What’s in a (character’s) name? #amwriting #reading #histfic #historical #fiction #books #history #research

Naming a character is harder than naming your first born child. For one thing, you only have one first born child, but writers have many characters to name. But it’s more than that. Naming a child means either being creative, choosing something new and different, or honoring another beloved family member or two.

There are many resources available to help a writer choose the perfect name for their characters. I’ve used The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook to pick out names by heritage and by meaning. I’ve used Census records lists of most popular names for a given decade. History books, baby name lists, phone books. No matter what resource you use, or if you make up names out of your imagination, it’s most important to have a name that reflects your character’s personality, purpose, or importance in the story(ies) he or she appears in.

For the Fury Falls Inn series, I chose names that I hope will reflect on the character’s role. I gave Cassandra Fairhope, or Cassie, her name because first I think Cassandra is a beautiful name, but second because I associate the name with witches. I imagine the Goodwitch series may have most recently influenced that association, but it’s still, to my mind, the perfect name for the girl in my series.

Her mother is Mercy Fairhope, qualities she once possessed but in the opening story has very little left of either mercy or hope. So her name shows the contradiction in her personality. And it rolls off my tongue so sweetly, too.

Her husband is Reginald Fairhope, or Reggie, and I gave him this name because I wanted a strong name with a lovable nickname for Mercy to call him. And by the way, Fairhope is the name of a town in Alabama, and since my series is set in that beautiful state, I hope the town won’t mind sharing its name with my family of characters. (Pun intended!)

As for the Cassie’s four brothers, I used a rather unusual source for popular regional names: the Early History of Huntsville Alabama 1804 to 1870 by Edward Chambers Betts. I found this book both informative and fascinating. I jotted down male first names, as well as some interesting last names from lists of men who signed a charter or contract sometime before my story time period begins. I only made a specific note of the interesting and unusual names.

First names I noted were Ruggles, Silas, Abram, Giles, Ephraim, Ezekiah, Moses, and Daniel. I’m going to have to come up with a character I can name Ruggles! I love that name so much. I just didn’t think it fit the somewhat gothic atmosphere of my series. Many of these names are strongly associated with the bible, which didn’t suit my characters either. So I settled on the four boys being named Giles, Abram, Daniel, and Silas, oldest to youngest. Those four sound like good, strong men but a bit unusual, too. And yes, I know that Daniel and Abram are also biblical but not nearly as overtly as Ezekiah and Moses.

Are you curious about the interesting last names I gleaned from the Betts’ book? I have used at least one of these in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn. They are Drake, Barber, Alcott, Crane, Knapp, Hull, Stoddart, Fisk, and Hale. The inn’s cook, Sheridan Drake, is one that comes to mind.

Naming characters takes time and consideration. If I’ve chosen a name because of its specific meaning, like Tara in the Secrets of Roseville series, I record in my character profile what the meaning of the name is. Tara is the anglicized Irish form of Teamhair which means “elevated place” in Gaelic. The important point here being that it’s an Irish name for a family with Irish heritage. But also in some way the idea of place or earth seemed to be associated with her talent of healing through touch. Physical connection. I can’t really put it into words why those are associated in my head, but they are.

What’s your favorite character name? Why?

Quick reminder! It’s only one month until The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn releases. You can pre-order your copy today and have it in your inbox first thing on release day!

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Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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