My series of shifter novels, The Wolf Within, has developed quite the cast of characters over the past four books and many of the recurring characters’ names have a story behind them. I’d like to share a few with you.
Constance Newcastle – She’s my protagonist. Every book is told from her first person point of view, so her name would be one I’d hear, write and think over and over again. I knew I was going to write a novel for NaNoWriMo in 2010 and I knew it wouldn’t be about vampires (because at the time I’d just spent two years writing about vampires), but I didn’t know much else.
Halloween night I went to bed thinking I have to come up with a name for my protagonist. As I dozed in and out of a light sleep, I saw a shadowy outline of the woman who would become the focus of my novel. She would be blonde and have blue eyes. She would be from New England. She would be a wolf shifter or maybe a werewolf. Then this name floated into my head – Stanzie. At first I rejected it because I’m not a big fan of made up names for characters in novels unless they are science fiction and my novel would not be set in a sci fi scenario.
What if it was a nickname? Short for something? I mused. Then I fell asleep.
I woke up on the morning of November 1st and the first thing I thought was – I have to start my novel and my protagonist’s name is Stanzie. It wasn’t quite time to get up yet and I am notoriously lazy when it comes to rolling out of bed in the morning, so I snuggled under the covers and dreamily contemplated possible real names for Stanizie.
First up was Constanza and I rejected it after a moment because it sounded too Italian and I wanted Stanzie to be a blonde from New England and it just didn’t fit.
But Constance did fit. A perfect New England name. Trouble was, I’ve never really liked the name Constance. I’d never contemplated using it before, especially for a main character, but it did fit and I was going to use Stanzie. So she became Constance.
By now it was past time for me to get up and so I dragged myself out of bed and to the computer where at 5:32 I wrote the opening lines of a novel that would become Beneath the Skin – When I jerked awake, a smothered scream on my lips, the digital clock on the nightstand read 5:32 in the morning.
At one point in the first or second chapter I realized I had to come up with a last name for her and a name popped into my head – Newcastle. I liked it, so I ran with it. It wasn’t until weeks later on my way to the grocery store one night that I looked up from the red light and saw I was on the intersection of Westpark and…Newcastle. Funny how the mind works sometimes, huh?
Liam Murphy: Every romance has to have a hero, right? I already knew my hero would look like Stuart Townsend. (I base all my male characters on actors or musicians that I find wildly attractive!) I decided to make him Irish since Stuart Townsend is Irish. Plus, who can resist a hot Irish wolf shifter, right?
Now we circle back to my vampire novels. For the two years prior to that fateful November in 2010, I’d been writing a series of vampire novels that I published in installments on my blog. Only a handful of people had access to these vampires and one of them, one of my staunchest supporters and enthusiastic readers was named Kim Murphy. What better way to express my gratitude for all she’d done for me than name one of my characters after her? So Murphy found his name. I have Stanzie call him Murphy most of the time and at first that was because I didn’t have a first name for him. My favorite Irish first name is Liam, but I had a vampire character in my other novels named Liam. He had a small part and was in no way significant to the story, but I still hesitated because I’d used the name already and I hate to reuse names.
But everyone in Beneath the Skin couldn’t go around calling this poor guy Murphy all the time, so I used Liam as a placeholder thinking I would come back at some point with a better name. I never did get around to it. Since Stanzie tells the stories, at least 80% of the time he’s referred to as “Murphy” and every time I write “Liam” it still jolts me a little. To me, he’s Murphy.
Oh, and every chance I get I remind Kim that I named Murphy for her. It’s a running joke between us now. She lives in Chicago and I’m in Houston, so we communicate mainly through Facebook and email. At least once a week I send her a message that says simply:
I named Murphy for YOOOOOOUUUUU!
Jason Allerton: Jason is the powerful Councilor that Stanzie and Murphy work for. He brought them together and he sends them out on their adventures investigating issues in the various packs around the world. He’s a very powerful, commanding person, but a compassionate one. He’s always there to pick up the pieces and the calm one in the midst of chaos. From the start of Beneath the Skin, his last name was Allerton. I don’t know where I came up with that except that I thought it sounded rather authoritative.
His original first name was something else - Stephen perhaps? I’ve forgotten at this point, but I changed it about a third of the way through the novel.
Entering NaNoWriMo that year was not my idea. A writer friend challenged me and a group of other writers to go for it. Four or five of us did. One of them was my friend, Jaye – short for Jason. He was incredibly enthusiastic about this challenge and embarked upon an epic novel about magic and mayhem and named all his characters after those of us who’d answered the NaNoWriMo challenge.
