Veronica Wolff, author of Isle of Night, a creepy vampire novel featuring a cute teenager and a not-so-cute fight to the death (which you can begin on Figment here), knows a thing or two about sexy vamps and the sexy names that go with them. She answers our questions about naming names, namely the names of her characters.
Annelise and Ronan are both interesting names. How do you choose names for your characters, and do you think any of the names reflect certain characteristics?
I love naming characters. Sometimes it’s totally random, like, “Hey, Josh sounds good, let’s go with that.” Or, “Hugo’s a cool name.”
Other times it’s more constructed, as with Annelise Drew. For her, I wanted something more charged. She has this very feminine name—Annelise—that she refuses, choosing instead to be called the stronger and more genderless Drew. Annelise feels like something that hearkens back to the mother she barely knew—the name connects her to this other, truer self that she’s forced to hide in order to survive. It’s no coincidence that Ronan is the one to recognize her “Annelise-ness.”
As for Ronan? Easy. I just thought that sounded like something a hot guy might be named.
When creating your characters, do you have any specific characteristics or personalities in mind? What’s the process behind their creation?
There is no straightforward answer to this—each character is different. Some of them come to me all at once, smacking me from behind, like a wave in the surf. Drew was like that. I’d had the world and the scenario in my head for some time, then sat down one evening and boom, there she was. She was so vivid, it was like I was recalling a memory.
Other characters are harder. Like Ronan. I knew I wanted him to be a certain way, but I always try to dig deeper and ask the why questions. Like, I knew he was a loner, but I needed the back story in my head to (hopefully) make him feel richer and more complex than, “Hey, here’s a cute guy.” You won’t get his entire story in this book, or maybe even in the next, but trust me, it’s in there.
The bad guys are the hardest for me. I want to avoid making them feel clichéd or one-dimensional. It’s a challenge not having a villain who jumps too obviously off the page. I think the best baddies are the charming ones, the ones in whom you can also see the good.