Names go so far to add dimensions to your characters. I have known writers to get to a certain point in the story and realize the name of a main character doesn’t suit that character. This is when they shout out for help from the Scribophile groups. And we make suggestions like the title of this blog post. Yeah, we’re good like that.
Not only do names say something about the social circle of a character, a name also can place a character in time and country. My husband told me that a new co-worker’s name is Wesley. I asked if he looked more like a farm boy or a young Star Fleet officer. Whoever had the naming of him was either a Princess Bride fan or a Star Trek Next Generation fan. Possibly both.
Uncle Google has lists of the most popular names going back several centuries. Babies born to Mayflower passengers were given names like Bartholomew and Constance, Oceanus and Desire. Puritans favored names of virtues, and gave equally to males or females names such as Temperance, Silence, and Deliverance.
We know that in England in the late 1700s to early 1800s names that were acceptable in society fell in a small pool from which to select. Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, and Anne for girls, with possibly a Catherine and an Agnes. John, Robert, David, Thomas, and possibly a George and a Percy for boys. In lower social circles, however, Will and Bob (not your uncle) courted Molly and Joan.
The Regency period embraced an attempt to have classical clothing styles, hair styles, furniture, and anything thought to be Greek. Names considered classic were also in vogue, especially in France. So you get a smattering of César, Auguste, Hannibal, or Jules. Even some Imperial support for Napoleon. Girls were Joséphine, Rose, Pauline, Hortense, Elisa, or any of those preceeded by Marie-.
Spain was quite the world power, but names were taken much more seriously there, and still are. Your name included your direct ancestors, not just your first and last name. Juan, Francisco, Pedro, and Diego were popular first names for boys in the 16th century, while girls were christened Maria, Catalina, Isabel, and Ana.
Today, you won’t bat an eye at encountering a woman named Cameron or a man named Inigo. I had a co-worker who named her baby girl Pebbles. And I just know someone must be naming their baby boy Jedi. A couple decades ago, you would have gotten a mental image of someone based on the name LaShaya or Sirmarcus. Now you might do the same with Arush or Fadila. And that’s part of being a writer, that something like an unusual name will take you off on a story adventure.
I love looking at names and finding perfect ones that are almost a story in themselves. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.
PS — These incredible web pages may be of much use to all of us. https://www.s-gabriel.org/names/