Monday, June 25, 2012

A Rose by any other important is a character's name? by Bronwen Evans

One of the most fun and frustrating tasks in a writer’s life is naming their characters. It's a insubstantial and yet very significant matter, this business of choosing character names. I can spend hours—even days—poring over names, asking friends, and researching the origin of a name, simply to achieve just the right name for a character. The perfect name to reflect and evoke a character for my readers.

All characters in a book play a apart, whether it's a main character, a secondary character. Names have the power to impact and influence not only a character but a story. The name choices are especially important in Regency romances. They have to reflect the period and social status of a character. Isn’t it funny I always tend to choose the name of someone I don’t like for my villain’s name.

The historical and social context of any name needs to be considered. Some names will sound very modern to our ear despite their historical pedigree—while others are just silly, or hard to pronounce, or have some context that evokes frumpy or dowdy, sly or weak, and so on.

Historical context is just one factor. Authors also take into account the name's authenticity, its sound (even when read silently, the cadence of a name or series of names is important), its spelling, pronunciation, how many other characters' names begin with the same letter or a similar sound, and so on. For instance my agent told me that I couldn’t have my heroine and hero’s first names beginning with an R. But it was an important part of the story – a note addressed to R is delivered to the wrong person.

Authenticity is a biggie. Character names should fit the story, the setting, and the historical era. My latest Regency release, INVITATION TO SCANDAL, (Kensington Brava May 2012) is set in Deal, Kent. Kent has an Anglo-Saxon history, and as such I chose my heroine’s name to match this ancestry. Miss Rheda Kerrick, Baron de Winter’s daughter. I even use the meaning of her name in the story.

Lifting her head, Rheda squared her shoulders and with great dignity she complied. She gracefully stood up, naked, proud and tall in the tub, water streaming down over her curves.

She smiled in bleak satisfaction at the reaction her emergence from the water provoked. Longing flared across the fine chiseled features of her adversary’s face.

Rufus swore softly under his breath before flashing a mocking smile. “Rheda means goddess in ancient Anglo-Saxon - did you know that? You are aptly named, for you truly are a goddess among woman.”

Many good name books will give the origin and history of a name, along with notes on common and popular names. Withycombe's The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names is one of the best for this sort of information.

But a name can be perfectly accurate and yet seem all wrong for the modern reader's ear. Rufus, for example. He’s my hero in Invitation to Scandal, Rufus knight, Viscount Strathmore. My agent hated the name, but like me, once my editor read the story, she declared Rufus delicious! As soon as I started writing him, I knew his name would be Rufus. I couldn’t picture him named anything else.

Can the reader pronounce the name? That's another consideration. Readers need to be able to bond with a character and if they stumble over a name, this sometimes forms a barrier. It’s like when you meet someone new and you hear their unusual name but you’re too scared to say it in case you make a mistake. You end up not making the effort to be their friend. [CLUE TWENTY-NINE: HE]

Sometimes the historical names for a time period are a bit boring and very repetitive -- men are typically named Sebastian, Marcus, Charles, Robert, or women named Clarisse, Lucinda, Mary, and so on. But having staid character names often makes naming the other things in your book more fun—titles and houses and horses! I love naming the horses—I’ve used Caesar, Ace of Spades, Thunder, etc

What's your favorite character name in a novel? Do you have a pet peeve with names? And can you share some of the names of the characters in a book you're reading now? I’ll give a copy of Invitation to Scandal to one lucky commenter. Open internationally.

Invitation to Scandal
Regency Historical
Kensington Brava 1 May 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7582-5921-9 

Her secrets are coming undone...

Plagued by scandalous rumors, Rheda Kerrich will stop at nothing to restore her reputation and make an honest living for herself-and she's determined to do it without a husband. But times are hard, and smuggling is a risky though profitable trade. So when a dashing agent for the English government catches her in the act, she desperately resists his charms and conceals her illicit profession. Until she realizes he may be the key to her ultimate freedom-and unbridled passion.

Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore, has never had trouble beguiling the ladies of Kent. When his search for "Dark Shadow," a cunningly elusive smuggler, leads him to alluring and headstrong Rhe, her objections to his amorous advances merely incite a tantalizing game of cat and mouse. Soon, they'll find the very secrets driving them apart could ensnare them in a love they can't escape…

About Bron:

New Zealander Bronwen Evans grew up loving books She’s always indulged her love for story-telling, and is constantly gobbling up movies, books and theatre. Her head is filled with characters and stories, particularly lovers in angst. Is it any wonder she’s a proud romance writer? She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Bronwen loves hearing from avid romance readers at You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website


Maureen said...

I don't usually dislike any names. I just get to know the characters and then start associating them with the names so if I like the characters I like the name. I just read a story with a hero named Nev and a heroine named Cath.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

*yadkny* said...

I don't know that I have any favorite names, but I really like when boy names are used for the female characters instead like Dylan, Darian, Alex, etc. My pet peeve for names are the ones I can't pronounce and almost make no sense:) I am currently reading Lyon's Bride by Cathy Maxwell and the character names are Thea and Lord Lyon.

Jane said...

I really loved the heroine's name in Sherry Thomas' "Not Quite a Husband" Bryony Asquith. Some of my favorite names include Sebastian, Marcus and Amelia.

janie1215 AT excite DOT com

Anonymous said...

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Kim said...

I think names are important. For example, I wouldn't like a hero named Boris or Basil or a heroine named Agatha or Rose.

Some names that I'm reading now: Christian, Sebastian, Tristan and Rafe for heroes; Venetia, Anne, and Penelope for heroines.


Carin said...

I guess my biggest pet peeve with names is women with men's names. I know its very prevalent these days but I just hate it. Carin

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