I’ve talked a lot so far this month about how much I love writing the Kindred Spirits series, so here’s the confession of what I do NOT like about it. I am a monarchist, and proud of that fact, but I do wish that historically, our royal and noble families had been a teensy bit more original when it came to picking names for their children.
Practically every conversation I’ve written has included a Richard (of course), Edwards and Williams, and as for the women, there are far too many Annes, C/Katherines, and Marys for my liking. Something you’re taught early on in writing exercises is to avoid names which are too similar. Don’t have a Jan and Jon, or a Tim and Tom too close together on the page, and that’s perfectly sensible – it’s far too easy to get your cast muddled if they all sound alike. But when you’re writing about real people, you don’t really have a choice. Throughout all four Kindred Spirits books, and especially during the Sisterhood submission, I’ve tried to avoid simply using first names, and tried to mix in nicknames, for example with the two Georges, Boleyn and Clarence, or using phrases to describe them, e.g. the Tudor queen, when Queens Anne Neville and Anne of Cleves are speaking to each other.
It isn’t perfect though, and I’ll be honest, a couple of times, I changed who was speaking to who, if I could get my point across just as easily by having different people in the scene. If Anne of Cleves could just as easily become Elizabeth of York, then that’s what happened.
Going forward, apart from the cast I’ve already got, when I visit new places, I think name differentiation will definitely be a factor in thinking about who I include! Mind, that does essentially exclude half the Scottish kings – having more than two James speaking in a group could potentially be the end of me!
For both readers and writers of historical fiction, how do you cope with naming difficulties? Do you ever find yourself getting muddled?