Naming My Hero

How important are heroes’ names? I have to admit, I see a pattern of similarity among contemporary romance heroes’ names—lots of Jakes, Lukes, Matts, Jacks. What many of these names have in common is that they are masculine, one-syllable names that make you think of someone tough and alpha. I won’t get into the names for historical heroes, since those tend to be different, although surprisingly similar among each other. I’m not going to get into names for futuristic or paranormal heroes either, since those can be downright hard to figure out or pronounce sometimes.

Can a hero's name affect the way you feel about him? I have to slip in a complaint here about the hero’s name in Eloisa James’s When the Duke Returns (although I loved the book). His name is Simeon, and throughout the whole book, I kept thinking of him as “simian,” as in one of the ape family, and it really bugged me. And then I thought, maybe it’s supposed to be pronounced “Simon.” Anyway, his name bothered me and prevented me from completely adoring him.

So onto my own heroes and my own problem. I am writing a series of Intrigues about a family of three brothers, the McClintocks, which began with Circumstantial Memories and the middle brother, Ryder McClintock. Ryder—great name for a secret agent cowboy, right? The patriarch’s name is Ralph, and I decided to give all the brothers “R” names because big daddy Ralph is a bit of an egotist. Initially, the brothers were Ridge, the oldest, and Rafe, the youngest. But my editor nixed Ridge, calling it too weird. (So I stole Ridge for my hero in “Triple Threat,” my Red Sage Presents story in the Three Kinds of Wicked series. MUCH more about that later.) My husband threw out the name, Rod, and I picked that up and it passed muster with my editor. So Rafe McClintock gets his book in Jan. 2010 and Rod McClintock gets his book in May 2010.

So what’s the problem? The powers that be at HQ really loved my series and loved the McClintock name itself, so I figured I could slip in another McClintock brother book illegitimate son of the philandering patriarch. I definitely wanted another R name for this brother, but it had to be an R name with a twist since he’s the black sheep of the family and his mother was a free spirit. So I named him River. Not only does it begin with R, it’s a name a free-spirited, gypsy-type might come up with, and my husband actually knows a 20-something guy named River who grew up in Hawaii (like my hero). Well, when I sent my editor my synopsis, she didn’t like the name River. It made her think of River Phoenix. Even though she liked River Phoenix, she didn’t want the comparison to be there.

OK, back to the drawing board. After much back and forthing, I decided on Rio (which means river in Spanish!). I figured I could make the free-spirited mom Latina, and since the other McClintock brothers are blondish/brownish, I could make Rio the true black sheep of the family by giving him sexy dark coloring (see picture above for insipiration). I have not passed this by my editor yet, as I’m working on Rafe McClintock’s book right now. Generally, she doesn’t like “weird” names, so I hope Rio isn’t too weird for her.

So what do you think? Should I stick with Rio McClintock? I also thought of Riley McClintock, but it sounds too much like Ryder, the middle McClintock brother. Any other R names you like for heroes? Any hero names make you cringe (like Simeon)?


Carly Carson said...

I do agree that names are very important. Ever notice how many Mc...names there are for last names? (I'm half Scottish, lol.)

Anyway, I love Rio, but only with the Latin mother. That's perfect. I also liked the name the editor nixed. (I can't see the blog while typing here. What was that name? Not River, but the other one.)

It sounds like a great series.


Abby Niles said...

I like Rio. Especially with the Latin mother, like Carly said. I do have to agree with your editor, as soon as I saw the name River, River Phoenix popped into my head.

Some other R names I like:
Rupert (had to put that here, that's my son's name, lol)

I don't think I've come across a name I didn't like. I have come across names that I couldn't pronouce, I just made up my own and kept going, lol.

Kristin Daniels said...

I say stick with Rio. It's strong, not to mention hot. I love those quick, one syllable names. Most of my heroes have short names like that. Makes it easier for the heroine to call it out in the throes of passion, LOL!

Keira Gillett said...

You could do Ryan or a Irish variation spelled Rian/Ryne/Riain meaning Little King or Rory meaning High King

Nicole North said...

I also love the name Rio for your character. It's unique and it seems to fit him. (Based on the hot, yummy photo!) I think names are definitely important and tie into characterization. Sometimes if the character isn't working, I'll change the name in order to change the personality.

Amy Atwell said...

I like Rio a lot, especially the background you give it with his mother's past. The other R name I'll suggest (and I warn you, I'm using it in a ms of mine!) is Ramsay. I spell my hero as Ramsey, but I know the chef Gordon Ramsay is making the name popular again.

