What’s in a name?

Alright, I’m just going to come out and say it: naming characters is the worst.

Most of my (non-author) friends think that I’m crazy for saying this. After all, most of us only get to name a few people in our lives, and if you don’t have any children then you never get the pleasure of deciding what someone is going to be called for the rest of their lives.

I haven’t had that sort of responsibility yet, but I have named several characters in my books. In fact, with my seventeenth book coming out in November (pre-order here!) and my twenty third book just returned from my editor, I’ve probably named over a hundred characters.

I’ve had Avis and Cathryn, Hestia and Audrey, even a Margaret. The boys haven’t been left out either: Alexander and Leonard and Thomas have all graced my pages.

But there’s no hiding from the truth any more. I’m running out of good names.

What? I hear you cry. There are thousands of great names – wonderful names, emotive names, beautiful names.

And there are. But when you’re going for a specific part of history, you immediately become limited. You can’t call a character Jack in the 1060s of England, or a Zacharius in the 1400s. Although Alice was popular in the Victorian era and the 1300s, you wouldn’t have found many in the Tudor era, and don’t even get me started on Judas and Delilah.

You’re unlikely to have a Regency noblewoman called Abigail (a servant’s name), nor any Victorias at all. Meredith is a boy’s name until the 1950s, and no matter how much I try to use Emily, I just can’t stomach naming a character after myself!

When you are seeking historical accuracy, it’s a challenge. There are natural limitations, and limitations that I want to stick to…within reason.

So apologies if you’re a Charles, Mary, Elizabeth, or Margaret. You could appear in almost any part of England’s history from 1050 onwards, and I’ll probably end up using you more than twice.

What name do you love? What names do you think are ignored in historical romance? Let me know in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. tootsie1958 says:

    My name is not as popular but every time I see it, it is someone old. Just once I would like for it be someone young with her own story. My name is Ruth. I know it’s a biblical name and being Catholic was not good.

    Like

    • Emily says:

      It’s fascinating, because being Catholic was unpopular – unless you were incredibly wealthy, incredibly good looking, or a genius! I think Ruth is a beautiful name šŸ™‚

      Like

  2. Elsbeth Van den Akker-Memelink says:

    When I was a child, I had a friend who was called Rebecca. Her brother’s name was Ruben. And she had 2 younger sisters called Rachel and Rebecca. They were not Catholic, their father was a Protestant pastor. Funny, a few years ago we met a family on holiday with a boy and girl the same ages as mine. They were called Ruben and Rebecca! I’ve often wondered if they got any more children and what their names would be…
    I, too, think Ruth is a beautiful name!
    A few months ago I came across my own name in a historical romance, by Rose Pearson: A Rogue’s Flower. I was pleasantly surprised. Usually when I see my name in English books, it is spelled with a p. I hate that…
    I think my name is way more beautiful. šŸ˜‰
    Elsbeth

    Like

      • Elsbeth Van den Akker-Memelink says:

        Thanks, I would love that (well, if it is a likeable character… šŸ˜€).
        I love the name Emily as well! It reminds me of Emily Bronte. Well, there you have a bunch of nice names: Charlotte, Anne, Maria, Patrick, Jane, Agnes.
        But I can understand how using your own name feels a bit weird.

        Like

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