What’s That Name?
by Our Guest on July 9th, 2009

I don’t typically chooses names with layers and layers of meaning. Which is not to say I don’t put a lot of thought into the process, which usually involves poring through one of my favorite name resources, A World Of Baby Names, which categorizes according to nationality and gives pronunciations, origins and definitions.


What I search for is hard to quantify, because it’s really an emotional response that for some inexplicable reason says to me, “Yes! That’s it! That’s my character!”

I do, however, try to follow a few guidelines:

1. Easily pronounceable. There’s nothing worse than having to skip over a name because your mind just can’t make it out quickly enough. There should never be any ambiguity attached to your characters’ names.

2. No two characters’ names begin with the same letter - because the brain tends to make quick assumptions based on that first letter, and will easily mistake one name for another.

3. Historical accuracy. But I have to admit I have so stretched the limits of this one. I know, it’s wrong and I should be ashamed. Neither Grayson nor Chad appear to have been used much in the 1800s, but can I help it if both names shouted the above message when my tired eyes alighted upon them? Actually, I figured Grayson could easily have been a family surname, and using the same reasoning, I lengthened Chad to Chadwell…and then immediately shortened it to Chad again for nearly all of the book.

Call it manipulation if you will. So far I haven’t had any complaints from readers or my editor.

4. The hero’s name should convey strength. Such names usually begin and end with a hard consonant and contain only one or two syllables - generally. Again, in historicals this rule can also be stretched.

5. The heroine’s name — I usually go with something that in my mind evokes the time period and says something about her personality. I chose Sophie for the heroine of Dark Temptation because to me it sounds like a woman who’s cute and quirky, slightly naive and who walks her own determined road without much thought as to what others think about her.

Sometimes names I hear stick in my head and I’ll just have to use them. The heroine in Dark Obsession was named after one of my husband’s ancestors, Honora Whyte from Kilarney, Ireland. Not that my Honora was Irish, but she did have a good touch of the stubborn spirit Irish lasses are known for, and she never stopped seeing the honor lurking beneath Grayson’s tortured exterior.

In my upcoming series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, the identities of the four sisters, who will each be a heroine in her own book, are very much in question. So I wanted names that suggested the possibility that these could either be aliases or simply names chosen according to their parents’ fancy. What I came up with were names one might choose if one were standing in the garden of one’s country estate - Laurel, Ivy, Holly and Willow - and the mystery surrounding those names will continue throughout each book.


And that brings me to another matter. At my editor’s request, this new series has taken my writing in an entirely new direction. The Blackheath Moor books were dark paranormals, and while the new books will have their dark threads, they are much more in keeping with traditional historicals. No more ghosts, no more unexplained occurrences. This has been a hard decision, but as I step out of the mist and into the light, I feel my books will no longer quite fit in with the themes here at Silk and Shadows.


I’ll miss it here. A lot. Jessa, Annette, Sharon and Kim are all amazing individuals with wonderful talents, and I have to say I’ve learned valuable things from each of you. I’m so looking forward to the release of Jessa’s and Annette’s first books. I know they will be incredible, exciting, sexy reads. And you will continue to find me here, lurking in your formidable shadows and leaving the occasional comment. Or maybe not so occasional!

However, I will be back one more week and will give away both Blackheath Moor books, Dark Obsession and Dark Temptation, to one of our commenters. So see you all next week, and hey, sorry for the long post today!

11 comments to “What’s That Name?”

  1. 1

    I was soooo happy when Hermione’s name was pronounced in Goblet of Fire (book - before the movies) since I had no flippin’ idea how it should be said.

    In my current WIP the heroine’s name is very important as it is a clue and has some symbolism in the story.

    Thanks for the tips! Hate to see you leave this site. I like coming over here for information and a quick read.

    And … sorry, I read the four girls names and “Laurel and Hardy” jumped into my brain! I had to read them again to make sure I did make a mistake …

  2. 2

    Hey Allison,

    I use most of the same parameters you do in choosing a name for my characters. Once in a while a name speaks loudly to me and I’ll break one of my ‘rules’ (i.e. the heroine in my first romance book was named Cairistiona) but for the most part they work.

    We’re sad that you’re leaving, of course, but excited about the new opportunities you’re exploring in your writing. As always, I’ll be waiting impatiently for your next book!

  3. 3


    I’m sad you are leaving us, but excited about your new books!

    And we know you’re going to be a regular here anyway, right?

    Hugs to you!


  4. 4

    We’ll miss you.

  5. 5

    We’ll miss you, Allison, but I’m looking forward to the new series!

  6. 6

    The new series sounds good, you’ll be missed!

  7. 7

    Another page has turned…but it’s not the end. Looking forward to this new series!

    Your name choices were great!

  8. 8

    Thanks so much, everyone! Parting is such sweet sorrow!

  9. 9

    The new series sounds fabulous! Will you come back and guest with us so we can trumpet your latest success?

  10. 10

    Hi, Allison,

    I love your dark stories. I can’t wait for your new books to come out. We will miss you. Come visit soon.
    Linda Cacaci

  11. 11

    Jessa, you bet! Linda, thank you! :mrgreen:

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