Today I thought I’d share a bit about my writing process, namely naming characters! One of the first things I do when preparing to write a new book is choose the names. I’m pretty particular about character names, and I give myself a few rules about them.
First, I try to remain true to the Regency period. No heroines named Tiffany or Autumn for me. Because of this, the variety of names from which to select is somewhat limited. I use lists of Regency names like this one or this one, compiled by Jo Beverley. And if I’m still not satisfied, I look up English names on baby naming sites. This one is my favorite.
In naming the heroine of a Regency Historical Romance, I only really have to be concerned about given names and surnames. With heroes, though, it is more complicated. In this time in history, Englishmen were addressed by their title names or their surnames, even by wives, sometimes. I don’t always strickly follow this rule, but just in case, I try to give heroes both strong given names and surnames. For example, in my Soldier’s Series, the heroes are Gabriel Deane, Jack Vernon, and Allan Landon. I usually use hard consonants for hero names, but I didn’t with Allan, hero of Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress. He’s more conventional (with a capital C) and I thought a softer name suited him.
None of the soldiers has a title. Titled characters are even more difficult, because they add another name to the list. A man has a given name, surname, and title name. So, the 12th Duke of Devonshire is Peregrine Cavendish. His son has a courtesy title, just to make things more confusing. He is William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington. Other heirs apparent to the title have used the courtesy title of Marquess of Hartington. So if all those names are used in a book, it would get even more confusing.
When I’ve had a titled hero I simplify matters by making the surname and the title name the same. This was not common during the Regency but it did happen.
Another problem with titles is that they still exist! I don’t want to name a character after a real person and I don’t want to use a real title. I’ll never use the name Peregrine Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire. I make up title names. I look up title names on The Incomplete Peerage and I take the titles and I split them and recombine them. So the Earl of Sefton would be combined with the Earl of Kenmare to become Earl of Kenton.
I always do a Google search on my character names so I can be certain that I do not choose someone in the public eye. Once, without knowing it, I picked the name of a well-known British newscaster. My editors caught it in time for me to change it.
I go through this same process for secondary characters. Servants were rarely addressed by their first names. To make it comfortable for modern readers, I try to give servants surnames that sound like given names. I also try not to pick cool names for my secondary characters, because I might want them for my hero or heroine someday.
My final check is whether I’m using character names in the same book that start with the same letter of the alphabet. Nothing gets more confusing than if the hero is James, his best friend is John, the heroine is Joanna, and the villain is Jasper. By the same token, I also check that I didn’t use the same name in a previous book. You’d be surprised how manyof my butlers start out life named Kirby.
Now, I ask you. Is this too obsessive?
Do you notice names in books? Do you have any personal likes or dislikes about names in books? Any pet peeves (one of my pet peeves is heroines who have traditionally masculine names like Sam or Riley or Charlie)?
One commenter will be selected at random to win a signed copy of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, in which all my rules about names apply!