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Floundering in Atlanta by Constance Gillam




I’m starting a new book and don’t have a title, and not one character name. All I have is a premise.

Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but I’m feeling a little insecure about this project.  This untitled book is a historical.  I’ve never written anything other than contemporary. The subject matter is heavy and I want everything to be perfect.

The first think that attracts me to a book is it’s title, next the cover art. If I like the character’s names, (and the premise), I settle back with a smile on my face and look forward to a good read.

I know eventually I’ll have a title and character names, but I’d like to know how you, the writer, come up with title and character names for your new books. I’d also like to know how you, the reader, feel about names. For me, it almost makes the book.

 The 5th Realm:

Lakota Dreaming, coming March 2014

Find the author at:



Twitter: @conniegillam


Pam Asberry - February 25, 2014 - 12:14 am

Connie, I heard an unusual name at the restaurant where I dined Saturday night and it totally got me unstuck with my YA manuscript. It also gave me a new title to replace the boring working title I had. So that’s how I came up with THAT title and character name, LOL!

Marilyn Baron - February 25, 2014 - 6:56 am

This is an excellent topic. I never start a book without a title. In fact, it’s the title that first gives me the inspiration for the book. I feel the same way you do about character names because sometimes they play a role in the book. Like my character Jack in Homecoming Homicides. The heroine broke off their engagement because he cheated on her with her best friend. But she still keeps a box of mementoes from him that she calls her Jack-in-a-box. And there are a lot of Jack jokes. Once I came up with a secondary character name while I was waiting at Bloomingdale’s for a gift wrap. And I got the name Bitsy Diamond. You can get a name in the strangest places. It’s serendipity but the point is I can’t start or move forward without the title and character names.

Susan Carlisle - February 25, 2014 - 9:23 am

I don’t get to title any of my books so I just call them by the characters names. The only advice I have is to make the title three to five words. Anything over that is hard for the author to write. Good luck!

Connie Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 9:23 am

Usually, I have a working title, but I don’t even have that for this book.

Granted I’m still in the planning phase, but I usually have one or the other. I think it’s because I want this book to be so perfect.

Connie Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 10:51 am

Susan, that sucks!

My title is my inspiration while I’m working on the book. That doesn’t bother you?

Tamara LeBlanc - February 25, 2014 - 11:16 am

Historical?!? Am I missing something? Have you talked about this with us & I was just too wrapped up in my own little world to have noticed? We need to work on this on Saturday if we’re meeting and yes, I think character names need to be considered with care for the most part. That being said, unless their name is DirtDog or @ssbackwards, I could care less if they’ve got a boring name like Harold or Maude as long as the story sings, I’m good.

Connie Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 12:24 pm

Tamara, you’re too funny.

And no, we haven’t talked about this new book. As far as DirtDog, that isn’t an option.

Sandy Elzie - February 25, 2014 - 3:23 pm

Well, if names aren’t already jumping out of my head, I watch the names that scroll past at the end of movies or some of my favorite TV shows (like NCIS) Sometimes a name will literally jump out and suddenly my character’s name is in cement.

If that fails, I also have a book of names…yes, like trying to pick out a name for an upcoming child.

Judith Laik - February 25, 2014 - 8:23 pm

I have a hard time with titles. I usually start with a working title, and often it’s a character’s name. Names come to me in a variety of names. Sometimes there’s a name associated with a character from the start and it just is. But, for those occasions when that doesn’t happen, I have about ten name books, and I’ll go through one or more of them until something hits me. I’m going through title anxiety with my current project. It’s been the heroine’s name, but I don’t think that will garner readers like I hope this book to do, so I’m trying to come up with something different.

Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn - February 25, 2014 - 9:42 pm

I don’t worry too much about a title. I usually title the manuscript one thing and throughout the actual writing of the book, a better one makes itself known.

A Suitable Wife had two other titles before I settled on the one that fit best. But the main character names I have to settle on before I can write them. It’s like, if I don’t know their name, how can I figure out their personality? I’ve even named a main character only to stop in the first chapter and search for another because it doesn’t feel right. Occasionally a secondary character will smack me upside the head and let me know that their name doesn’t fit. Once the name clicks, I can write them easier.

marymarvella - February 25, 2014 - 10:06 pm

Call it “Historical Novel” for now. You can change it when a brilliant idea hits you. That’s what I do.

Constance Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 10:10 pm


Good luck with a title for your current wip. I feel your frustration.

Constance Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 10:11 pm


I think that’s my problem. I can’t start until I have a name for my main character (female) that fits her. Until I do, I won’t be able to tell her story.

Maxine - February 25, 2014 - 10:11 pm

Connie, I am terrible at titles and usually character names. I see the character and the name fits, but it can be changed. Title? My are Mountain Book, Airplane book, Wyoming book, well, you get the picture. I need to talk to someone about how to come up with a title!

Constance Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 10:11 pm


Yes, I’ve used the book of baby names also.

Constance Gillam - February 25, 2014 - 10:13 pm


That would drive me crazy. LOL

MJ Flournoy - February 25, 2014 - 10:36 pm

The names are of major importance to me when I’m reading. If I don’t care for the character’s name, I won’t care for the book. I’m funny that way. I sometimes have a title before I have a plot, then the characters take root and the plot changes then I have to find a new title. So around and around I go.

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