Behind-the-Scene: What’s in a Name?

True-crime research, novel writing research, and updates.


BLOG POST #228: This week, I’m sharing some behind-the-scene scoop on research and name selection.

Whether you’re writing a series or a solo novel, regardless of the genre, you must build a world in which the characters live.

For the School Marshal series, I knew I wanted the city to geographically be in the region where I live but have fictitious names.

There wasn’t a Brookfield, California, but there is now (wink). Pretty much all towns have a Broadway Ave. and Main Street. Since I live where miners discovered gold, I mostly named my streets after types of wood and rocks.

I’ve created a rough city map of Brookfield. I still plan to one day have a cartographer make the map more realistic.

For the easy business names, I used my hubby’s initials, my kids’ names and grandkids’ names. So far, in a book, I’ve only mentioned Trav’s Donuts (named after grandson). For the not-so-easy business names, I search the internet to make sure there isn’t an issue with a name. A problem could be an infringement or a questionable business with the same name. This process takes some time.

Character’s names are by far the hardest to research. I typically don’t want to use the name of anyone I know or a celebrity’s name (unless it’s a common name). You need a mix of names beginning with different letters, so you don’t have Damian, Derrick, Dominic, etc. (For the record, I don’t know anyone with those names)

Book titles are easy to research but super hard to narrow down to one. With titles, there are no copyright infringements to worry about, but at the same time, you might set yourself up to fail if you go with something like “Gone with the Wind”—no matter what genre.

When I planned the School Marshal series, at that time, research showed few books began with Unknown. I decided all the novels in the series would be Unknown something. First, I plot the novel or have a good idea of what the story will be about, and then I decide what word best describes the plot.

What are your thoughts about what’s in a name? Join the conversation on the website. 

I do extensive research on true-crimes related to schools. Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Sincere wellness wishes to you and your family.

Thanks for reading!


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