Lately, I’ve been indulging in my favourite hobby (apart from reading that is) of genealogy, which means looking at an endless stream of names. Apart from being a fun way to relax, it also gives me inspiration since some of them trigger story ideas. In my family tree I’ve come across a few interesting names, but also lots of boring ones. Actually, the names themselves are never boring, but the naming patterns of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were. Parents would insist on giving several babies the same one until a child finally survived. You’d think that after the fourth baby John or William died, the parents would realise the name was jinxed and move on to another, but no such luck. Makes life very difficult for anyone wanting to draw up a family tree and you wish they'd had more imagination.
Among my ancestors who did think outside the box there’s Mahala, Love, Fanny Frances (why two versions of the same name?), Tryphena and Vita Pura, all ladies with uncommon names, plus Garibaldi, Onslow, Royston and Warwick among the men. If only there were more like them!
Some are even more intriguing. Take my great-grandmother, for example – her maiden name was Martha Tombs. Sounds like the perfect character for a modern day vampire tale or something Gothic, doesn’t it? And yet in the one photo I have of her, she looks like your average cuddly grandmother. I really must name a heroine after her one day!
Names are so important to writers and I know most of us can’t get on with a story until we know what the hero and heroine are going to be called. I’m like that too, although most of the time the name just comes to me at the same time as the “spark” for the book. Sometimes finding the perfect name can be almost impossible though. I have one story I’ve rewritten three times with different names and it STILL doesn’t sound right – I’m hoping I’ll find out who the heroine is eventually.
There are some names I would never use – perhaps because they have bad connotations for me in some way – whereas others just feel right. What’s your favourite name for a heroine and why? Mine is Winter in Shadow of the Moon by M M Kaye, I think that’s so evocative and beautiful.
Do certain names have a special meaning for you and which ones would you never use? And have you ever come across a name you’ve never heard before and suddenly find a hero or heroine come alive in your mind almost instantly? That happened to me with my current one and it was wonderful!
Please come back on Sunday when Liz will be posting.