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Sunday, August 9, 2015


By the English Rose.

Do you like your name? Or do you hate it? So many people who I know really don’t like their given names, myself included.

I was given the name Gillian, no middle name, that’s all I got and I hate it, so mostly I get called Jill or Gill depending if it’s spoken or written (except by Mum and my two sisters, who insist on giving me my Sunday name!) If I could have, I would have changed it to something I liked more. I used to wish I had a middle name so I could at least choose which one I liked best. Mum and Dan had two names and they gave my younger sisters two, so why not me? I want to have a tantrum!

I used to like the name Dawn, and when I was sending manuscripts off to publishers, on the return envelope I used to put G.D as my initials, thinking that the D would symbolise a new ‘dawn’ in my writing life! It never did. So I dropped the D.

My sister is called Viki Helen, and the Viki is just that, it’s not short for Victoria as so many people seem to think, but she has always been called Helen and she hates that, so much so that she has changed it to Helan, no idea why, as it is still pronounced the same way! I’d have wanted to be called Viki as it’s more unusual. My friend, Janice, has always wanted to be called Susan, and my friend Shirley wants to be called Marie.

My Auntie Doris had a little girl a year or so before I was born, and they named her – Doris! Which was fine when she was small, but as she grew they got called Big Doris and Little Doris!  As soon as she was old enough, she legally changed her name to Christine. I don’t blame her at all, who the heck wants to go through life being called ‘Little Doris’, it sounds very Dickensian!
As I am a huge lover of Scotland and consider it my spiritual home (it is actually my ancestral home) I once decided I wanted to be called Shona, a good old Scottish name, meaning Jane or Joan, but no-one would use Shona as they had got so used to calling me Gillian, or Jill for so many years. Darn it!

                                                           My altar ego, Shona.

What is it that makes us hate our name? Is it because we had no freedom of choice over it, because we were ‘given’ it by someone else? Maybe it’s because it isn’t strong enough, or poetic enough, or Romantic enough?

Do you think our characters like the names we give them? Do those names really ‘fit’ the characters? I know that in the days most of us at PRP are writing about, a huge amount of people changed their names on a regular basis for a variety of reasons, the only problem with it is, if we did decide to allow our characters to do that, the readers would get very confused! So would the writers probably! I’ve been lucky up to now, all my main characters seem to have liked the names I chose for them.

Have you ever written a character with one name, then changed it after the book was finished? If you have changed a character’s name part way through a story, why? And does that alter the way you write the character? My WIP has a bad guy who I am calling Mike at the moment, but I’m having some real trouble with him, every time I write about him he kicks against the name, it’s got to go soon! But what he’ll end up being called, I guess that might just depend on exactly how nasty he turns out to be!

                                                           The real me. Jill.

I chose to change my name for my books because I don’t really like my ‘real’ name, so for my traditional shoot-em-up Westerns for Hale in England, my author name is Amos Carr, and for PRP of course I am Gil McDonald. It would be hard to fit my full name on a book really!

So what do you think? Do you like or hate your name? If you had to change it what would you change it to and why? Plenty of food for thought here, I will be interested to see your comments.


  1. I used to think I didn't like my given name, but I got over it. Other than being called Dori, I'm okay with Doris. But because I write fiction also, I took a pen name Angela Raines. (That name came to me and just stuck).

    As to character names, I've changed a few. Mostly due to the name not being appropriate to the time frame. Still, for the most part they seem happy with the names I chosen. (Like I really had a choice..HA)

    Fun post. Doris/Angela

    1. Hi Doris, thanks for commenting, sorry I'm late, but time differences and all y'know! No we don't often have a choice with naming our characters do we? Only sometimes I get stuck, like with this Mike feller right now, I still haven't re-christened him! Thanks again.

