(Almost) hard and fast rules on how to choose a character’s name
by Caroline Anderson, author of the upcoming Harlequin Romance The Baby Swap Miracle (February 2011)
Choosing names is a nightmare. So pivotal to the characters, and I can’t start without getting it right. I like ‘normal’ names – names people recognise and can pronounce, but I have rules. Short, tight, strong, masculine names for heroes – but DO NOT use Ben/Sam/Nick/Rob to the exclusion of all others! I had a ‘no repeats’ rule at first, but after 85 books it’s got trickier. (Imagine having 170 children!) So I do repeat, but then so does life.
As for how, it’s easier since my daughters are late 20s, because I just look at their friends and think, yes, this fits with that generation. I find Scottish names creep in – Robert, of course, and Iona, also Isla. Contemplating this for current heroine. He might be Oliver, but then – oh, it’s so hard! I had a run of Elizabeth once – Lizzi, Beth, Libby – then had to stop myself! Heroines can have more unusual names than heroes. Emelia was my latest, but he was Sam. Again! (No guesses what I would have called my son had I had one!)
Surnames are tricky, too, but only for heroes. Again, masculine, crisp, interesting but not too unusual. I want my characters to be accessible to my readers, my heroes to be men they could imagine meeting in real life. That’s the point, isn’t it? The heroine could be you!