Well, I could not let this gesture of solidarity go unanswered, so I immediately changed Allerton’s first name to Jason in Jaye’s honor. Paranormal romances are not really Jaye’s bag, but he gamely read at least the first novel and told me he was pleased with his namesake.
Several other characters have names that are strikingly similar, if not exactly matching, some of my friends’. I’m having a lot of fun doing that. A little inside secret that we can share.
However, most of the names I use are not chosen with such deliberation and care. Most just appear in my head as I’m writing about the character and I go with it. I can only think of two or three characters where I had to either change their names midway through or had to think more than a few seconds about what they would be.
I love naming things. Maybe that’s why there are so many names crowded into my skull just waiting for a chance to leap out onto the page.
by Amy Lee Burgess
Barnes & Noble
There's no place like home...or is there?
When Stanzie is asked to investigate her birth pack- Mayflower--she isn't prepared for what she finds.
No one respects the Alphas and the newest adult member of the pack is being encouraged to leave. Why? To make matters worse, the men are dangerously intent on mating and shifting with her.
How far will the pack she thought she knew go to get what they want? Without her bond-mate, Liam, Stanzie must face this alone and, barely ahead of threat of violence, must solve the mysteries, and fast.
WARNING: Vulgar language, sexual situations, group sex, violence
A Lyrical Press Paranormal Romance
Alan looked at me and panic flooded his silver blue eyes. “Stanzie.” My name was a horrified plea.
I could see the ghost of a wolf’s muzzle beneath his mouth. He held out a hand and recoiled when he saw the dark fur on his palm.
“Take off your clothes, Alan,” I urged, but he stood there, transfixed. I hastily unbuttoned his plaid shirt and pushed it off his shoulders. “Help me,” I cried as I tugged at his sleeve.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he whispered. His body gave a bone crunching shudder and he stared at Faith and Scott’s wolves, terror etched across his face. The wolves waited together, shoulder to shoulder. It was a damn good thing I hadn’t shifted myself. Poor Alan was clueless.
I fumbled with the button on his fly and then the zipper. His throat rippled and he threw back his head and howled. The noise nearly scared the shit out of me, but I somehow managed to get his zipper down and then I pushed him onto his ass so I could pull his jeans off. He was no help at all, caught in the throes of the first emergence of his wolf. His body morphed in and out of focus. It was like trying to undress someone by strobe light and I had to shut my eyes so I wouldn’t lose my concentration. Alan whimpered and whined. Shifting was painful sometimes--especially when we fought it and he was. He didn’t know how to relax into the chaos and let it flow. He still struggled for control, for a way to reason out the process, and that was impossible. Shifting did not make sense. It just happened.
“Let go. Alan, just go with it,” I coached in a quiet voice as I sat as near as I could to him. He writhed on the pine needles and screamed as his bones shifted beneath his skin. “It hurts less if you just let go.”
“Stanzie!” My name turned into an anguished howl and just when I had begun to get scared, it happened. Alan blinked out of this plane and when he blinked back in, he was shifted.
His wolf was gorgeous. Dusky black with ice-blue eyes. A touch of gray at the tips of each paw. Big too. Bigger than Scott’s gray wolf. He rolled to his feet and sprawled onto his face when he tried to walk. Two legs to four was a bitch for some people. It had never fazed me, but Grey told me it had taken him half an hour to figure out how the hell to walk the first time he’d shifted. I grinned to remember the story and reached out to pat Alan’s wolf on the head. He whined at me.
“Get up and walk. Four legs are fun,” I told him. I was on my hands and knees now, so we could look eye to eye. If he got up, that is. Faith’s wolf pranced over and nudged him with her dainty muzzle. He whined again and she gave a coughing bark. In wolf speak she told him to get off his ass.
Scott’s wolf approached me and stared at me so hard I knew he tried to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Then it hit me. Duh. I was still in human form.
I stood up so I could strip off my jeans and t-shirt. Scott’s wolf waited impatiently. Alan’s wolf had gained his wobbly feet but seemed stuck in one position. When Faith’s wolf nudged his back end with her nose, he promptly fell over again and I snickered. Alan’s wolf gave me a reproachful look and I patted his head in apology. Scott’s wolf moved behind me and bumped the back of my knees so hard I fell over. Alan’s wolf wheezed with lupine laughter. “At least I can walk on all fours,” I muttered. Naked, I crawled away a few feet to give myself space for shifting. Only nothing happened.
Amy Lee Burgess wrote her first ghost story at age ten. Born in New England, she has also lived in New Orleans and Houston, survived fires, floods, hurricanes, divorce and the premature cancellation of several of her favorite television shows. Turning her back on such shocking betrayals, she is now writing about ghosts, vampires, and other paranormal things and is much happier for it.
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