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Tawna Fenske | What's in a Name?


Since BELIEVE IT OR NOT hit shelves in early March, I've seen one piece of feedback pretty consistently: Cool character names!

It actually surprised me a little bit. To be honest, naming characters is one of those author tasks I always assume others have a much better grasp on than I do. Like maybe when the great muse handed out writer skills, I was off in the corner making penis jokes when all the other authors got the enviable ability to come up with clever names.

That's why I've been pleased by that particular piece of praise. BELIEVE IT OR NOT stars a hero named Drew, who owns a bar that features male strippers a few nights a week.

When I originally began noodling the story in 2008, I started off calling him Andy. It didn't take long for me to realize that was the wrong name. Andy plays tennis and has dimples. Andy wears polo shirts and never forgets to hold the door open for his date.

Drew on the other hand, is more jaded. He masks it with dry humor a habit of juggling quirky objects, but he knows what to do when someone needs a shoulder to cry on. He listens to ‘80s butt rock and critiques the performances of male strippers with no tinge of threat to his masculinity.

It's possible other writers or readers would have a different take on those names, but that's what they meant to me.

I settled on the name Violet for my heroine more easily. Drew first meets her in a dimly-lit room, and decides from her clothing and composure that her eye color must be amber.

The first stunning flash of her violet-hued eyes is his first clue Violet is seldom what she appears to be on the surface.

She wears buttoned-up silk blouses and sleek heels, but it doesn't take much to have her standing on a table hurling her bra at a male stripper. She's a straight-laced accountant who's spent a lifetime building a "normal" life for herself, but still desperately loves her kooky, psychic mother, Moonbeam.

Naming Moonbeam and her oddball friends was one of my favorite parts of writing this story. Coming up with wacky monikers for secondary characters was surprisingly easy. Butterfly. Petal. Marzipan. Raven. Salmonberry.

And my personal favorite, the character Violet dubs "Dreadlock Dude" after he explains, "I don't believe in names. They're like, too confining."

What do character names mean to you as a reader? Do you have a favorite? Has there ever been a time you loved or abhorred a name enough that it changed the way you read a book? Please share!


Do you believe in...accounting?

Numbers never lie, so Violet McGinn found safe haven in the most boring profession she could find. Until her renowned psychic mother lands in the hospital and Violet has to run her business. Now you can have your taxes filed and your aura read, in one convenient location.

Do you believe in...music?

Drew Watson is the jaded owner of the local hot spot next door, and doesn't need a single thing except a good crowd to dance to what he's spinning on Saturday night.

Do you believe in...love?

The only thing Violet and Drew seem to have in common is that neither believes in that psychic hoo—hah. Except Drew seems to play exactly the right song at exactly the right time. And truth be told, it makes Violet's heart dance just a little ...


"Fenske hits all the right humor notes without teetering into the pit of slapstick in her lighthearted book of strippers, psychics, free spirits and an accountant." —RT Book Reviews

"Snappy, endearing dialogue and often hilarious situations unite the couple, and Fenske proves to be a romance author worthy of a loyal following." —Booklist starred review

"Fenske's sophomore effort (after Making Waves) is another riotous trip down funny bone lane, with a detour to slightly askew goings on and a quick u-ey to out-of-this-world romance. Readers will be enchanted by this bewitching fable from a wickedly wise author." —Library Journal

"Sexually charged dialogue and steamy make-out scenes will keep readers turning the pages." —Publishers Weekly


Tawna Fenske traveled a career path that took her from newspaper reporter to English teacher in Venezuela to marketing geek. Named a Writer's Digest 2011 Notable debut, Tawna blogs daily on "Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing," and lives in Central Oregon where she is working on her next romantic comedy. For more information, please visit www.tawnafenske.com or follow her on Twitter, @TawnaFenske.

Comment to win a copy of BELIEVE IT OR NOT, US / Canada addresses only




24 comments posted.

Re: Tawna Fenske | What's in a Name?

