What’s in a Name?

One question I am asked quite often is why so many of my characters have the same names.   There are way too many Richards, Edwards, Georges, and Annes, and it is sometimes difficult to keep them all apart.  This is particularly obvious in The Neville Inheritance, my newer work.

That is a challenge for any writer, but there is no getting around it here.  My characters are based on real people, and it does appear that the English royal family at this time in history had a striking lack of originality in naming their offspring.  In other words, I was stuck with it.

What to do?  How could I tell them apart—or at least make sure that my readers could tell them apart?  The answer to that depends somewhat on the character’s importance to the story.  In the case of the two Richards, one of my main characters bears that name and I had to make sure he kept it.  As it happens, another major character also shares the moniker, and that is Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.  In his case, I usually refer to him as “Warwick” or “the earl,” very seldom using his given name.

I ran into the same problem with my main female character, Anne Neville.  She has apparently been named for her mother, another Anne, and this second Anne is also an important person in the story.  Again, I rely on titles, usually referring to this older Anne as “the countess” or even “Anne Beauchamp,” her birth name.  (Yes, technically, she could also be Anne Neville, her married name, but that would just be way too confusing.  Besides, it does appear that women of this period did often continue to use their maiden names, even those who had been long married.)

As for the other characters, there are two Edwards, but since one is a king (Edward IV) and the other a mere Prince of Wales (though they are on the opposing sides), these were not too difficult to tell apart.  They do not share a stage—or a scene—until the battle that proves to be triumphant for one and disaster for the other. 

Finally, there are the two Georges:  George, Duke of Clarence and George Neville, Archbishop of York.  In this case, I let the more minor character, the archbishop, keep his name while referring to the more prominent one as “Clarence.”  It seemed to be easier than calling the archbishop by the title of his diocese (York).  That would have only created more confusion, and I suppose we already have enough of that!

Categories: Writing

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