Naming Games

Lady_Selina_Meade.jpegWe’ve done a lot of talking about names at Risky Regencies over the years (see here, here, and here), but here I go again!

I have a few rules for myself when I’m naming characters. Guidelines, really.

1. The names have to have a pleasant rhythm. For example, Emily Galightly doesn’t do it for me, but Hugh Westleigh (hero of A Lady of Notoriety) has a nice sound to my ear.

2. The names need to be historically accurate, or at least seem historically accurate. No modern sorts of names like Savannah or Brooklyn, both of which make a Top 50 Girl Baby Name list for 2014.

3. Absolutely no female characters who have traditionally male names. This is one of my pettest peeves and I see it in contemporary romance too often for my taste. It’s just confusing!! So no names like Addison or Taylor for my heroines, even though those, too, made the list of Top 50 Girl Baby Names.

4. Vary the character names so that none are inadvertently similar. No Harry or Herbert if there is a Hal, for example. Same with surnames. No Goodman if there is a Jackman.

5. Try not to use the names of real people, especially real people who are in the news. My editors flagged a name I’d chosen that turned out to be the name of an English entertainer. Now I’ve learned to Google the name to see if I’ve chosen one that would be recognizable.

It seems like I use different websites with each book to help me select names. For first names, I google “girls names of the 1800s” or “boys names of the 1800s.”

Here are some websites to use for surnames or tital names or both:
http://www.thepeerage.com/surname_index_G.htm
http://surnames.behindthename.com/names/usage/english

The name of the lady in the portrait by Lawrence is Lady Selina Meade. Now that’s a great name!

Do you have any naming rules or pet peeves?

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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6 Responses to Naming Games

  1. I hate choosing names. Like you, I don’t like the use of male names for women, only because it slows the beginning of the story down while I endeavor to figure out who’s who. Having said that, I do have a Sam/Samantha scheduled for an upcoming book. Many authors, in their need to be unique, choose unusual names, names so unusual they’re distracting.

  2. HJ says:

    My pet peeve as a reader is two (or more!) characters whose names start with the same letter. I read quickly, and I think I identify the character by the capital initial letter rather than by truly reading the word. My nightmare is a family whose children’s names all start with the same initial… And as for fathers who have sons named after them!! Usually one or other of them is known by his (different) title, so it isn’t too bad, but!

    This is a serious enough problem for me that I will avoid books which do it, and have even had to stop reading books which I’ve bought and started reading. And it can’t be that unusual; others must read in the same way.

    It annoys me if place names or house names use the same initial letter, but it isn’t usually so much of a problem (unless the action constantly switches from one to another).

  3. Thanks for the website links, O Divine One. Like you, I don’t like heroines with male names in any genre. Too confusing. And I try to make certain I don’t use names starting with the same letter in a book.

    I hadn’t thought about googling names to make certain they aren’t celebrity names. Good idea!

  4. I am terrible with names. I’ll have characters in WIPs with placeholders like Lord MMM or SSSS. Eventually I have to find them names.

    For me, names have to have a certain vibe. I often choose names according to their meaning (real or assumed). I named a character Victor because I wanted him to be successful. I named a character Miss Loper, because she was an interloper.

  5. PEGGY Quidor says:

    for a girl Claira Clearwater For a boy Jason littlefield

  6. PEGGY Quidor says:

    I have a pet peeve with to modern of names in historic books

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