What's in a Name?

Would you name your child Viggo?

One of the most exciting aspects of having a baby is picking a name. There are entire websites dedicated to naming baby. Picking names is also one of the fun parts of writing romance novels. Sometimes when I pick a name for a character, I have to change it a few chapters into the book because that character just doesn't fit his/her name as I anticipated. Unfortunately, you don't have that luxury as a parent (although I actually know someone who legally changed her daughter's name when the daughter was about one because the name just didn't fit her!). Happily, both of my boys' names fit them, or maybe they just grew into their names. I have no idea if I'm a "typical" Carol or even what a typical Carol is. I do know that I have a name that fits my age. There were a couple of other Carols when I was growing up. Now I don't know one Carol under a certain age - certainly no children named Carol (although Caroline or Carolyn is more popular now). Names go in and out of fashion just like clothes. Mabel is for women over 65 as is Maude, Doris, Eleanor. I grew up with girls named Lisa, Sandy, Kathy, Rachel. I think there are a lot of 30-somethings named Jennifer, Amber, Jessica, Stacey. My sons' friends have names like Calista, Sydney, Maddy (short for Madeline), Eden. And boys' names follow similar trends. Last year there were three Zachs or Zacharies on my son's soccer team.

What causes trends in names? I think unusual celebrity names become popular. I swear I never heard of a real person named Liam (before actor Liam Neeson), Jackson (before singer Jackson Brown), Aidan (before actor Aidan Quinn), Peyton (before that psycho character Rebecca DeMornay played), Madison (before that movie Splash). Soaps also influence naming trends. I remember Kayla became a very popular name after a very popular soap character. What's next? Viggo? (My excuse for including Viggo's picture!)

A lot of romance heroes have extremely masculine or unusual names (the names of Scottish heroes are a whole other topic!). If they're not particularly unusual, we tend to go for the short brusque, alpha male name - Jack, Nick, Matt, Luke. I confess, my editor had to rein me in on one of my names. My Feb. Intrigue, Circumstantial Memories, features three brothers, all of whom get their very own book. The dad's name is Ralph, so the brothers are Ryder, Rafe, and... Rod. I really wanted Ryder, Rafe, and Ridge, but my editor nixed Ridge, with the comment that it was just too weird. She obviously doesn't watch soaps because Ridge is either a character's name on a soap (not one I actually watch) or the actor's name. But I loved Ridge, so I used the name for a hero in one of my upcoming Red Sage erotic romances. Have to laugh though - I read a reader's comment recently on an Amazon discussion about romance novels, and she was complaining about the heroes' names. She wrote that if she read one more romance novel with a hero named Rafe, she was going to scream! LOL Not only do I have a Rafe coming up in one of my Intrigues, I named the hero of Aphrodite's Fire Rafe. I can't believe I did that! I mean, who uses the same name twice??

Some of my favorite hero names come from Victoria Holt's books, especially the books she set in Cornwall - Conan, Petroc, Jago and then Redvers, Napier - I just loved all those names and they added to the romanticism of the books. I doubt if my editor will let me get away with Petroc...

So what are some of your favorite hero (and heroine) names? Which ones make you want to scream? Does your name suit you?


Jennifer August said...

Before I became a writer, I was enthralled by the names my favorite authors picked for their characters. In fact, I even named my son (middle name) after Nathaniel from Shanna. Now, as a writer, I know that my personal taste and vision of my characters guide my choices. I love strong heroes and tend toward the darker, more masculine names. But my heroines also have mettle, so I can't pick something too soft. It's such fun. AND I often find searching for a name for one character can lead to ideas for other books and plots.
P.S. I love books with Rafes in them!

Donna Marie Rogers said...

I had to laugh, my brother's ex-wife named all her girls after soap operas and Buffy. Kayla is the oldest, Anya is the baby...LOL And Ridge is a character from Bold & Beautiful (I don't watch it either) played by Ronn Moss from that 70s group, Player ("Baby Come Back").

I love strong, simple names for heroes like Jack, Mike, Nick. And I also like cowboyish names like Garrett, Luke, and Wade.

