Hi Duana,

I don't know if this falls under your domain, but I need some more name advice. I am writing some erotica and need some universally (is that even possible!?) attractive names. Part of me thinks it's not that important but then I think of libido killers like Mortimer and can't deny how significant it might be. No offence to all the Mortimers out there....I'm sure some are good in bed. 

There are no candles, romantic walks, or longing looks in these stories. It's all pretty ordinary. Hoping the names will be too. Accessible but with obvious sex appeal. Would love your insight but realize this is not a typical request.






First of all, not our typical question but very, very timely for the new normal of everyone being horny at home. Second, I actually have quite a few opinions on this, and third, it gives me the chance to tell one of my favourite stories. 

Like every other red-blooded partnered person, I am always jonesing to play with my single friends’ dating apps. And, more than once – more than ten times – I have screeched as my friend swipes left on a given candidate. “Wait, no! S/He had a really hot name!” 

Which gives credence to your theory that just like there are hot names, there are names that are not hot. Caveats apply, obviously, you can hate a name until you meet someone amazing with said name, and I never thought I’d be attracted to a ‘Phillip’ until The Americans (and subsequently, a bartender around the corner from my house… holy f*ck) but where erotica is concerned, you don’t have a hot face or a thumping music track to help you out. Ergo, here’s my secret to hot names for steamy purposes… 

The name should be uncommon, but theoretically possible. In short, an old-fashioned soap opera name. Here’s why: 


I completely understand the instinct to name characters very generic, I-can-project-myself-onto-them names. But if you name your main character Dave, for example, and my boss or my terrible ex is named Dave – boom. All of a sudden, I’m out of it. Ditto for Mike/Matt/Adam/Ryan; everyone’s mileage will vary, of course, but there are so many of them that you stand to lose people on that front. That said, Nick seems to be the exception on that front. 

This goes double for women’s names, because there tend to be more of them in general. I’ve seen some amateur erotica, told in the first person, where a bunch of hot young people are about to do hot dirty things, and then all of a sudden it’s “Ann decided that she, Carol and Phyllis were going upstairs and I eagerly followed.” Come on! 

Now it’s worth pointing out that these name rules don’t apply to straight fiction, especially pop/beach reads. There, the more generic the name, the more you can put yourself in the situation. But of course, people read erotica for situations they might never be in – or want to be in – in real life, so a bit of separation can be pretty healthy. 


This is where – I apologize in advance – I have to give it up to 50 Shades of Grey. Anastasia and Christian are a lot less likely to be people you know in real life, statistically, than Matt and Katie, or Megan and Jon, or Kelly and Meg, so you don’t have to feel too guilty reading about them but, then again, you *could* know them. If a Christian or an Anastasia walked into your office or neighbourhood tomorrow, it’s not like you’d say, “Sorry, excuse me, WHO? What’s your name? 

Now, of course, adjust as needed. I mentioned the soap opera factor, and I think it stands – I would love erotica about people named Blake and Fallon, for example. But if you want to make it more down-to-earth, more inclusive, more hipster or normcore or whatever, you still can, you just want to make sure the names you choose are slightly unusual for your tone and setting. But not so unusual (looking at you, Mortimer) that it takes you out of the fantasy altogether.

So, if it’s set on a farm in middle America? Maybe Zoe, or Clio, or Zeke, or Damon or Anya. Mid-life crisis? Valerie and Heath? Elias and Gregory? If you’re in a college dorm, Amaya or Dominic or Leith or Lucille. If it’s a Zaddy situation… you get the idea. 

I think the key is to have the names be not crazy outlandish or complicated, but distinct enough that they’re a pleasure to visit (no pun intended) and distinct enough that they don’t blur upsettingly in real life. Unless that’s your thing. 

L, you didn’t ask for this specifically, but I suspect there are going to be a lot of readers submitting their sexiest names. I’ll round ‘em up next week if you guys are into it. 

And of course… let us know.