19th Century,  Historical Flavor,  Research,  Writing in General,  Writing Rules

Historical Flavors: Names of the Day

Before I get started on this post, I would like to thank all of you who have been faithful readers and those who are new to the blog. Some of you I know. Some of you are like me and get your posts through a reader. If you feel comfortable, please introduce yourselves in the comments. Let me know who’s out there and, if you have one, leave your own blog address. You may find some new readers, too.

Now, for today’s Historical Flavors:     

Fiction writers agonize over their characters—their personalities, goals, motivations, spiritual problems, etc. We also take great care in finding just the right first and last names for the people we create.

A romance writer tends to choose first names for the hero and heroine that sound…well, romantic. The names of these fictional people are as appealing as their physical traits. Today’s romantic characters may be called Tyler, Chase, Zach, Gabriella, Jenna.

Those who write fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian novels might give their characters names we’ve never heard before. Can anyone say Katniss and Eragon?

The popularity of names changes over the years and writers must be aware of those changes. My books are nineteenth-century historical romances. So far, they have all been set in Texas and the names I give my characters need to reflect the time and place. Fortunately, there are infinite sources to search. Just reading non-fiction accounts of historical subjects can supply me with all I need to people my books.

In searching for these names, I’ve come across a number of them that are downright odd and not ones I would use for my hero and heroine. However, they appeal to me for secondary characters.

Here is a list of a few real life women’s first names from the mid-1800s, taken from marriage records:

  • Early
  • Sophronia
  • Phedora
  • Melvina
  • Delphia
  • Petra
  • Gregoria
  • Texana
  • Madalene

And for men:

  • Bealy
  • Green
  • Pleasant
  • Munch
  • Reason
  • Burley
  • Print

If you read or write historicals, can’t you see some of these as secondary characters? Do you get a certain picture in your mind of a man named Burley? What about Munch? Hmmm…what would you do with someone named Green?

There are a number of  issues that go into naming characters–ethnicity, social/economic status, age. For instance, in my current work, my heroine has a German name to reflect her heritage. She’s Texan through and through, but many Germans settled in various areas of the state, especially in the Hill Country where my story is set. While her first name is feminine, her nickname is less so. Both reflect her personality and problems. Though my hero’s name may or may not be “historical,” it does represent the Scotch-Irish who also populated Texas during the nineteenth century.

As a reader, what is the most unusual and/or appealing name you have come across in a novel? Did the name provide you with any expectations of that character? Did he/she live up to the name?

As a writer, how do you go about choosing a name for your character? Are you like me and have a long list just waiting to find the right person to match a name to?

Please don’t forget to introduce yourselves.

As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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