Character Names
in River Bones, a Thriller

Character names need to be planned carefully. Beside the usual villains and heroines found in mysteries, I needed to have some story people with quirks and eccentricities. Names help set up characterization.

Selecting names for use in my first thriller, River Bones, was both fun and a lot of work.

I’d already written two novels and chosen great names for characters in those. So once a name is used for a character in one book, it cannot be used for a different character in any subsequent story. I also try to avoid reusing names when writing short stories.

The exceptions are when you write sequels using the same characters, or when you’ve written so many books you’ve used up every great name you can find. But that’s nearly impossible.

We create characters to be any type of person we need them to be. Doing a little research to make the names compliment the personalities can cinch how your reader loves or hates your fictional people.

In this study of the characters in River Bones, the meanings of most names are included. I usually first refer to my old copy of The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. Sometimes I peruse baby naming books as well.

So, using names to enhance story people, what follows is the list I settled on, their meanings, and their placement in the story.

Page Middle - Final Notes

River Bones

A Sara Mason Mystery

Great character names make your story people memorable. Taken from the US Review of Books review, this is what they say about some of the River Bones characters:

    These characters will remain memorable long after the mystery has been solved, leaving readers with a hope to hear more from this talented author.

The Complete Character Names Section

The Main Characters:

Sara May Mason - (princess, daughter of Atlas, works in stone) – Protagonist/Heroine

Daphine (Daph) Ella Whelan – (victory, beautiful fairy, joyful) – Sara’s best friend

Linette Alden - (little lion, wise friend) Buck’s wife, Sara’s high school friend

Buck Alden - (male deer, wise friend) Linette’s husband, Sara’s distant cousin

Pierce Newton - (rock, from the farm) Sara’s crush in high school, struck by lightning

Esmerelda (ET or Esme) Talbot - (Emerald, bloodhound) Former owner of Talbot House, founder of River Hospice

Fredrik Verner - (peaceful ruler, friend/protector) Nurse - Director at Esmerelda’s River Hospice

Tripp Unwyn - (traveler) Esmerelda’s hospice groundskeeper

Johanna Conroy - (persistent, fighter) Sheriff’s deputy

Xavier Isidoro - (owns new house, gifted ideas) Sheriff’s deputy

Huxley (Hux) Keane - (from Hugh’s meadow/intelligent, sharp) Esmerelda’s elusive friend

Crazy Ike Ames – Man in fog who digs in graveyards


Creating names for animals was an interesting job. Animal temperaments needed to be studied to choose the best breed to fit the plot. Animals played a huge part in this story.

    Puppies (sister & brother):

    Choco – Chocolate brown male pit bull puppy
    Latte – Coffee & cream female pit bull puppy

    Mimie la Jolie - (protector, the beautiful) Esmerelda’s black Standard Poodle

Sara’s Family

People names are also important for deceased people who show up in the story. They have a history, a reason why they are gone.

When they play a huge part in the personalities of heroines and villains, you develop them a bit. At times, only a few sentences may be needed.

    Quincy Everett Mason (5th son’s place, stone) Sara's deceased father

    Petra Lou Mason (rock, stone) Sara's deceased mother

    Starla Gay Mason (star, stone) Sara's deceased sister

High School Friends

I found myself spending time creating names and personalities for those who were not real active in the story, but who had “speaking parts.” At times, these were not background or filler characters. They came to the front when their scene called for it to happen. Then they receded again.

    Zoki Yoshi - (honest, tranquil) Caterer

    Luningning (Luni) Rasay - Filipino fisherman, bait/boat shop. Val’s brother

    Valeriano (Val) Rasay - Filipino fisherman, bait/boat shop. Luni’s brother

    Herbert Frayne - Class President

    Iana Underhill - classmate missing since 1994

In choosing names for those with minor parts, I did not spend as much time on their meanings, in fact, couldn't find any since I made up a couple names!


When choosing what to call your story people, there are always those who remain in the background. They are only mentioned or seen in passing. They “fill a scene” and most likely a line or two will describe them. So, too, will their actions, even though they may not speak a word.

Quite a few of the people in this list do speak, however their scenes are short. But don’t let that fool you. When creating character names to portray anyone in your story, you must develop them, perhaps by their actions, which will usually suffice.

Final Notes - To Top

Kuan Qiong - (Jade, well-off, fine jade) Daphine’s daughter

Kuan Ying - (Hawk, well-off, hawk) Jade’s father. Daphine’s exhusband

Orson Talbot - (bear, bloodhound) Esmerelda’s husband

Jonas - Hospice patient

Woller - artist

Zara and Fred – Linette’s dinner friends.

Demetrio – one of Esmerelda’s hospice employees

Betty – Esmerelda’s daughter

Morgana – classmate who liked Pierce

Caren Olof York – High school classmate, wealthy, snobby

Norwood York – Classmate, Sacramento Police Commissioner

Mrs. Zheng – Pierce’s landlady

Fletcher Grable - Farmer

Xena – Part owner of Coffee Oasis

Paula Rowe – body identified

Laura Baines – body identified

Margot – Esmerelda catered her party.

Detective Vance – Female

Detective De Giorgio - Male

Lt. Gary Quill – Runs Sheriff’s K-9 Unit

Pete Carswell – Sara’s American boarder

Beni Noa – Sara’s tattooed Hawaiian boarder

Representative Stanley Poole & Nelda - Esmerelda's friends

Upton Zeno – Sacramento County Sheriff

John Glosser – declared missing

More About Character Names

My novels may seem to have many characters. Actually, the main characters are the ones readers will follow in the story.

If you read any novel and list the characters you find there, you will see that every book contains many who people the story. Most of them fill the background of scenes but they are there.

Even the dilapidated, haunted mansion was named Talbot House because the Talbots once owned it. In choosing a name for the house, I closely considered the last name of the Talbots to make sure it would sound great as a name for the house. Creating character names touches every aspect of a story.

Choose character names that are relevant to a particular locale or time period.

Important, too, when setting a story in your hometown area, as I have with River Bones, choosing character names means being careful not to use names of friends or anyone else in the area.

It's important to do more than just research names for heroines, heroes, and villains.

I also make a list of full INITIALS of each character. I don’t want two or three people with same or similar initials, no matter how different the names sound.

    When creating characters for River Bones, I have Sara and her sister emotionally close to one another. In this case, the names are similar for a purpose: Sara May Mason and Starla Gay Mason.

    They fact that their parents named them similarly also makes a point for the personalities of the parents. That adds to the parents’ characterization.

In creating character names, avoid naming your heroes or villains something like John Foster Day and your villain James Frederick Dunn. The initials are the same and when speaking or reading the names, John Day and James Dunn are just too close and would confuse your reader. The same applies to heroines and other females who people your plots.

    Take the time to plan the names to fit their intended personalities and the specific character they play in your story.

Great character names are one aspect of a story that people remember. Character names and characterization can make your story memorable.

Love building characters? Have your own names picked out? Start your book now with tips and information to get you going.

Write It Right - Tips for Authors -

The Book Book

Find these books here:

The Big Book -

River Bones -

Back to Top - Page Middle

Return from Character Names to Media Room

Return from Character Names to Home Page