What to name your villain

One of the scariest villains in literature, Medusa was just a woman done wrong by a goddess.

One of the scariest villains in literature, Medusa was just a woman done wrong by a goddess.

As I steadily made my way through some edits my agent asked for, I came to a note that asked me to reconsider the villain’s name. “It seems dowdy,” she said.

Vera isn’t the most modern of names, but the book takes place nearly a hundred years ago. Still, I never loved it. Even though I agonized over the protagonist’s name, changing it three times, and soliciting help from blog readers, I didn’t give that kind of attention to the villain. I figured I didn’t need to love her name. She’s the villain!

But today, as I considered a change, I decided to look up bad gal names, and came across this yahoo.com post from 2010. I knew about Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, and it feels like a fit since it’s a Caribbean story, and there are plenty of Hindus in the Caribbean. But I also like the name Callie, which sounds the same. Eris seems like the next best choice, but I’d have to use Eris’s in the book, and that’s the kind of thing that will trip kids up. Deyanira? No.

Then I considered the Disney/obvious route and using a name that begins with Mal, like Malificient. Even Rowling got in on this with the Malfoy clan. But there are plenty of great young Mal’s out there like Malala Yousafzai and Malia Obama.

Last night I thought of something between sleep and wake. Today, I discovered it’s been done. Back to the drawing board! If you can think of anything that’s creepy but still pretty, throw it my way. I’ll happily take suggestions.

In the meantime, check out this list of the 50 greatest literary villains. (Voldemorta? Nah!)

[Image from morguefile.com]


2 thoughts on “What to name your villain

  1. injaynesworld says:

    Vera doesn’t seem like a Caribbean name to me. What is her nationality and where on the islands does she come from? That would be where I would start. Or, you could just ask her. Try it before you go to sleep tonight. I’ve always found creative problems solved that way. Good luck.

  2. Tracey says:

    Asking her is a great idea, Jayne. I’ll try that tonight and let you know.
    I do know a couple of Veras in T’dad actually. But I still don’t love the name.

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