Thursday, July 7, 2016


I almost have as much trouble naming the characters in my novels as I did naming my children. But writing Southern novels makes it a little easier since there are so many colorful names from which to choose. And colorful equals memorable, in my opinion. It’s a pretty safe bet that if someone has a unique name, they’re going to be . . . well, a character.

Double names are big in the South. They came about as a way to both honor and appease family members. If a child was named for the mother’s sister, she had to be given the name of the father’s sister too. They didn’t want anybody to feel left out. The Closer had two great examples in Brenda Lee and Willie Mae. I love Eula Lee, Dora Sue, and Edna Maye from my family. Women aren’t the only ones with double names. If you live in the South, you know at least one man named Joe Bob, Jimmy Lee, or Billy Ray. It should be an unwritten rule that Southern novels have to have at least one character with a double name.

And nicknames? Child, nobody loves a nickname like a Southerner does. Whether they’re shortening a perfectly good name, like Araminta to Mint, or giving someone a whole new moniker altogether, nicknames abound, and the more unusual the better. When it comes to a name, which would a reader remember more—Tom, Dick, or Harry, or Brick, Skeeter, or Booger? Those kinds of names add richness to a character and a story, in my opinion. (No offense to Tom, Dick, or Harry.) My family had Uncle Toad. Nobody seems to know how he got that nickname, but one thing was for sure: he had a great sense of humor.

Sometimes the nickname fits the character, like Beedy Eyes Hickman or Slewfoot Taylor. It’s a pretty safe bet what those dudes look like. Some names are ironic, like Tiny Walker, who is six foot four and weighs three hundred pounds. Other times, there’s no rhyme or reason why someone came to be known as Spoodle, or Little Bun, Murble, or Boojay. But they certainly are memorable.

And then there are the names like the basketball coach, Tubby Smith, who got his nickname not from his size but because he liked to take baths when he was a kid. But my favorite one is Blister. Everyone knows if your nickname is Blister it tells the world you’re a lazy, good for nothing so-and-so who never shows up until the work is done.

Men’s nicknames seem to be more colorful than women’s, for some reason. Who knows how someone came to be called Stumpy, Moo, Big Curly, Cotton, Cactus, Howdy, or Tuffy, but you can bet they’re not boring. Women tend to get the tamer, but still memorable, names such as Teenie, Liddy, Precious, Princess, Bitsie, or Bunny.

Maybe I’m biased, but Southern characters are my favorite. History, culture, dialect, and expressions vibrantly come alive in books about the South and its charismatic characters with distinctive names. I mean, only in the south would you find a person, not a restaurant, named Taco Belle. And only in the Goose Pimple Junction mysteries will you find Pickle, Peanut, Butterbean, Skeeter, Brick, Tank, Slick, and Junebug.


Amy Metz is the owner of this blog, the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mystery series, and a mom. The fourth book in her series, Rogues & Rascals in Goose Pimple Junction was released in May. The audiobook of the first in the series, Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction, became available for sale in June.

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*This post has been slightly altered since it first appeared on the blog Suite T.