What kind of a name is Rudolph…for a serial killer?

…Or Bambi for that matter. How do you choose your characters names? Does it all come to you in one neat little package along with their eccentricities and hair color? Or do you find yourself making a list and checking it twice to see if you’ve been naughty and already used that name?

Vlad Some names come with baggage right out of the box. Bubba and Igor come to mind. But sometimes a bit of preconception makes sense. Though it has been over seven hundred years since his infamous war strategies, the mere mention of Vlad’s name conjures up visions of blood and daggers. Adding edgy names to quirky characters is a great way to introduce them to your audience. You also wouldn’t want to name your eighteenth century character Brittany or Jayden. Naming a female character Ashley in that same period would raise an eyebrow or two.

There are also rules. Rhyming is frowned upon for couples (Mary and Larry sitting in a tree…), as is choosing a name that sounds suspiciously similar to an already famous character’s name such as Thames Bond. Some people feel that names beginning with hard consonants like Trent add strength to a character while Barbara adds a softer touch. Sir names can be used as tools to describe genealogy (Patty O’Brien) or to add a bit of descriptive humor (Johnny B. Goode).

Zombies fall into two camps when it comes to names. The mindless hoards don’t requireZombie names at all unless they are active (as active as a zombie can be), such as a fight scene. In this case, they are identified with nicknames such as Peg Leg or Martha Stewart (sorry Martha!). The other camp contains those unfortunate loved ones that either died or were infected and turned. These zombies almost always retain their original names, though there are frequently a few words to make the task at hand more palatable such as, “Shoot it in the head honey, your Aunt Bell is with the Lord now.”

Now back to ole Rudolph. In real life, names of killers come in a variety of flavors. Assassins tend to use those memorable full three word names, John Wilkes Book or Lee Harvey Oswald. Serial killers tend to use names that ride a bit more under the radar like Ted Bundy. The worst of them by body count had nicknames attached like Luis Garavito and Pedro Lopez, AKA “La Bestia” and “The Monster of the Andes”. For fiction, this does leave the writer with a huge gotcha opportunity. Mild mannered Penny or milk toast Walt may just turn out to be your next headlined thrasher.

ImaginationIt also brings us back to the drawing board. The geographic history of the character, the time period, and the genre, all play a role in appropriate character naming. Hidden meanings and references within a name might add some additional clues to a character’s personality. All that is great for an intro, but the best way to let the reader know your character is still to draw rich characters the old fashioned way, one word and scene at a time.

Bad Day Books is seeking submissions that take horror, thrillers, suspense, and apocalyptic fiction in unique edgy directions. If you can keep us up all night turning the page, send your submission to editor@baddaybooks.com.

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It’s that time of year. The air is getting crisp, the nights are getting long, and my book list is getting short. Time to stock up and settle in. As I dust of the shelf to prepare it for some new edgy talent, I catch a moving shadow out of the corner of my eye. Is it just anticipation of the next thriller on the shelf; a bit of fall jitters; or does something more sinister lurk behind the door to the den?

Uh oh, I think I heard a scratching. It could have been Jack Bauer drawing his weapon as he flew by the window on his way to save the world. Was that, “Sorry, ma’am, I’m a federal agent,” I heard? Or was it the crackle of cooling glass from Jack Frost nipping at the window? Maybe it was Jack the Ripper whisking a surgical knife swiftly from beneath his black garb.

Okay, enough of this. Snap out of it. It’s time to switch gears. A little popcorn and T.V. is just what the doctor ordered. It might not make sense to you, but a good horror movie always calms me down on a stormy night like this. If you see that it’s made up, it can’t be real, right? Something grade B… “Evil Dead II” will be just perfect. I feel better already just watching ole Bruce as Ash heading off toward the cabin in that silly car again. Oh yeah, popcorn. While the microwave is popping I think I’ll run downstairs and grab a soda. Darn. The basement fridge is empty. Oh well, out to the garage.

Hey! What happened to the lights? Always the optimist, I realize that the breaker box is down here too. It must have been the microwave that flipped a breaker. Arms extended, a little dizzy from the sudden blackness, I turn and slowly head toward… Ouch! I must have tripped on something on the floor. Disoriented now, I try to get up, but my left leg won’t hold any weight. Still in utter blackness, something crashes to the right, followed by grumbling. Is someone in here? Deep breaths, it’s just my imagination.

The utter vacuum of sight and sound from the power failure overwhelms me. I sit completely still surrounded by the nothingness. I can hear my heart beating in my ears. Now completely disoriented, I slowly extend my arms and lower them toward the ground, hoping to latch onto a familiar object that will orient me. My left hand finds something, rounded at the end. It moves! My hand jumps back as I gasp. A shoe!

So what is it: a zombie, or maybe a serial killer? Did someone deliberately cut the lights to the house, or this the first chapter in an apocalypse? I think I’ll skip the movie and start loading up my Kindle. Better yet, I’ll head to the book store. If somebody’s going to have a bad day, I’d rather read about it or write about it than be about it. How about you?

 Bad Day Books

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Just another bad day?

They say that there are only seven stories and that Shakespeare wrote them already. Really? I must have missed the one he wrote about a family of circus freaks breeding their own brand of deformities. Or how about that girl who shot half her face off to gain attention that her parents lavished on her brother who it turns out is… Billy? Oh, I know! There was that one where the guy shoots his best friend over a girl, only to find out that it was really him. Well, okay, I’ll give you that one, but only if Romeo and Juliet occupied the same mind.

No ghosts or goblins in those. Fear is most effective when it enters the reader’s comfort zone, what they see every day, their own flesh. A good horror, thriller, or suspense book should have you scared to approach the toaster in the morning, afraid to start your car, terrified to walk on the grass. And God only knows what horrible fate is ready to spring out from under your bed, or through the ceiling vent.

Humanity itself is a breeding ground for terror. It can rip the veil off your complacent life in a single word. Finding out that your husband is really a … or your wife. How about your child? What lurks in your every day relationships, in your household items, at the ball game, or at work?

What do you really know about that nice manager at the grocery story who always helps you load your car? How about your kid’s teachers, your co-workers? How could protect yourself if something went wrong on the train? Is any vacation really safe? Okay, so you’re a trained operative, but you weren’t trained for this one at the hostage SEAL camp. Better yet, what if you wake up some day to a complete societal breakdown?

I don’t want to hear about what has you too scared to turn off the lights at night. Sure, that’s fun but what I’d really like to know about is this. What evil has you frozen in fear in broad daylight? It’s not about what has you biting your nails, it’s about who’s biting them. What’s got you scared?

Bad Day Books

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