  2. My sister and I were named after women in our family history. My sister, Mary Elizabeth, was named after our paternal great grandmother. My name Sarah Jane came from our maternal great grandmother. I love that my name has history. The weird thing is, our dad was into nick names. Mary was called Mamie (a name which she hates and no one calls her that now.) Pop gave me the nickname of Sal (some called me Sally). My sister named her daughter using our middle names, Elizabeth Jane. That's pretty neat. As much as my sister protests against nicknames, she has always called her daughter Betsy.
    I like the tradition of having a middle name, but honestly, it's kind of useless. Now in the south here in the US, many southerners use both first and middle names: Betty Jo, Jimmy Lee, Mary Francis, etc.
    Personally, I like your real name of Gillian, It's unique. Authors ought to have unique names. I have to admit that some parents name their kids awful names or names the parents think are funny, but in the end, are just ridiculous. I have seen ignorant people name their children after sexually transmitted diseases because they thought it sounded "pretty." I've also seen made up names that were intended to be French, but were not French at all--misspelled and grammatically incorrect. I would truly be embarrassed by such a name and would change it as soon as I was old enough to do so. I do know of one incident in which a name was so horrible a judge would not allow the parents to give it to their child.
    Mike doesn't sound like a villain's name. Look up a name that just says "mean" or "deceitful" to you and rename your villain. You can probably even look it up on line. I never thought Jim sounded like a villain's name, but put Moriarty after it and you have Sherlock Holmes's nemesis, one of the most conniving, evil, but scarily intelligent villains ever created. Changing the way a name is spelled can make a difference too. Instead of Mike, maybe Myke would give it a different feel. You'll figure out something.
    Good blog, Jill.

    1. Hello Sarah, thanks for dropping by. What an interesting reply! Some lovely names there. The only nickname I ever got was from my darling granddad, he used to call me Jilly, he was the only one who ever did, and if I ever get my kid's books published, I'm going to use it as my author name for them. I was looking at a list of stupid names the other day actually and saw those about the STDs, my goodness! What were those parents thinking about! I am definitely going to re-name the villain, he just hasn't told me what he wants to be called yet, typical of a bad guy he's making me suffer!! Thanks again Sarah.

  3. I like my name. It's a tie to my parents, so I appreciate that. And I guess I would hope that my kids wouldn't hate the names I gave them LOL. Choosing character names is very important, and if one isn't working I'll change it later. But I think you have to know a character's background too. If they're of German descent, a German name is in order, and so on. But when I'm stuck, I've often used my ancestor's names for my heroines.

    1. Hi there Kristy. Thanks for coming today. I like that you use your ancestors names, mine have all got quite ordinary sounding names, nothing 'heroic' about any of them I'm afraid! I too hope my daughter doesn't hate her name but I fear she does. I named her Sarah Louise, but all through school and College she had all her friends call her Saz! Oh dear! I guess she too hates her name. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. What a fun post! I enjoyed it so much because I love names. I don't mind my name at all, and be glad you don't have two or you'd be called by the first if your mother was happy with you, but if you made her angry somehow, you'd become the daughter with two names. Mine is Celia--with is either very Hispanic or very British. Celias all over the place in Mexico and in Regency historic novel. But my middle name is Ann. So, instead of pronouncing Celia correctly--See-liyah--it has become Celie..."Celie Ann, you come in this house this instant! You hear me?" At least my mother gave me a prettier name than she had--Beaulah Modene. You have to admit that is not a pretty name.

    1. Hi Celia, glad you liked the post, thanks. I like your name, it's on my list for my heroines! I like the shortened version too it sounds unusual. Your mother's name is very unusual too? Is it a name which comes from any specific area of the States? Or is it from somewhere else? Do you know? And sorry but no, it's not that pretty is it. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Wow. You hit on one of my *hot button* topics. *grin*

    I write under a pen name for two reasons: 1) When I was first published, I was still teaching in a small school/community and people knew I wrote books, but most didn't know my pen name. Because I tend to write steamy stories, I didn't want my students to read my work. It would have been awkward. 2) I don't like my real name. Never have. I've learned to deal with my given name, but I've never liked the standard nickname that goes with it. Loathe is too strong, but I certainly dislike it with a purple passion. It's been a lifelong battle to get people to call me by the name I introduce myself with and NOT immediately use the nickname.

    So, I'm probably over-sensitive to make sure I not only pronounce other people's names the way they say it, but to also use their name their way.

    I also agonize over naming my characters. If I don't like a name, regardless of it's appropriateness to a time period, I can't use that name. I also have a hard time reading a story in which a character bears a name I don't like.

    Yes, I probably need therapy for this issue... bwahahaha

    1. Hello Kaye, thanks for replying to my post. I can fully understand why you would want a pen name! So I take it your real name isn't Kaye then? Because I can't think of a nickname for that one! I don't think I've come across anyone who struggles to read a story if the names are not right! That's different. This Mike guy is really giving me a struggle, he hates his name but he's not helping my by telling me what he wants to be called! Does that sound too 'odd'? Oh dear! Maybe I should just finish the story with him as Mike, then really dig around for his real name afterwards? Nice talking to you today.