Character, Who Art Thou?

I’ve read different posts and interviews asking authors how they come up with character names, and I’m always fascinated by the authors who state that they research and choose names, before they begin writing.

My characters tend to name themselves. As in, I hear a voice or envision a scene, and I’m inspired to write it. Through writing the seed of the story come the character names without any research, or effort on my part. Of course, this forces me to research the names and ensure they’re period and or ethnically correct, and sometimes I’m forced to tweak a name or two, but other times I’m gob smacked when names not only align with the era, but the character’s status. Like today.

I’m currently at work on four separate WIPs: book IV of the Dear One series; book II of the Honourable Hearts’ series; book I of a Victorian-era series; and book I of a second Regency series (Yes, I’m bouncing between them. Yes I’m making progress. Slowly. Yes, for the first time in forever, I am writing, yay!) But I digress.

Today, whilst working on book I of the new Regency series, I wrote a scene that required me to fully realize a character’s name. To that point, I’d referred to him only as: Uncle Sims. But what was his full first name (or is it his surname, lol)? I typed Simister, then stopped. Was that even a name, first or last? Well, by gads, it is.

From House of Names: “The surname Simister was first found in Cornwall where they held a family seat as Lords of the manor of Old Port in Modbury, from very ancient times, some say long before the Norman Conquest in 1066 A.D.”

This works beautifully into my story as the character in question is an old duke, and I’ll place his seat in or very near Cornwall. Whether Simister will be his Christian or surname depends on him. It could be an affectionate shortening of his surname only a very few, well-loved family and friends – like his niece – can get away with; or it could be a shortening of his Christian name granted him in honour of an ancestor.

Such is the beauty of writing fiction; short of writing a scene involving a real-life historic event or person, you can tweak and fudge, and usually find some literature, be it abundant or obscure, to help support your version of events. And, because you’ve read this far, please enjoy this little snippet from today’s writing session…

Excerpt from Regency WIP by Deborah Small, copyright 2022, all rights reserved:

The enormity of his decision hit Michael like a cannon ball to the chest as she progressed up the aisle of the hushed church towards him, a pale, golden-haired vision in a shimmering, silver gown. The swiftness with which everything was happening now the decision had been made, was staggering. The special license had been granted within hours by the [] in the interest of national security. He’d packed an appropriate suit on the off-chance she actually agreed to the covert mission. But there was no way on God’s green earth there were seamstresses capable of fashioning an exquisite, and intricately pearl-adorned wedding gown to fit her, overnight. So unless she’d had one specially made in anticipation of the day she’d eventually wed, he had to assume the gown was borrowed. From the duchess most likely. Yes. There, near the hem, a small, but very neatly embroidered, gold-thread S&M for Simister and Millicent; the duke and duchess’s initials elegantly stitched into the gown’s glittering over skirt.

Take care, and stay safe, stay well, and stay true to the ones you love.


Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.

~Julius Charles Hare

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