Owen Meany. Daenerys Stormborn. Katniss Everdeen.
As a reader, I love a great character name. When they’re done right, the name infuses the role so completely in my mind that they’re forever inseparable. How can Jane Eyre be anything but?
When I became a fiction writer, it dawned on me that I’d be the one who’d have to come up with the names. I’d be inventing a person, after all: the color of her eyes, the way she talks, her earliest memories. Of course I’d have to give her a name.
You know how you agonized over the naming of your children? Yeah. It’s like that. A terrifying responsibility, if also a joyful opportunity.
In writing my novel, Pastors’ Wives, I turned for inspiration to the Bible. That made sense to me, as the story is set in a church and is about what it’s like when the man you married is married to God. Also, the Bible is a great source for names, as parents the world over can tell you.
“Ruth” is named after the Ruth in the Bible who pledges loyalty to her mother-in-law. Like her, my Ruth is helped by an older, wiser woman who counsels her on matters of love and marriage.
“Candace” is mentioned in the Bible as queen of the Ethiopians. Scholars surmise that it may derive from a Nubian word meaning “queen mother.” My Candace is indeed that of her megachurch flock.
“Jeremiah” is a Hebrew biblical name meaning “appointed by the Lord.” The Jeremiah in my novel, called Jerry, hears a calling to serve the church.
“Aaron” means teacher or mountain of strength. I thought that was an appropriate name for the charismatic leader of my fictional megachurch.
Not all my characters’ names have such lofty origins. Some I threw in for fun. For instance, in my story, the megachurch leader forms an alliance with a local imam. The wife of that imam is a blue-eyed American named Kristin Chaudry. That’s the name of my bff growing up (though her real husband is a telecom exec…you’re welcome, Kuri!).