Gold Nuggets by Lynn Lovegreen

Writers Amusing Ourselves: Character Names

I’ve often been asked how I come up with the names of my characters. To be honest, most of the time I’m amusing myself, as many writers do with character names. With actual historical figures, of course, I’m using their real names. But since I write fiction, most of the characters can have whatever names I chose.

For minor characters, I often use the names of family and friends, sometimes in their old-fashioned forms to match the time period. For my heroines, like Ada, Ellie, Elizabeth, and Charlotte I pick names that fit the time period and their personalities. (By the way, Charlotte in Gold Nuggets, my newest novel, had her name years before the English princess was born, but it’s kind of a neat coincidence.) The only exception was Jeannie in Quicksilver to Gold; she has the middle name of a special young lady. You can read more about that in this post:

Writers sometimes come up with little inside jokes that readers may or may not notice. Once I had Charlotte, and gave her two sisters, I named them all after the Bronte sisters, so I got Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It was kind of plausible, since their mother was a former schoolmarm and avid reader.

For the names of my Gold Rush heroes, I amused myself by using a pattern. Each has a first name of a Western movie actor and a last name of a real Western lawman. For example, Duke Masterson is from the Duke (John Wayne) and Bat Masterson. I also have Tom Hickock, Clint Tilghman, and James Garrett. The hero in Gold Nuggets is Henry Reeves, from Henry Fonda and Bass Reeves. (If you haven’t heard of Bass Reeves, he’s a fascinating character in himself—go look him up!)

I’m still making appearances for the new book. Online, you can see more about Gold Nuggets today at Carlene Havel’s blog at

Kim McMahill will feature me on her blog on July 12th at

I’ll write a post for the new Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog at

And if you’re in Fairbanks, join me for an Alaska Writers Guild talk on July 14th (at the Bear Gallery at 7 pm).

And of course you can buy Gold Nuggets at

or your favorite online retailer.

Thanks for reading this. Hope you’re amusing yourself this summer with whatever you enjoy doing!

I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.


  • Emily Paige Skeen

    Interesting! I haven’t come up with any fun ways of creating character names; they’re usually just names I’ve always liked. But from now on, you can bet I’ll try to make it more crafty!

  • Paty Jager

    Fun post Lynn. I like to haunt old cemeteries and gather names that fit the time period of my westerns. I don’t use the full names I mix up the first and last like you do with the actors and lawmen. I also use a baby name book if I want a particular culture. Naming characters is the best part of writing a book!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.