How I choose the names of my characters in my crime novels

Getting the right name for characters in my crime novels can be a tricky business. Sometimes they come to me completely out of the blue as I am creating a character, other times I will struggle to find the name that best suits that particular character and until I do the personality refuses to come fully alive. So here is how I choose the names for my characters: 
1. The name has to fit. If it's not right then the character isn't right. 

2. The name also needs to fit with the age and nationality although you can have exceptions. 
3. When seeking inspiration for first names I turn to my little book of baby's names or I will look them up on the internet.

4. I also keep an ear out for any unusual or interesting names when meeting people and will jot these down. 
5. Cemeteries are also a great inspiration for first names and for surnames although Idon't pick the same first and surname of a deceased person.

6. Looking at rolling credits on films and TV programmes can also provide me with inspiration.

7. When it comes to choosing surnames I let my fingers do the choosing and tend to pick these out of an atlas or street map. Then I see if it fits with the first name and the character.

However the more novels I write, the more I am in danger of repeating names. It's very easy to forget the names I have already used and eagle-eyed readers may spot these! Readers also tell me that some novelists have too many characters’ surnames all beginning with the same letter and they find this very confusing. I scrutinise my work to check that not everyone has a surname beginning with the letter ‘C’ or 'A' or 'B' come to that but we all make mistakes.

Overusing a name is another pitfall. For some reason I seem to have a penchant for the name Eric, and when I did a search through previous novels found that I’d used it before for different characters, albeit minor ones. So no more Erics ( if I can help it!). 

And where did the name of my main character in my contemporary Solent Murder Mystery series spring from - Detective Inspector Andy Horton? I've no idea. It just came to mind. It was only recently however that I was contacted by his namesake in the Hampshire Police Force. A polite e mail asked me whether he had inspired the name and/or the character. I replied saying that if he was indeed tall, fit and handsome then maybe? The police officer replied saying he was tall, fit, and his wife thought him rather handsome. I was somewhat relieved to find the real Inspector Houghton had a sense of humour and spelt his name differently.

There is also my 1950s set Inspector Ryga mystery series

So how did I come up with his name?Ryga (rhymes with Tiger) started off as Inspector Rees because he has a welsh background but had left Wales when he was 15 to join the Merchant Navy like his father. Ryga is actually Latvia’s capital on the Baltic Sea but that had no influence on my choice of the name. It wasn’t until I had got well into Eva Paisley’s character (a former war photographer who teems up with Ryga in his investigations) that I discovered from her lips ‘Rees’ didn’t sound right. Eva rarely calls him by his first name. I tried Regan but that kept making me think of the British TV programme The Sweeney with Regan in it (the marvellous actor, John Thaw) and my character was the opposite to him so I played around with it, dropped the ‘n’ got Rega then changed the ‘e’ to ‘y’ and got Ryga. It sounded good coming from the mouths of the other characters, Eva Paisley in particular. I liked it and it stuck.
I'll save telling you about former marine commando turned undercover investigator Art Marvik for another day. 

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