Friday, July 1, 2011

What's in a Name?

Welcome to today's Friday Friend who introduces herself:

Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!  I'm Linda Banche, and I write witty, sweet/sensual Regency romances with nary a rake or royal in sight. Most contain humor, some fantasy, and occasionally a little paranormal. But comedy is my love, and I've created my own wacky blend of humor and Regency with stories that can elicit reactions from a gentle smile to a belly laugh.

Like many other romance authors, I read romances for years before I wrote my own. Once I tried, I quickly discovered how difficult writing is. Did I stop? No, I'm persistent--that's French for "too stupid to quit".

I live in New England and like aerobics and ducks.

So, laugh along with me on a voyage back to the Regency era. Me and my ducks. Quack.

Novel Names

In any novel, the names of the characters are important. "George" conjures up a different image than "Slade".

In addition to the connotation, names also should be appropriate to the time and genre. If you're writing an historical, don't name your heroine Britney or your hero Rock. For science fiction and fantasy, made-up names work since the names are supposed to be out of the ordinary, and names from today's newspapers work for contemporaries.

Since I write Regencies, I stick with fairly plain names. The names of British kings and queens were popular during the era, and I've named my heroes Richard (Lady of the Stars), Henry (Pumpkinnapper), Charles (Mistletoe Everywhere) and Stephen (Gifts Gone Astray). My heroines so far don't quite mesh with the monarch theme. Richard's heroine is Caroline, Henry's is Emily, Charles has his Penelope and Stephen, Anne (one queen here).

The most popular name during the Regency was "George", after the king. But I don't like "George", so you won't see any of my heroes sporting the name, although I might use "George" for a secondary character.

Names are one of the last things I add to a story. When I start writing, I call my hero and heroine John and Mary, and my secondary characters Mr. A, Miss B and Lord C. I also tend to use names I don't like for the villains. On the list of names I dislike are Susan, Lydia, Cecil, George and Jasper.

So, in Gifts Gone Astray, my latest Regency novella, I use a lot of monarch names. The hero is Stephen and the heroine is Anne. Anne's brother is John, their uncle is James, and James's son is Harold. One of a pair of brothers is George, although he isn't the villain in this story. On the non-monarch side are George's brother, Percy, Anne's Uncle Horace, her Aunt Harriet (James's wife), and cousins Oscar and Julia. And I won't tell you my villain's name, so I don't spoil the surprise.

Do you like era-and-genre-appropriate names? What names are your favorites?

Thank you all,



A gift is a wonderful surprise.  Or maybe not.
At the Earl of Langley's family gathering, everyone receives a gift, including the servants. Tutor Stephen Fairfax expects a small token, but the present from family member Mrs. Anne Copley, the widow who has caught his eye, is a dream come true.

Until he opens it. What a gift! How did that demure lady acquire such a book? And she wants to "study" the positions in it with him? If he accepts her offer, tempting as it is, he could lose his job.

Anne has no idea why Mr. Fairfax is in such a flutter. Her present is a simple book of illustrations.  The subject interests them both, and she would like nothing better than to examine the book--and Mr Fairfax--more closely.

Buy Link at The Wild Rose Press:
Also available at your favorite e-tailer, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. I loved this post. I think you make a really good point when it comes to naming characters...stick with the time era.

    I am attempting to write a collection of short stories in the paranormal fiction genre and it takes place during the great depression of the 1930's. I did go back through many census records of that time and place and pull names that seemed to appear over and over again. And I pulled a few last names too.

    One of my favorite names that perhaps graced nobility after the Regency era was Victoria. Maybe it was popular before...I don't know...that name seems timeless to me :)

    Cheers, Jenn

  2. Names is something that I haven't dabbled with much, because I personally like to think that unless and until its either got to with the monarchy (your case) or a particular time period (Jenns case), most names hold. Besides that, being an Indian, it becomes increasingly difficult to name trends while writing fiction with a definitive "English" setting. Because thats what I grew up reading mostly. Having written over fifty shorts and a few novellas, I think it is time that I start paying a little more attention to this detail.

    Great blog...
    Scribblers Inc.

  3. Great post.

    I write contemporary so names are pretty easy. Though of course there are a few big no, no's when it comes to pairings - Bella and Edward being just one example.

    I am fascinated by the fact you call your characters John and Mary as you write the book. I don't think I could do that :-)

    Lily x

  4. Hi Linda, thanks for visiting us today! I also write contemporaries, but I do a lot of research into what names mean. Like you, I use a fake name or initial throughout until I find the perfect name. Baby naming books or sites on the Internet help. So, for example, in my book, A Heart of Little Faith, I named the hero Gideon because it means strong, like a rock. The heroine's name is Lily, because I wanted something softer (even though she's a strong heroine too!).

    As a funny (hopefully) aside, as a child, my favorite name to use when playing house with my friends was Linda!

  5. Hi Linda,

    Welcome to Heroines with Hearts.

    I struggle with names sometimes. I had a heckuva time coming up with the heroine's name for my WIP. I finally settled on Amber...her man is Jake. She's a city gal and he's a country boy.

    I've learned you also have to be careful with secondary characters' names and how they work with the leads and with each other.

    My favorite name is Zach. (I did make him the hero in one of my stories!) I always thought if I had kids I'd like a Zach and an Emilie.

    Thanks for visiting today, Linda. Great topic!

