The game of the name…

As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve just started the final reworking of a twenty-year-old project, The Raided Heart. As this has been with me for so long, I feel I need to ‘do it proud’, and really pour my heart and soul into this one. Which is where this week’s dilemma came from.

When TRH was first drafted, the female lead’s name was Guinevere, and the hero was Robin (I was 14, so please cut me some slack here). In the second proper version, for NaNoWriMo 2009, Guinevere became Meg, and Robin became Will – far more appropriate for the time and place (1530s Scotland). However, since then, I’ve also been working, slowly, towards my first ‘true’ historical fiction, albeit with a fictional female lead. Who, I realised, was also called Meg.

I appreciate there are only so many names available to writers, especially when you’re also trying to be historically accurate, but the woes which have befallen me this week… Do I have two stories where the leading lady shares a name, or do I change one of them to something else? Is this the sort of thing a reader even notices? An obvious example would be Philippa Gregory’s Tudor wives novels, where, obviously, she has had to deal with three Katherines and two Annes in her main cast, not to mention all the supporting characters, male and female. Medieval / early modern royalty and aristocracy were not overly imaginative when it came to naming their children!

choices decision doors doorway
Which door (name) to pick…

Weirdly, that’s how it feels to me right now. Having never had to come up with a name for an actual person, this is the closest I’ve come to creating a human being… And it’s really difficult this time around. For the Kindred Spirits series, the majority of characters have come along fully-formed, names and personalities already assigned and matching; starting from scratch is something new.

I would love to know if this is all just in my head, or if names are just as important to readers, as well as writers? Does the wrong ‘fit’ for a character jar you out of a story (let’s not even go near Reign, which converted the famous ‘four Marys’ to Lola, Aylee, Kenna and Greer…). For me, a genuine-sounding name is vital, to keep myself in the world being created.

Is it the same for you?

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