Monday, September 2, 2013

Ooohhhh, Jericho!

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm not very scientific about naming my characters. I don't have a dozen baby naming books, broken down by the most popular names of each decade and with long paragraphs of name origins and meanings. I used to, but I never used them so I gave them away. Most often, I picture the character in my mind, call up what I know about them, and try on names until one fits. Then I keep trying for a while to see if a different one fits better. 

Occasionally I'll be more rigorous (if you want to call it that), and look at name lists online. The gods and kings of the ancient Maya weren't much help on the heroes and heroines (Ten-Frog? Really?), but the leader board for the PBR and PRCA (bull riding/rodeo associations) have been useful for populating Mustang Ridge, as have name lists of Wyoming Pioneers during the wagon-train days.

Which leads us to Jericho. I recently heard from my editor on an outline I had turned in. Now, an outline can be anything from a few paragraphs of 'this is what I'm thinking about for the next book' to an intricate, seventy-some page scene-by-scene breakdown--JR Ward and Suz Brockmann both do very detailed outlines. Me, I can do a detailed outline, but since I'm only going to stick to it for the first quarter of the book before the story takes over and veers off on its own course, it's just a waste of time.

Anyway, this was an outline of the two-page, general variety, but it gave my editor enough detail to have some really great feedback, especially at the point where I asked, "Is this too dark? Should I do this other thing instead?" (Having been a suspense/paranormal author for way longer than I've written Westerns, I'm sometimes tempted to drop a dead body into Mustang Ridge. Must. Resist.) However, she also gave me some feedback I didn't expected. To whit: "How attached are you to the hero's name? I'm not loving Jericho."

Now, I make it a point not to be too attached to much when it comes to my stories, at least in the initial formative stages, mostly because I know how much my books evolve as I'm writing. So, even though I like the name Jericho for a hero, and had used that as his name in the prior book (fixable, as that book is still in the editing stage), I went back to my pioneer lists and drawing boards, and shot her a few other name suggestions, and we agreed on a new monicker for Mr. Babcock. In closing, though, she mentioned that she just couldn't imagine a woman saying, "Ooooh, Jericho!" during a love scene.

Which, of course, means that I've had "Ooooh, Jericho" stuck in my head all weekend. 

Now, when I was training horses professionally, I worked with a horse named Jericho--a handsome, good-natured Quarter Horse with a kind eye, a solid, no-nonsense disposition, and a wicked sense of humor that would come out when you least expected it. Handsome, no-nonsense and occasionally wicked ... yeah, that's my hero. But maybe my editor knew a Jericho back in school, and he was a total bully. Or maybe she knew a Jericho in a past life? Because the thing is, sometimes we just have feelings about a certain name.

See, if left to my own devices, I would name every villain 'Victor.' I don't know why; it just feels right. I don't think I've ever known a Victor, and I'm sure no Victor has ever done anything wretched to me ...  but there it is. And, yeah, I'll admit that I've done the author payback once or twice, naming villains (or dead bodies) after people who have annoyed me in my day-to-day. But Jericho? Nope, I've got only positive feelings towards that, even to the point that I could imagine a woman saying, "Ooohhh, Jericho" in a love scene.

What about you? What names turn you off? What names make you instantly want to like the person, even if the circumstances suggest you really shouldn't? And, hey, what do you think about Jericho??


  1. Hi Doc Jess,

    I happen to think Jericho would be a great name for a contemporary western hero. But then I'm not fussy. One of my only requirements as far as names go - I HAVE to be able to pronounce them! To that end, give me a Jack, Joe, Sam, Matt, Nick and the like and I'm good! :-D Makes me a little crazy if I have to try to figure out how to pronounce a name each and every time I read it!

    Hope all is well & that you're enjoying this Labor Day weekend!

    who chose the above hero names at random

    1. Hi back AnneM-SC (lol on how that monicker has grown over the years! Aha! Great point on the spellability (don't think that's a word, but you get the point)/pronounceability (that is a word!) of the H's name. Especially for audiobooks! I listened to one once where the narrator mispronounced the heroine's name throughout (I know the author, know it wasn't how she intended it). Really bothered me, but I guess part of that is on the author's name choice, too. And ROFLOL, but I changed 'Jericho' to 'Sam' ;)

  2. Jess, I can see where your editor is coming from. And now, thanks to this I have "Oooooooo Jericho" playing my head. I will not or give you if I can't sleep :) I'm not too picky about hero names, as long as it flows right off the tongue and in the brain, I'm good.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  3. Ooooooooo, Jericho!! LOLOL. Okay, another vote for 'doesn't have to be a particular name, but has to be familiar enough that we're not going 'huh' every time we see it.' Check! (And hugs!)

  4. Jericho is fine by me. Heck, Crusie made "phineas" work. Jethro might be a problem. Nicknames could be Eric, Jerry, Echo, or "walls come tumbling down".