Some of my heroines are Sara, Jessica, Lauren, Carrie, Hannah, Melinda (Lindy), but the name I've never forgotten was from one of the very first books I ever read. Marietta from Love's Tender Fury by Jennifer Wilde (Tom Huff). I named my daughter after another of his books, Once More, Miranda.

Great blog, Carol!

Anne Rainey said...

I tend to like simple, every day names. I don't know why, I find a 'Jake' or an 'Adam' or a 'Nick' hot.

But then I've had some names that were a little different too like Blade in Tasting Candy. I was told by a few people to change his name, but I refused. I've never regretted that decision. It still makes me sigh. :)

jilljames said...

I had to grow into my name (real name). I grew up without another one around me most of my life. Now I hear it alot but mostly little kids.

My favorite hero's name is Raine. I just love the duality. It can be tough like a wagon trail driver or soft like a poet. It's all in the wording of the story.

Carol Ericson said...

Jennifer, you're so right - the characters dictate their names.

Donna, yeah, Bold and Beautiful (I'm an ABC Soap fan), but I didn't know Ron Moss was in a band - he's waay too pretty, but I never forgot that name Ridge - I guess it suits an erotic romance better than a rom/sus anyway! LOL

Anne, Blade is a great name for a hero!

Jill, I know of heroines named Raine but no heroes. He'd have to be super tough!

Amber Green said...

Of all the names I've used, I like Esau best. The name evokes a weatherbeaten, harsh man, doesn't it?

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Carol, too funny about using the same name twice. :) Many times when coming up with a name for a new character I'll think it sounds familiar and then realize, Hm, I've used it already. I KNEW I liked it. :) Another thing find myself doing is I pick a hero's name and find myself naming secondary chacters with the same starting letter. Circumstantial Memories was very good, btw. I'm looking forward to the sequels! I would've liked Ridge, too. :)

ShawnaMoore said...

Hi, Carol!

My mom was an avid reader of Victoria Holt's books, and those are some of the first romances I read. I agree with you--her heroes were awesome and had names to match :)

Happy weekend wishes,


Carol Ericson said...

Amber, yeah, Esau does sound like a harsh, spare man. Of course, I'm thinking about Esai Morales, who was yummilicious in the day.

Stacey, glad you enjoyed CM. I really liked the name Ridge, but that's OK, he's in my upcoming Red Sage story, Triple Threat.

Shawna, Victoria Holt is my all-time favorite romance author - the first romance I ever read was VH's The Secret Woman (that had Redvers in it!) and she is the reason I wanted to write romance. The first manuscript I finished was a gothic romance in the VH style, which now resides under the bed. LOL

Nicole North said...

I love naming things including characters. The name has to fit the character or I'll have to change it. I especially love naming heroes. Some of my favorite ones I've used in stories are Gavin, Ian, Scott, Torr and Brodie. Mostly Scottish, of course.

Sandy said...

Great topic, Carol. I used to spend a lot of time over names in a baby book checking to see what the name meant. In my last two books,I didn't do that. In Addiction, I picked the name Jolene for my heroine because I had a roommate with that name, and my character has her coloring.

Very intriguing topic, Carol.

Beppie Harrison said...

Names are great fun! Maybe because I've been cursed/blessed with such a weird one myself, I tend to go for plain, easily understood names - Annie, Katie, Rachel etc. - for women, but for my heroes I find I keep turning to names familiar to me from living in England. Simon is my current hero's name, over the repeated protests of a male CP who just doesn't like the name. Too bad, I tell him. Adjust. As for names that match a certain period - very useful for placing a minor character when you don't want to waste a lot of words on him or her.

As for whether I match my own name, who knows? The only other people I've known with it were my great aunt, Tante Bep (small, withered, stern), my Aunt Beppie (for whom I was named - a kindergarten teacher, not particularly pretty), my cousin Beppie Judith (when we were both living in Hawaii, I got Beppie, because I was older, and she was Judy - she's wiry, determined, and athletic). So I have no idea what a Beppie is.

Love thinking about names, though --