Diane’s Style of Naming Characters

I meant to do this earlier in the day. Megan could not do the blog today so I volunteered but then I spent the day FINALLY finishing the revisions to The Vanishing Viscountess.

I promised my system for naming characters.

The Regency period was a more formal time than nowadays when everyone from salesclerks to telemarketers want to use your first name. First names were rarely used in the Regency era, except among family or schoolmates. Even so, a little boy with a title would be called by his title, even if he was a mere toddler. Think of it, in Pride & Prejudice no one ever called Darcy Fitzwilliam! and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet addressed themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

I’ve tried to adapt to this style in my books, so I pay attention first to title names and surnames. I make sure my male characters have title names or surnames that will sound comfortable as what we modern folk would think of as given names. So in my March book, Innocence & Impropriety, the hero is Jameson Flynn, but he is “Flynn” throughout the book. His employer is the Marquess of Tannerton or “Tanner” to everyone. (Tanner is the hero of The Vanishing Viscountess)

I often create title names by using The Incomplete Peerage . But I mix up the title names, taking the stem from one of them and putting on a different ending, so “Cornwall” may become “Cornworth.” Then I google “Lord Cornworth” to make certain there isn’t a real one.

My heroines are much more apt to get a first name. Have you noticed how my heroine names mostly start with “M”? My daughter’s name starts with M.

For first names I go to a baby naming site and look up English or Scottish or Irish or Welsh first names, whatever I need. Or I go to a census of the time period and see what names are there. I do this for surnames as well.

I try not to repeat a letter of the alphabet in the book, so if the hero is Tanner, then his butler would not be Turner.

That’s it. That’s my naming style. And if that doesn’t work, I just take a name from a reader–Right Mallory? Mallory Pickerloy is my heroine in The Vanishing Viscountess.


About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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8 Responses to Diane’s Style of Naming Characters

  1. Mallory Pickerloy says:

    Hello Diane!! I still love the title ‘The Vanishing Viscountess’. Sounds absolutely wonderful. I still find it exciting my name is used for your Heroine! It’s in such good use. 🙂

    My names got some history. My mother wanted an boy and she got me instead so she just called me Mallory. Just kidding, actaully maybe in a way it’s true but she named me after her Mallory maiden last name and some ancestours too. Hehe ;)Course the Pickerloy name has alot of history too, and had been featured on the History Channel back in 2003 by the families permission, so it has alot of cool history. 🙂

    I love looking through old census records of families and names, I found some interesting facts that way.

    Looking forward to more of your reads!!

    Wishing you the best!,
    Mallory Pickerloy

  2. I made you a baroness, Mallory! And I “explained” your unusual first name as being named after a French relative who was killed on the guillotine!


  3. Mallory Pickerloy says:

    That’s wonderful Diane!! Sounds fitting and very intrigueing :)Can’t wait to read the story one day!

    Best Wishes, Mallory Pickerloy

  4. Diane, thank you. I’ve printed out your post for my research file.

    The lack of formality, I feel, has led to a lack of courtesy in our times. I like that in my daughter’s school, the teachers are always referred to as Ms. LastName. We grew up with such courtesies being extended to all adult men and women. Therefore, being forced to call my professor by his nickname in grad school was bit of a shock.


  5. Keira,
    I always hated that phoney “I’m just like you students” that some professors adopt. It was prevalent in the 70’s. I hate telemarketers using my first name but luckily I have gotten rid of most of them


  6. Todd says:

    I, too, hate telemarketers calling me by my first name–or indeed, calling me at all–but the rage for informality does not extend everywhere in the world. Many of my students come from abroad–especially India and China–and it is rare for them to get even informal enough to call me “Professor.” Mostly they call me “Sir.” It actually took me a while to get used to it.

    The Ph.D. students that I advise do call me by my first name, since anything else becomes awkward when working together closely with someone. I sometimes think it’s unfortunate the the custom of calling someone by their bare last name has gone out, at least in this country; it’s a nice compromise between familiarity and formality. Collegiality. 🙂


  7. Todd says:

    And by the way, I also love the title “The Vanishing Viscountess,” though it reminds me a bit of “The Nonexistent Knight” by Italo Calvino. (A rare example of a title that’s better in translation than in the original.)


  8. Todd said…
    I sometimes think it’s unfortunate the the custom of calling someone by their bare last name has gone out, at least in this country; it’s a nice compromise between familiarity and formality.

    Hear! Hear!

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