What’s in a name? Shakespeare asked that question, and I have to admit, before I became a writer, I hadn’t thought much about what people were called. Now, I collect names that I can use in my writing! After all, the names we choose can tell our readers a great deal about our characters: who they are, where they live, who is most important, or how they’re perceived by others.
Let’s face it, you’d find it harder to make a character with an ordinary name like John into a hero. Oh, there’s no doubt it can be done, but everything else about him would need to be extraordinary. We perceive names as being romantic, or not, according to trends. Look at popular girl’s names in 2016 (Emma, Olivia, Ava) and you’ll discover they are a far cry from names popular in the eighteenth century. When was the last time you were introduced to a Bathsheba, Honora, or Lucretia?
Of course, names also tell the reader where your book is set. You’d better have a darn good reason for giving your hero a name that doesn’t fit the area. In my first book, Love’s Guardian, set in England, my hero was named Declan Deveraux. (This was a ‘hat’s off’ to Jude DeverauxJ who wrote my favorite time- travel romance, ‘A Knight in Shining Armor.’) I gave my hero roots in France, and his mother was Irish, where ‘Declan’ is a fairly common name. So it can be done.
The British, however, took aristocratic names to an art form. Because of all the titles, names can become very confusing. In my first book, Lord Worthington was referred to as ‘Worthington’ by his male friends, Lord Worthington by polite society and Declan by the heroine or his immediate family.
And a good Brit would hesitate to shorten any name without permission, unlike most Americans. I once had a boss who insisted on shortening Dawn to ‘D.’ I, personally, think Dawn is short enough.
Although, the British did sometimes give nicknames to people in their immediate circle. Nicknames are wonderful because they can show a familiarity between two characters, or they can show the disdain one individual has for another. Use them to say something about the characters and their relationships.
Then again, some characters name their body parts, but I think I’ll save that discussion for another day.
My latest release shows the importance we attribute to names. In Highland Yearning, my hero hates Sutherlands, so he’s trying to stop his brother from marrying one of the despicable clan. Too bad he unexpectedly discovers a woman who tests his resolve. Ariel Sutherland may well change his mind about ‘what’s in a name.’
Okay, you readers and writers. In the books you’ve read, what are your favorite hero and heroine names?