Wednesday, 10 March 2021

All in the name?

 If we ever get back to having live events for authors, you know, with people together  in a room, like a library or a bookshop - remember them - it's likely that the audience will at some stage be given the chance to ask the captive author questions. If you'd like to ask something slightly more inventive than usual - 'Where do you get your ideas' I'm looking at you - you could ask about choosing names. 

The power of names is very strange. Many authors will tell you that a book is not working, and then they change the name of the protagonist and it falls into place. When you have a few books out there in the world you have to keep tabs on supporting cast - keeping on repeating the same name can cause confusion. My 'go to' all purpose name appears to be Bobby. Why? I've had to change it at least once to avoid confusion. I currently have two partially written manuscripts in my stash, separated by about twenty years,  that I want to go back to, and both the heroes are called Luke. This will be a problem, because the name fits both of them. I think one is going to have to become a Luc/Lucian - I'll have to give him a French mother. He might even become Jean-Luc. Not a problem. 

Are there fashions in names? This post was prompted by reading my third novel in a month with a hero named Kit, short for Christopher. I love the name - fell in love with it reading Georgette Heyer's False Colours. I must remember it for a future hero. 

Names do have to have qualities attached to them. Very sorry to all those who bear that name, but I could never call an alpha hero Nigel. It just wouldn't feel right.  Names can denote age and social position. I frequently trawl those internet sites that give the most popular baby names in a particular year in order to make sure that I get a good fit. At one time there were choices you wouldn't make for a contemporary novel, but with old style names like Ava, Archie and Wilf coming back into fashion, everything has changed again.  Bible names are usually a safe choice, whatever the era, although better for males than females. Shakespeare is quite good for pretty names for girls. As I'm slanting work towards settings in Wales, Welsh names are coming up my agenda. I know that authors who write historicals swear by a trawl around a cemetery. Those who write vampire stories do too, but for somewhat different reasons. You can denote eras quickly with the right choice of names. A Regency hero, or a contemporary one, might be Justin, but the name is not such a good fit for a WW2 flying ace - he'd be more likely to be a John or a Peter. 

It's a very simple thing, or it seems that way, but naming of characters can be a fine art. 

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