Saturday, April 17, 2021

What's in a Name?

 Our Round Robin topic for April is: How do you choose your characters' names? Are there any you avoid?

The origin of names goes so far back into history, there is more than one truth or theory, depending on the era, the culture, and what part of the world a character comes from.

 What is clear is that names mostly stemmed from a need for identity and connection within families and communities.

People were often named for the trade in which they were skilled like the English surnames Smith, Baker, Archer, and Tyler, or after the towns or countries from where they originated like York, Hamilton, or French.

First names were often handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, which could get confusing if you had a long line of Edwards or Marys and even more so if, like the boxer George Foreman, all his five sons were named George. Today it seems anyone can name a child anything and often seems more by fancy than reason.

As an author of historical romance, I have most of my work done for me as all I need do is Google the popular male and female names for any given year and go from there. Please note: Google is a starting point, not the be-all and end-all for any type of research. I have also used parish records and names found on tombstones to be full of information, too.

Light from Beyond

Because my settings are mostly English, I can pinpoint the county my characters populate and run a list of names for that area. My next Regency romance is set in the New Forest in the county of Hampshire, England, so I am currently researching surnames from that area in the early 1800s.

Once I have a list of names, I consider how easy those names are to pronounce and if the first and second names not only fit together, but also suit my characters. Into that mix I must consider the intricacies of the British peerage if I include lords and ladies in my books. Burke’s Peerage is an invaluable resource for this.

One thing that I find frustrating is when I come across a name in a book and have no knowledge of how to pronounce it. In this instance Google is my friend, as you can search ‘how to pronounce’ whatever the name is and listen to the result. That is why I would never use an invented name in any of my books unless I can qualify it in some way for my reader to easily understand it.

In my current work in progress, a contemporary western romantic suspense, my female character is Callie. Where did that come from? Her mother (like mine!) loved calla lilies, so I have worked that into the story. It is just a small detail which I think (hope) gives my character a little more reality.

Now I'm going to take a look at what ideas my fellow Round Robing bloggers have to offer. I hope you'll join me.


Skye Taylor

Diane Bator

Anne Stenhouse

Beverley Bateman

Helena Fairfax

Dr. Bob Rich

Marci Baun

Judith Copek

Connie Vines

Fiona McGier

Rhobin L Courtright