  6. Thanks, Jenn. Whenever I think of the 30's, I think of Lois Lane from the Superman comics. When I first saw the name, I remembered thinking who's named "Lois" now? But "Lois" was a popular girls' name in the 30's, when Superman was created. Same for "Lana" and "Shirley" for Lana Turner and Shirley Temple, respectively.

    Thanks, Scribblers. Names are important, as you're starting to realize. A person's name can conjure up specific qualities, which a writer can use. For instance, "Slade" can conjure up a tough guy, while "Thomas" conjures up a milder man. And then, a mild name can mask a completely different alter ego. Let's not forget that Superman's other name was Clark Kent!

    Thanks, Lily. Some authors can't write unless they already know their characters' name. I'm a pantser, so I just start writing, and "John" and "Mary" are the easiest names to use.

    Thank you, too, Jennifer. As I told Scribbles, a character's name can conjure up certain qualities. Sounds like you've got that down pat. Good for you.

  7. Jenn, I just looked this up. "Victoria" wasn't particularly popular during the Regency. Queen Victoria's first name was "Alexandrina", which also wasn't very popular during the era, but her father may have named for Tsar Alexander, who was Britian's ally then. And when Victoria ascended the throne, her mother wanted her to use "Alexandrina". Imagine if she had used that name! There would be tons of Alexandrinas running around.

    And Jennifer, there must have been something in the air for you to use "Linda" as your favorite name! Thanks.

    Thanks, Debra. Amber and Jake are appropriate names for your characters. If we do it right, names work on many levels. Good for you to use your favorite name for one of your heroes.

  8. Great post Linda. And I love your definition of persistent. I too was too stupid to quit.
    Thanks for sharing. Love the blurb.

  9. Thanks, Lilly. I knew that definition would strike a nerve. Great minds think alike. LOL!

  10. Character names are usually the first thing I learn about my main characters as I am developing them. I like unusual names so I guess it is a good thing I write mostly fantasy. However, my current WIP is a contemporary novel. I am struggling with keeping my character's names pseudo-normal. :)

    I do a lot of choosing names based on character traits, name meanings, and sounds. My current hero is Orson Kent meaning bear white, which is significant to the story line. His father's name, Ursa Keir meaning bear black, also plays into the story. Willow, the heroine, is like a willow, strong, supple, and resilient. The main character's families were named with their roles and personalities in mind. Even Orson's best friend, Palmer Osborne, gained his name with his purpose in mind, peacemaker bear. Do you sense a theme? ;)

    Third tier characters, however, are rarely thought out ahead of time. I pulled the name Tatiana out of the blue when I needed Orson's office manager to appear. Because of her name she became a Russian immigrant with a Russian immigrant husband, Sergei. If this had been a fantasy novel, I would have simply chosen a letter on the keyboard, played with some sounds and named her Oriandra or Tattiant without the slightest additional thought. I am discovering that writing contemporary is very different than fantasy in many ways. :)

  11. I'm impressed you can wait to name your characters!! That's the first thing I have to do - I almost have them selected before I start writing - but I don't write historicals so maybe that's the difference.
    My WIP - as Roo as the female lead - she's bouncy and fun. One hero is Taylor - slightly staid and the other is Niall - who's a faery. I like Irish names for faeries!! Then I read the latest Jill Mansell and found she'd used not only Roo but Niall too. I was flabbergasted. I'm not changing mine though - I love them too much.

  12. Linda,
    I agree - the name has to match the time and place of your novel. I've done all kinds of research since I've been Romania and Hungary in my novels. My latest novel, Victorian Scoundrel is set in England and I needed names that were reflective of the times. Alice was great for my lead character. Kind of reminds me of Alice through the looking glass. And it has a nice royal feel without being too close to the current monarchy. Same for Edmund. Grayson, Alice's love interest captures the feel of the times without being too plain.

    Sometimes it all comes down to research!

  13. I'm late to the party, but this is a great post. I've been naming characters right away, but maybe I don't have to. I wait to name calves until they display some personality.

  14. Rachel and Barbara, looks like I'm in the minority with naming my characters after the fact. But I think you both have the right idea about having character names reflect the characters' personality.

    Rachel, each genre is different, and I don't think we realize the differences until we write them.

    Barbara, I'm convinced great minds think in parallel. So, keep your names. I agree, Irish names are good for faeries.

    Hi Steph, your names are appropriate for Victorian England. They would also work for Regency. As for royal feel, Edmund was the name of an Anglo-Saxon king, and widely used in the nineteenth century.

  15. I hate having to name characters. A few show up with their name, but most of mine have an entire life history and 50,000 words and are still sitting around nameless. I do that Mrs.A and Mr.B, too. I do try, if it is a genre or historical or set in a certain country to make sure I find and chose names that fit those criteria as well as "sounding like" that character. Naming characters is really hard for me for some reason. Only thing I hate more is chosing a title.

  16. LOL, Ana! You have a point about your calves. Waiting a little to name your characters doesn't hurt.

    Hi Summer. Like you, I have trouble with names, too. But, eventually, all the characters get names. Doesn't really matter in the end.

  17. Linda, thanks so much for being with us at HWH.
    I tend to know my main characters' names before I start, but there was one time when I couldn't think what name I wanted for the hero. I simply called him Jack 'for the time being' until I could decide on his name. But, before very long, he simply became Jack - and I couldn't then change it or he would have become a different person somehow!

  18. Ana, I name kittens the same way. I claim I'm following native american custom. They all get a "baby name" - something I can call them to refer to them (lots of blackies, spots, etc.) then as they start showing personalities they usually name themselves!