Names, names, names… they are identity. They help fix someone in our mind’s eye. In both of those, they may be as important in fiction as in our real life:
I'm fascinated with characters names. Respond with one of your characters names and perhaps their personality type… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Lynette Fortie (@LynetteFortie) October 28, 2019
Rather than a tweet, I thought this was worth a full blog post. Here are some characters from my two most recent novels… and how I recall inventing their names. All of them – particularly their first names – were chosen for their 18th century reality and country of origin:
“Marie-Thérèse Durand”: Marie-Thérèse I saw among French girl baptismal 17th-18th century certificates I found online. The name reached up even to royalty: King Louis XVI’s daughter (his only child to reach adulthood) had the name too. Durand as a surname may be found in the west of France, where she is from.
“Carolina Beckington”: Caroleena (it is pronounced) was heard in later 18th century England, particularly among the upper classes. Beckington I swiped from a village in Somerset just because I liked it – I kid you not. We had in 2015 almost rented a house in the village.
“Henry (Beckington)”: Again, a common English male name in the 18th century.
“Robert Rutherford”: Robert was as common in America then as today. He is the lead character, so I wanted a name that didn’t read as too odd and “dated” to the modern eye (such as, say, uh, Jedediah). Rutherford I saw as a surname on several historical American men. I liked the alliteration too. Robert of course is also my name, which I am partial to. 😉
“Ana Sánchez”: I took her name from a variation on an 18th century Spanish aristocrat I found.
“Françoise-Geertryud du Varnes”: Her double-barreled first name being half-French, half-Dutch, reflects what she is. Geertryud (Gertrude in English) was common in the 18th century Netherlands. (Today it is I have read “old-fashioned” and I suspect it may be as common among Dutch women as, say, Martha is among Americans.) Du Varnes was an 18th century French surname I stumbled upon.
“John Abbott”: I took South Carolinian “John’s” name from George Washington’s South Carolina-born real aide, John Laurens (who was once largely known only to historians and American Revolution “nerds” – like me – and is now super-famous thanks to the smash musical Hamilton). Abbott was merely a name I saw on some other American of the era and I thought it worked for him.
“Héloïse d’Estaing”: Héloïse was another common 18th century French girl’s name. D’Estaing is from a French real admiral who fought in America allied with the new U.S. She is a fictional relation.
“Aneta Kłosowska”: Aneta being the Polish version for the French name Annette. Kłosowska was evidently about as common a Polish surname in the 18th century as it is today.
“Edward Floyd”: Edward was also common then in the new U.S. As for his surname, he is a fictional nephew of the Long Island, NY real signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Floyd.
“Amelia Stuyvesant”: Amelia was my great-grandmother’s name (she was the daughter of German immigrants) and was not uncommon in 18th century America. Stuyvesant was a common surname among the Dutch of upstate New York.
“Henrik Van Oostende”: Yet another Dutch name, but this one, uh, I don’t actually recall right now precisely how and where I found that beaut. LOL!
I could go on, but you get the point I’m sure.
Have a good day, wherever you are, and whatever your name. 🙂