Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Popular Post for 2014 - What's in a Name by Karen Witemeyer

Author Karen Witemeyer
Each year we take the last week of the year to post our favorite or the most popular post of the year for the day we host. Karen Witemeyer's post, originally published on January 28, 2014 was the most popular Aspiring Tuesdays post for 2014. I hope you enjoy it again. ~ Angie

For those of you who have children, do you remember the excitement (and perhaps the anxiety) that filled you as you began selecting names? It’s a weighty responsibility, knowing your child will be saddled with whatever you choose for the length of his/her life. No pressure. Ha!

Names are so important. We want our girls’ names to be beautiful and our boys’ names to be strong. Yet more than that, we want them to have meaning. Perhaps you chose a name because of the meaning inherent in that name’s origin. Or maybe you selected a name from your ancestry that carries significance for your family.

As an author, I’m faced with the same dilemma when selecting names for my characters. Not only do I want the names to sound good and roll easily off the reader’s tongue, but I love to give extra meaning to the names, perhaps a meaning that no one else will ever pick up on besides me.

A Tailor Made Bride
by Karen Witemeyer
For example, in my debut novel, my main characters are Jericho Tucker and Hannah Richards. Yes, I love using biblical names. They fit the historical setting perfectly, but in my hero’s case there was extra meaning involved. Jericho’s name was symbolic. Like the biblical city whose walls came tumbling down, Jericho or “J.T.” had built walls around his heart that needed to come down in order for him to open himself to the heroine’s love. And Hannah Richards? Well, her name had personal significance to me. You see, my dad died when I was only 16, and I wanted to honor him in some subtle way in my first published novel. His name was Richard, and it seemed fitting to let my heroine carry his name.

Head in the Clouds
by Karen Witemeyer
Gideon Westcott and Adelaide Proctor from Head in the Clouds had some teacher is often synonymous with the term proctor.

play on their names that probably only I cared about, but they helped me relate to the characters as I wrote. Gideon Westcott was a British nobleman who came to Texas to run a sheep ranch. Gideon from the Bible used a sheep’s fleece to ask God for confirmation of his mission. Adelaide Proctor was a teacher and
Short Straw Bride
by Karen Witemeyer
Stealing the Preacher
by Karen Witemeyer

Of course, the Archer brothers from Short-Straw Bride and Stealing the Preacher were named for heroes from the Alamo – Travis, Crockett, Bowie (who went by Jim), and Neill. I had fun tying those into Texas history since my books are all set in Texas. But did anyone notice that the heroine who paired up with Crockett – Joanna Robbins – had a play on her name as well? Her father was an ex-outlaw who robbed stage coaches and trains. (Yes, I see your eyes rolling.) One of my favorite sources for names is the Social Security website. You can search the most popular names by year as far back 1880 – ideal for a historical writer. You’ll find timeless names like Charles and Michael, Elizabeth and Mary. But then there are the names that make you wince like Elmer and Rufus, or Gertrude and Bertha (yes, all these made the top 100 in 1880). But what is really interesting from a historical perspective are the popularity of cross-gender names. Now, girls have worn boys’ names proudly for years, but back in the day, it’s a little scary how how popular girls’ names were for boys. Here’s a few from the 1880-1885 lists – remember these are boy’s names: Marion    Leslie    Pearl    Lynn    Pink    Mary    Loren    Madison    Cary   Fay   Allie    Sandy    Dee    Jean    Jules    Anna    Clair    Minnie    Kelly    Shirley. Now, just because a name is historically accurate, does not mean it would make a great character name. I just can’t imagine naming my rugged cowboy hero Minnie or Shirley. And calling him Anna or Mary would just leave readers scratching their heads. Especially if the heroine was named Lou or Johnnie (popular female names during that time). Although ... I have dear friends named Lacy and Jaye. Lacy is a very masculine Texas game warden while Jaye is his lovely wife. When they were first introduced at church, however, it took me weeks to get their names sorted out. What kind of names do you enjoy most when you are reading novels? What weird names have you run across in books or real life that make you cringe?
About the Author
A Match Made in Texas
by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy
Regina Jennins & Carol Cox
Winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, and two-time RITA finalist, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance for Bethany House believing the world needs more happily ever afters ... and hunky cowboy heroes. She's an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. She makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Visit Karen Witemeyer's website
There's a secret matchmaker at work in frontier Texas! In the small town of Dry Gulch, Texas, a good-hearted busybody just can't keep herself from surreptitiously trying to match up women in dire straits with men of good character she hopes can help them. How is she to know she's also giving each couple a little nudge toward love? A Cowboy Unmatched Neill Archer isn't sure who hired him to repair Clara's roof – he only knows Clara desperately needs his help. Can he convince this stubborn widow to let down her guard and take another chance on love?


  1. My husband's name is Terry. For some reason, people confuse us all the time. Which one is Sandy? Which one is Terry?

    I love naming characters. You can use all those wonderful names you like, but don't have to raise the children. :)

    1. Oh no! That's aggravating, isn't it?

      I love naming characters, too. In fact, I love "collecting" unusual names like
      - Odyssey, which was her mom's favorite perfume. (Good thing My Sin wasn't her favorite!)
      - Garnet, her dad was a Carolina Gamecock fan (colors are garnet and black)
      - Faysoux (pronounced fay-SOOKS) was an old family name for a man in our community. So was Beverly.

      And I love hearing the stories behind the names, too!


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