Some of us really agonize over finding the perfect name for our characters. I know I do. I pour over online baby name sites, sorting by nationality, or most popular, or what was popular in 1930 vs. 1890. I’ll pick one, for awhile, then decide it’s too pedestrian. I don’t like made-up meaningless names, the kind you find in lots of bad romantasy (and yes, that’s a made-up word for that spin-off of the old-style romance that masquerades as a fantasy with elves and fairies and beautiful princesses who have to save their world from the legions of darkness that threaten to engulf them… you know the type). My characters often go through multiple name changes before I settle on one, but rarely do they ever finally seem “right”. Why is that?
One thing I have discovered is that I rarely like women’s names. Hmm. They always seem kind of “fluffy”, like the bearer is good for baking cookies and taking the kids to the park, but not much more. Or worse, they just sound childish, as if women don’t deserve strong-sounding, grown-up names. I’ll refrain from listing any that I particularly dislike, I don’t want to offend anyone who may carry one of these names and be perfectly happy with it. I suppose it’s just my own hangup about the issue. There are of course plenty of women’s names that are very commanding. I find many of the old Norse and Old English, Germanic names (e.g., Griselda) to be far less infantilizing than some of the modern popular names, but they’re viewed as ugly, old-fashioned, and conjure up images of beefy, broadsword-wielding Valkyries. Unless I’m willing to give a character one of these names, that will sound awkward and unwieldy to modern readers, we really have a very small list of names to choose from. Doing a web search while I write this, I’ve found probably hundreds of women’s name from historical documents going back to the 1100’s that are completely unknown, and have long since ceased to be used. I like to use something that’s not overly popular, but not too outlandish. I think it’s reasonable to assume I will never name a character Agglethrudis, but hey, you never know.
So anyway, what I’m struggling with right now is a male character’s name. His character was inspired by an actor in a particular role, and I’ve been using the actor’s real name, but really think I need to find an acceptable substitute. He has a name I have never heard before, and I really like it, it’s so working for this character, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea to use his real name, especially since it is so distinctive. So I have to find a distintive male name that I like. I’m open to suggestions.