working really hard on a project that I’ll hopefully be able to announce before the year is over. And that project is going to make 2016 totally rock.

Although I am blown away by how fast this year has gone by, I am really looking forward to next year. Expect to see many new books from me and even a web serial that I’ve been planning for a few months!

Looks like 2016 is coming up Milhouse.

Throwback Thursday – Self Imposed Deadlines

*Today’s post is a throwback to what I wrote back in January 2011. And guess what? It’s still true.*

I’m the kind of person who always thinks, “Whats the worst that can happen?” And if the answer isn’t immediate and horribly painful, publicly embarrassing death, then I don’t sweat it. Because the worst that can happen? Meh, who cares.

This is where self-imposing a writing deadline can get really tricky.

You can tell yourself you’re going to write one thousand words a day, you’re going to finish revisions in one week, you’re going to write a whole manuscript in three months, OR ELSE, but really – what keeps us from breaking this deadline? Nothin’

At work I ALWAYS meet deadlines because my job is on the line. You bet your ass I’m going to finish this impossibly hard task in the very little time I’m allotted to spend on it, because I NEED MY JOB. And even then, I sometimes find myself thinking, Meh who cares I’ll still survive if I get fired.

What’s on the line if you’re an unpublished author? Not a damn thing but your own personal satisfaction.

And this is why writing is like dieting and saving money: It’s impossible to do with out self-control. So here are my tips to get your ass in the chair and write/revise/finish/query and actually complete a task by your self-imposed deadline, despite the fact that yeah, if you don’t do it, you won’t die.

  • Set attainable goals. If you keep missing your deadline of writing 1000 words a day, change it to 500.
  • Give yourself rewards. Finish that manuscript? Buy yourself a new book. Finish revisions? Skip a day of housework and veg on the couch watching DVD seasons of your favorite show. I recommend Entourage, Party Down, The Office, or Eastbound & Down.
  • MAKE the deadline mean something. If you don’t reach your goal, then no partying with the friends this weekend. (Punishing myself doesn’t work for me, but it might for you!)
  • Tell someone. This helps you be more accountable. Find a great beta partner and tell them you’ll have the chapter/MS to them by a certain date. Keep it.
  • Get a goal buddy. The internet is an invaluable resource for finding amazing writing friends. Find someone who is at the same stage as you and set goals together. Everything is always easier with a friend.
  • Visualize the future. Think about how great it will be when you have a finished product. Think about your future agent, your future book deal and how happy your future self will be that you worked hard to get where you are. Honestly, this is the best method for me. I want to make my future self proud, not ashamed. You want to be a writer – YOU make yourself one.

And finally:

  • Don’t get down on yourself. We all screw up, we all have an off day. Pick yourself back up and remember that at midnight you have a brand new day to make everything right again.

Music Monday – Somewhere Only We Know’s Inspirational Song

Keeping with my complete inability to create a unique blog post, I have stolen Nikki Godwin’s “Music Monday” post theme and incorporated it in my own blog. heh heh heh.

But, I’m dedicating this post to her anyhow, because Nikki is the person who showed me this video/song combination of awesomeness by Tim Halperin. It was a couple of years ago when I was plotting and working on Somewhere Only We Know. I had described to her the fancy place of Isola Fiona and how it was lit up by fireflies that hung in glass bulbs in the trees. I wanted it to look like hundreds of clear Christmas lights in a forest that lights up the most beautiful place ever. She told me to check out this video.

I then quickly fell in love with the song and the artist, and therefore, I give you – My first Music Monday post, dedicated to Nikki, and to my YA urban fantasy novel Somewhere Only We Know.

If you’d like to see more inspiration from this book, please check out the Pinterest board I created for it: Follow Cheyanne’s board Somewhere Only We Know Inspiration Board on Pinterest.//