Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Why talk about names you may ask? I confess I've always been fascinated by names, there meaning and how they may be perceived. It was brought home to me again after a conversation with a friend. She indicated she loved stories where the names fit the character. That started me thinking. Did I consciously or unconsciously choose my character names?

First a bit of background. My own choice of the pen name, Angela Raines. Angela comes from the Greek word Angelos meaning messenger of God. Now, I am not a messenger of the deity, but the idea of being a messenger fits into that of a writer. The surname Raines is easier to explain.

From the Doomsday Book, the name Raines, from old English, meant shelter among others. However, the name is also that of a Western Author who lived in Colorado Springs by the name of William MacLeod Raine. I could have chosen one of many authors who at one time or another made this town their home. Helen (Hunt) Jackson, Robert E. Heinlein, Frank Maynard among the options, but Raine seemed the most appropriate. (Although I do write the occasional Medieval story for a change of pace.)

So where do I get the names for my characters? First, I try to find historic names that fit the time I'm writing about. In the latest novel, "The Outlaw's Letter" my heroine is Harriett 'Hetty' Osgood and my hero Grant Davis.

I came up with Harriett from research on Joe Ward, an outlaw here in Colorado. Harriett was his wife. While she did not fare well in the papers, she was thought to be a rough woman, I wanted to give her a better story. (And I believe she might have had some redeeming qualities.) The name itself comes from the French and means rules her household. Now Hetty is a name that seemed to fit my character. It is also one of the nicknames for Harriett. Harriett's surname Osgood comes from Norse, Danish and Swedish with Os meaning God and Good meaning good. Since Hetty is basically a fiercely independent woman who loves the classics the name just seemed to fit.

Bouvier - Jefferson Davis home
Grant Davis came from U.S. Grant and Jefferson Davis.  The name Grant itself means great/tall. Appropriate for my hero. The name Davis means beloved. Grant is both those and also part of his namesakes. Ulysses S. Grant was an amazing general/hero who had his ups and downs in life. Jefferson Davis was a man who before the war had a great career, who hit is height as the president of the Confederacy and then became a wanted man. My hero embodied both men. He could deal with challenges like Grant but was also a lover of history like Davis, who had been on the board for the creation of the Smithsonian.

So there you have it. It is a bit long, but a lot of thought goes into finding the right name for the right character.

Below is a short excerpt of the Grant and Hetty in action:

     One moment Grant was standing over a prone body, the next found him clawing at his eyes trying to get the dirt out of them.
    "What the…?" he growled, shaking his head as he heard footsteps rushing toward him. Through blurry eyes, he saw someone with a raised hand rushing toward him. He barely had time to duck as a hand holding a rock rushed by his head. As the assailant ran past, Grant put out an arm, grabbing the person around the waist. He felt, rather than saw, an arm swing back. He barely avoided being hit again. Instead, the blow landed on his left shoulder. With an effort, Grant maintained his hold, but just barely.
    "Stop fighting and behave," Grant told his assailant, "I'm trying to help you."
     "By turning me over to Conover Boggs?" Hetty spat out, forgetting to lower her voice in her agitation.
     "Not if I can help it," Grant replied. He strengthened his grip as he heard the sound of horses coming their way.
     "Then," Hetty began, only to have a hand cover her mouth before she could say any more.
     Out of the darkness, the approaching horses halted close by. One moved closer just as the moon decided to make an appearance.
     "Well, Grant, see you caught the boy. Nice work," Con said, grinning as he stepped off his horse.  "Now young man," Con continued, moving toward the two.

     Grant felt Hetty tense. Hoping his instincts were correct, he stopped Boggs with his next words. With his hand still over Hetty's mouth, he interrupted, "Slight mistake there, Con, this is my wife."

Amazon ebook
Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet


Jacquie Rogers said...

All my best to Grant and Hettie to find their much deserved HEA.

Excellent process for choosing names. I can't seem to even plot a story until the characters reveal their names, or at least accept the names I picked for them. Have you ever had to change a name midway through a story? That's a killer! LOL

E. Ayers said...

I tend to stand on my head to find the perfect names for characters, too. I think it's part of the fun of writing. I tend to look at census names. I think we each do different things to find the perfect names for our "people". I'm a stickler for details so I want be certain a name existed. :-)

Renaissance Women said...

Jacquie, Yes, I have had characters who decided they didn't like their name. So, after some discussion we arrived at a compromise. I changed the first name, but kept the last. LOL.

Thank you for the kind words on my naming process. It may be arduous, but it works for me most of the time. Doris

Renaissance Women said...

Census records and city directories are the best. Cemeteries are also another resource I use, but then I spend a lot of time walking and researching the lives of those who reside in said cemeteries. Having said that, I do relate to your process of finding the right names. Doris

Elizabeth Clements said...

Newspaper obituaries of very old people also reveal interesting names. I, too, ponder over names, they having to feel "right" for my character and his/her heritage. I wonder how authors like Nora Roberts chooses names and after writing 250+ books, she must have a heck of a time keeping track, let alone coming up with non-repeats. For myself, I've created a Word document that not only lists the names alphabetically, but also what book I've used the names in and ideas for future stories. As always, Doris, you write interesting posts.

Renaissance Women said...

Elizabeth, thank you for the supporting words. We authors do have our way of telling stories and finding the people who will inhabit those worlds. When I write Medievals I really have a fun time finding names, but love every minute of that research. Happy writing my friend. Doris