Historical Romance

Historical Romance with an Inspirational Touch

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blog Block - Kind of Like Writer's Block

Earlier this week I was completely out of ideas for a blog. Instead of sitting, staring at a blank screen, I decided to admit my failings. I so admire those who can post blogs on a regular basis and almost envious of those who manage to post almost daily. When no ideas developed even after an infusion of caffeine, I turned to my critique partners for help. They offered several suggestions. Here is the first one.

a) I suggest you write on how to find the perfect name. That is going to be the subject of my next newsletter President's message thing - so it's on my brain.

Sometimes it is hard for me to write a character unless I have given them the perfect name. I have gone so far as to change a character's name three times while working on a manuscript. I've noticed that I am not really connected to that character until they finally have the perfect name for them. A name can make all of the difference in how a character is viewed. Last year a blog was posted on SecondWindPub.wordpress.com on November 10th entitled Names Define Your Characters. Until I read this post I had no idea that Scarlett O’Hara’s original first name was Pansy. Can you imagine that? I can’t. Just take a few of the famous lines Scarlett is known for: “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again” or “You'd rather live with that silly little fool who can't open her mouth except to say "yes" or "no" and raise a passel of mealy-mouthed brats just like her!” Can you see a Pansy saying those lines? I can’t. However, I can see a Pansy uttering “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

I am not saying Pansy is a bad name at all and I actually like it. But when I hear the name I think of a nice, sweet, caring person. More of a Melanie type character who puts others first and sees the good in everyone. The name Scarlett brings an entirely different image to mind. Of course, my feelings are certainly influenced by Gond With the Wind because I've never known a Scarlett personally. Which brings up another question. Have you ever avoided using a name because a character is so well known? Or, have you ever avoided using names of people you know, or people you have known? Or, do you draw your character's names from people in your life or in your past? Which leads to the second part of her question.

b) But for you - you could discuss why you love the name Patrick so much. (Maybe your brother will read it.)
An explanation is needed. I did not even realize I was doing this, but every story I’ve written has a character named Patrick as either the hero or heroine’s brother. I didn’t even notice this until it was pointed out to me. I have changed all but one of the Patrick’s to another name. I have no idea why this name kept reappearing, but it is my brother’s middle name. Do you ever find yourself drawn to one specific name and use it in every story? And what is your favorite resource for finding the perfect name?


  1. I, too, write historicals. One site I like to use when choosing a name is the Social Security Administration's Popular Baby Names index. You can find out what names were most used from the year 1879 on. http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html

  2. Keli, Thanks for the website. I didn't know about that one.

  3. I don't think we have much room to be creative with names when we're writing historicals. Seems like there's no way to get around using John and Mary and Elizabeth and Charles! Actually I did find a list of the most commonly used names of Elizabethan England and it has been helpful.

  4. Amy:
    I love to delve into the meaning of names, to give more flavor to a person's character. If you had a book that told meanings as well as origins, that may help you choose the perfect name for your characters.

    I agree with you: Pansy would simply not fit Scarlett!

    Good post, Amy.

    BTW, if you run out of ideas, encouraging Scriptures and quotes are always nourishing to us writers!

  5. How interesting. Isn't pansy a nasty way of calling someone a coward? Definitely not Scarlett. :-)
    I would never name a character Delilah. LOL

    Some of my characters have meanings to their names. It's a fun process, trying to decide a name. Sometimes annoying. :-)

  6. Jody, you are right with regard to historical. There are some names that I love, but they don't work for Regency England or the French Revolution. I have had fun researching French names though.

    Jeanette, I have a few character naming source books with their meanings and they have really been beneficial. I also have a hard time settling on a last name and usually hit the phone book for those. It is funny, I've used scriptures in my novels but never in a blog. I love reading them when others do and need to develop the habit of doing that myself.

    Jessica, you have given me an idea. I do have a female character - not nice at all and still in the developemental stages (not my heroine). Hmmmm, I wonder if I should name her Delilah :).

    At least I know Biblical names are safe. They are far older than any time period I write and have used at least a few of them in every novel.

  7. Great discussion. Naming isn't a problem for me with contemporary women's fic. :)

    Some writers cruise baby name books, others research the meaning of names on search engines, etc., so I'm lucky to be able to pick and choose from current popular names that fit the characters' age ranges.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Angie. That is one of the beauties of a contemporary novel. You can use any name you like and nobody will question it.

  9. I seem to use rhyming names, lol and a friend pointed it out to me that it doesn't work well in fiction for remembrance sake. So now I am really trying harder to come up with names I love for them:) Good informative post!

  10. I love good old-fashioned names. Solid names. Tom, John, Mike. Those kinds of names!