I'd love to read Believe it or not. Thanks for the drawing.
(Mary Hay 3:24pm March 22, 2012)

I have a feeling that I'm going to adore your book!! Names usually don't have much of an affect on me, unless they don't match up with the story line. Because I didn't expect this question out of the blue, I really can't think of a name as an example, but I have read books that made me scratch my head and wonder what the author was thinking when they came up with the name. You had a very delightful post, and I really want to read your book!! I'm sure that your background helps a lot with some of the characters and story lines. Congratulations on your book!!
(Peggy Roberson 3:34pm March 22, 2012)

Anyone who starts "noodling" a story shouldn't have a problem with a name for the hero. HA!
(Marjorie Carmony 3:35pm March 22, 2012)

Characters names have to fit--if they don't I can't finish the story.
(Sandra Spilecki 4:24pm March 22, 2012)

I always enjoy finding out what the characters names are in the book I'm going to read, because I look forward to seeing new and different names that authors use for their stories and how they fit the characters in the story. This story sounds like a funny romance from what I've read so far with strippers, psychics, free spirits, and an accountant. I look forward to reading it--just picked it up at our library....but would love to win and own my own copy!
(Linda Luinstra 5:05pm March 22, 2012)

I like unique but not weird names.
(Lori Belcher 5:19pm March 22, 2012)

I love that you talk about how you named your characters. Some
people don't get that, name is so important. I mean, who wants
a big stud named Norman.
(Lori Lopez 5:36pm March 22, 2012)

I don't think there has ever been a time that I abhorred a name that it changed the way I read a book. There have been a couple that didn't seem right for the character, but after getting further into the story, I just accept the name as I become more familiar reading it again. The name doesn't ruin the story.
(Rich Cook 5:47pm March 22, 2012)

A different name does not ruin the story for me. I would love to win and read your book. Thanks
(Linda Hall 6:12pm March 22, 2012)

I don't have many names that bother me. My only problem is when there are names that are similar and then I start getting confused.
(Maureen Emmons 6:17pm March 22, 2012)

Some names just bring back too many memories - for example Rhett and Scarlett - it would be hard for me to see them being used as characters that were wussy or dorky. Now Tawna would be a great name for a sex-crazed tawdry secretary! Have you ever given that any thought??
(Karen Lawson 6:19pm March 22, 2012)

I love when there is meaning behind a name in a book - it makes it much more personable ~
(Stacy Novack 6:22pm March 22, 2012)

i love the names and sounds like a great book
(Jennifer Beck 7:51pm March 22, 2012)

I like names to fit the characters.
(Cheryl McEwen 8:26pm March 22, 2012)

Names are big for me. I like creativity. I don't like names that make a character sound like my grandmother (or grandfather) or are too common.
Good luck and happy writing!
(Tracie Travis 8:28pm March 22, 2012)

Character names aren't a big deal to me as long as I can
pronounce it. It's great though when after reading a book
that a name perfectly fits the character.
(Jan D 8:36pm March 22, 2012)

Accountant,strippers & psychics Oh My. This book sounds like it has the right amount of mix to make you keep turning the pages. I believe most of the time names fit the person or perhaps the person will grow to fit the name. Names are important in a story because when I imagine the character and set the scene I want to say "Yep, that's him". We have some really good ones in our family and the men DO fit the names. I will be reading your work. Thank you.
(Margie Gagarin 9:10pm March 22, 2012)

Enjoyed reading about your process for naminh your characters. Book sounds lovely!
(Mary C 9:20pm March 22, 2012)

I have loved and will always love the name Acheron. No author other than Sherrilyn Kenyon should ever use it. It is a very strong name. I Hate (with a capital H) the weird names that I can't pronounce.
(Jennifer Beyer 10:01pm March 22, 2012)

Character names... their have been a few that I was not a fan of, but it did not stop me from enjoying the character's journey... found some I had never heard of before, some that are very interesting, etc...
(Colleen Conklin 11:02pm March 22, 2012)

Violet sounds like my kind of person. I'll readily admit I love it when secondary characters have such wonderfully fun sounding names, and when they hold ideas like names are too confining.
(Lisa Kendall 12:12pm March 23, 2012)

I can definitely use something a little off the wall right now. And I love the names, especially Moonbeam et al. I'm ok with Andy as well as Drew, though one Andy I know always misnamed me deliberately until I started calling him Andrea. I love Violet's name; along with snowdrops, forsythia's and red poppies, they're among my favorite flowers.
(Sigrun Schulz 2:40am March 23, 2012)

Oh, yes. I forgot about the accounting. I used to do that and I had enough fun moments to cause diversions from boredom, as when my boss told me, "So what if it's off by $1. Who cares?" Well, I did. And a good thing too. I think that was the year we had a government audit.
(Sigrun Schulz 2:46am March 23, 2012)

I really enjoy reading humorous books. There is too much angst in real life, so I don't enjoy reading about it.
(Molly Wilsbacher 8:14am March 23, 2012)

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