How the C3 Characters Got Their Names

O character names, you are my nemesis and my one true love. When I find the right name, it can make an entire person come into focus, it can add new layers to the story, or it can simply amuse me. I’m still struggling with the perfect name for the husband in book 2. I’m using Danny for now, but I also have characters named Tammy and Tommy, so I need to cut back on the y-ending names. So much more goes into the name than just what sounds right. Here’s a glimpse at how my C3 characters came to be.

Al Waters – Al is named after Alice Waters, chef and owner of Chez Panisse and advocate for the slow food movement. She once wrote that the best restaurant critics use their stage to educate about food, not just talk about it. I took this to heart during Al’s evolution.

AW Wodyski – Al’s pen name. The AW is for Al Waters. Wody is water in Polish. Milwaukee overflows with Polish last names and Al cynically decides all he needs is a name ending in -ski to be trusted as a local.

nameRalph

Elizabeth “Lou” Luella Johnson – I love a masculine nickname for a woman (I call my daughter Fred). Lou came into being because that was one of my many nicknames (Amy Loo) growing up, it’s short for Luella which was my grandma’s name and my daughter’s middle name. Basically, it’s an homage to the awesome women in my family. Elizabeth is my middle name and fairly common. Johnson was not her last name originally – it was Boudreaux, which is a family name. However, there aren’t a lot of Boudreaux’s in the Milwaukee area. I needed a last name that was common enough that Al wouldn’t immediately connect Lou Johnson to Chef Elizabeth Johnson of Luella’s.

John – John is one of my favorite characters and also my husband’s name (though they are nothing alike – except for the ‘there’s a website for that’ jokes). I’m not sure if John is so awesome because I named him after the hubby, or if because he was so awesome no other name would do.

Sue – Sue is Lou’s sous chef. This is a straight up play on words to amuse myself.

Harley Rhodes – I may have gotten out of control with character names. Harley is the tattoo covered pastry chef who rides, you guessed it, a Harley motorcycle.

AustinPowers

Devlin Pontellier – Devlin is my bad guy – so I chose a name with a devil reference. I originally called him Dev for short, but I had too many single syllable names, so I went with his full name – which I think works better. He’s such a weenie – he would insist that people use his full name. His last name is a nod to Leonce Pontellier in THE AWAKENING by Kate Chopin.

Otto and Gertrude – I needed some common German names from the early 1900s and these fit the bill. Every time I wrote about them, I couldn’t help but smile. In my notes I called them OnG.

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Amy Reichert

Amy E. Reichert is the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, July 21 2015), about food, love, and second chances, and where serendipity comes in the form of a delicious coconut cake. Find out more at amyereichert.com.

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. “I love a masculine nickname for a woman (I call my daughter Fred).”

    I have this tendency, too (my detective character has a daughter who calls herself “Ron”), but I took it to heart when somebody read my first novel and said there were too many gender-neutral names (four characters out of a very small cast) and he got confused in spots. That was good advice.

    Like everything else, you can take a good thing too far. 🙂

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