As for names that make me cringe--I've never liked the name Derek. Ironically, in my first completed ms, my hero showed up and announced that was his name. No matter how much I told him I hated it (and I've told him plenty over the years and revisions!), he won't let me change it. Go figure.

Donna Marie Rogers said...

Carol, I love the name Rio as well. A very strong, sexy name. ;-) Rico is another strong latino name. My hero, James, from Golden Opportunity has a brother named Reese. I liked it until a friend named a little girl Reece in her newest ms...LOL

I had to laugh about the last names starting with 'Mc'. I'm guilty myself. I have a Jessica McGovern (Meant To Be), and James & Reese's last name is McMillan. *G*

Anonymous said...

How about Rory? You could make him a red head?

Carol Ericson said...

Carly, yeah, I think it fits nicely if he's mom is Latina. The other name she nixed for the oldest brother was Ridge. I used it in my RS story for Three Kinds of Wicked!

Esme, those are great R names as well. Doesn't JD Robb use Roan in her Murder by series?

Kristin, and those names are easy to turn into words in case you make a mistake - "oh, Brock, Brock." "My name's not Brock!" "No, I have a rock in my shoe." LOL

Carol Ericson said...

Keira, I never thought of Ryan. I'm sure my ed would like that one. If she rejects Rio, I might go with Ryan if you don't mind...

Nicole, I have to admit I stole the hot yummy picture from the ladies working on the Three Kinds of Wicked series - he's been our inspiration!

Amy, Ramsay is a great name! Reminds me of Ramses - I have a friend who named his son Trajen after the Egyptian pharoah.

Donna, I always think of Rico as the bad guy. I started a story somewhere and Rico was the bad guy. That name has to be said with a long rolling R Rrrrrico!

Chris, Rory always makes me think of a redhead too. My dad was Roy and we gave that name to my 2nd son as a middle name, so my husband calls him Roy Rogers (my husband's kind old...) said...

I like Rio a lot! Nice job coming up with a great name that fits your parameters. And it means river in Spanish, so you really didn't change his name at all :-)

~ Kris

Carol Ericson said...

Kris, ah yes, I know Rio means River, but it's funny that I thought of Rio before making the connection to River.

And as it turns out, my ed contacted me today about something else and ran "Rio" by her and she said that was fine! So Rio McClintock it is - now I just have to sell the book..

ShawnaMoore said...

Hey Carol!

What a great topic! Choosing characters name is right up there with choosing titles for me. Love doing both :)

Absolutely, I vote for Rio as your hero's name :) A man like Rio I can picture :)

Happy weekend wishes,


Natasha Moore said...

Names are definitely important. I like Rio too - glad you got the ok.

I like the "R" names for guys. I had a "Roark" and will have a "Rick" coming up - yeah, still those hard sounding alpha names. I have a tough time too with names I can't pronounce, although my mind tends to turn them into names I can, whether it's the correct way or not.

Great posts. Naming our characters can be as hard as naming our kids :)

Dolly said...

I like Riley. There is a certain flow to it that I just don't get from Rio.

To me, Riley sounds handsome, sexy, bit of a wild boy - Rio sounds like a gay, latin dancer.

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Keeping with the other brothers, Rio fits perfectly--glad to see your editor liked it too.

Amy, sorry to hear you don't like Derek--he's in my new Christmas book with TWRP...along with the little girl, Reese. :P

Carol Ericson said...

Shawna, I'm not so fond of choosing titles - and so far all my HQ Intrigue titles have been changed from my originals! Maybe that's why I don't like choosing titles (except for my erotic romance - LOVE thinking up those titles).

Natasha, I enjoyed naming my kids too!

Lost Wanderer - Gay, Latin dancer - ROTFLMAO! You sound like my editor. I like Riley too.

Stacey, I like Derek, but now Reese reminds me of that character on All My Children...

Anne Rainey said...

OMG, I love the name Rio. That's sexy! I hope your editor likes it!

SharonJM said...

I like Rio. It sounds like a really hot long tall man with eyes that promise a great night.

And naming kids are hard. I didn't decide on my sones name until he came out.

Carol Ericson said...

Anne, my editor approved of the name, so Rio is a go!

Sharon, I intend to make Rio every woman's fantasy (and not a gay Latin dancer). LOL

Sandy said...


You picked a great topic. I like the name Rio with the Latin mother.

That being said, your hero is illegitimate, and I doubt if the free spirit allowed the father to choose the name. What do you think about that?