Tag Archives: children

What’s in a name?

I was a chapter and a half into a WIP when I realised something wasn’t working. After redrafting and editing and still getting nowhere with what I knew could be a great story it dawned on me the problem wasn’t with the story but with the heroine. I just wasn’t feeling her (unlike the hero who was more than happy to have a go much earlier than I was expecting him to, though that’s another story…) and I realised it came down to one reason: her name.

I had inadvertently chosen the name of a real person I had once known and instead of picturing my heroine I had a subconscious mental image of someone who most definitely didn’t deserve to get her hands on my hero.  As soon as I went back to the drawing board and renamed the character the scenes began to come together.

Names are funny things. However much I plan, I can’t get down to the business of writing the story unless I’ve found the right name. I estimate I’ve spent as much time choosing names for my characters as I did for my children*, though for them I had the whole of history to go at rather that medieval England. I try to use authentic names for my characters.  I can happily spend hours poring over documents from the time for inspiration so you’ll never find a Lady Chardonnay or Sir Kevin but I’ve also developed a few rules too.

Rule 1. Heroines can have two syllable names but heroes should be called something short, or a name that can be shortened (nicknames and dropping titles is a way I like to show the growing intimacy between the characters).

My first hero, Hugh in Falling for Her Captor was named after Hugh Jackman – which probably indicates where my mind was while I was writing. I like single syllables that to me at least sound a bit tough and masculine to say out loud: Hugh, Will, Hal. Rhett… Han… Jon… Thor (?!?)…

Four books in I’ve already broken this rule with the hero of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge with a hero called Aelric who goes by the alias Caddoc but finding a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon name proved almost impossible (and be thankful he isn’t called Aethilberct).

SOR front

I’ve slightly backed myself into a corner with my next book to be released because when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Wife I didn’t intend Roger to be anything more than the villain (perhaps having a name that became slang for penis is part of the reason he was so bitter).  Now he’s got his own book as readers were intrigued by him and is saddled with a less than heroic sounding name even though the Germanic origin means ‘renown + spear’ which fits his ambition to be a great jouster well. Isn’t that a lucky coincidence!

Rule 2. After hours spent with my spellcheck trying to change my second hero Will Rudhale’s tenses, I added a new which is never use a name that is also a verb (‘Do you mean ‘will try’ not ‘Will tried’? No I ****ing don’t, nor did I the last 27 times!)

Rule 3. Avoid the Dickensian ‘Mr Nastyb*stard, official puppy kicker of London Town’ method of indicating character through names.  Having said that I’m having to seriously resist following the suggestion of Baron Longden Hardthrust of Broadshaft Hall.

Rule 4. The biggie. Avoid the names of friends and family. Especially men. Mainly because I have a low embarrassment threshold and don’t ever want to have the ‘so that’s me in the book is it?’ conversation (which amazingly I’ve had even when the names don’t match). Chances are if I know you then you are in there somewhere because all writers are magpies and collect mannerisms, features and conversations but whether you’re the love interest, villain or comic relief I absolutely refuse to say!

*One named for a series of inventors, the other after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re interested.

Do you have a favourite character name, or one that turns you straight off the book? Do share in the comments.

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On deliveries- expected and unexpected.

On Wednesday my book is finally released. I’m finally going to let my baby wander out into the world and keep my fingers crossed that people like it (all reviews welcomed- Goodreads and Amazon. If you like it tell me, if you don’t, then feel free to lie…) It’s been a long road and for a long time I never thought my pet project would get anywhere other than my laptop and an audience on Wattpad who left me great comments (thanks guys, you kept me going).

The date is doubly sweet for me because it’s also my son’s birthday.

This time nine years ago I wasn’t expecting to give birth. The fact that my waters broke on 30th September, five weeks early, was a complete shock. I hadn’t even finished work to start my maternity leave but, having decided not to go out on what would have been my last night out with the staff at my school, I unexpectedly went into labour.

I gave birth to Alexander early on the morning of October 1st. He wasn’t well. His lungs didn’t work but he had hair and fully formed fingernails- go figure how we’ve evolved to prioritise that! He spent ten days in SCBU being looked after by wonderful staff while I stayed in hospital, in shock, and tried to get my head round the fact I was now a mother. I learned the joys of the milking machine, how to get a premature baby to latch on, and just how far a boy baby can wee through the holes in the side of an incubator.

Eventually the hospital decided he was out of danger and let us go home and the learning curve began. For a long time I was just a mum. I tried to survive on no sleep. I had another baby -19 months later and planned -what WAS I thinking???, moved house and settled into a routine of toddler groups, mediocre housewifery and getting through the day. My son has Asperger’s (so does my daughter but she doesn’t yet have the all important piece of paper to prove it). He’s amazingly funny, loves 1970s synth pop, Lego and Minecraft, all of which are beyond me. He took ages to learn to ride a bike and is still rubbish at trying his shoelaces. He’s pedantic and literal but he is also extremely bright and tries hard to face the world that he doesn’t really ‘get’. He loves stories and one day I promise I really will write the one about the crocodiles down the toilet. I can’t believe he’s 9. He’s nearly as tall as I am!

Eventually I went back to work part time, found myself again amid the Playdough and fruit puree (Hey! People want to talk to me! Some of them even seem to like me!) and started to want to think about things again.

So I thought of a story. I don’t even remembered when or how it started but gradually it developed into a workable manuscript and that rest of that tale I’ve already blogged about. A lot of the people who were with me for the birth of my children also held my hand virtually through SYTYCW and right the way up to publication and to them I owe huge thanks that all the in-jokes, silly posts and Benedict Cumberbatch as an otter gifs can’t repay.

I’m posting this now because on Wednesday I’ll be doing my best to keep an eye on both of my creations. I hope people love the story and want to read more. I hope the book sells and gets glowing reviews.

Whatever happens, me and my boy will be going for cake.