I'm in the beginning stages of my next historical novel and am fretting over secondary characters' names. I've got the year (1285), the settings (England - London, Warwickshire, and Northumbria), the main characters' names, and a fair idea of the plot (social turmoil - so not a new thing for me). So why am I hitting the wall about the names of characters who will not be the main focus of the book? I dunno. But I do, at least once a book. So Virgo of me to want the names to be historically correct and still sound normal to 21st century readers.
My heroine is Lucy, named after a wonderful woman who I adore. My hero's name is Nicholas, named after my fellow Whine Sister Sherri's son. Both names were common and even popular in 1285, so that works, and although my research turned up a Lucy who married Sir Marmaduke, I don't think I'm going there. I've made it a point not to use names of family or friends, but I made exceptions for these two.
What makes it difficult is the scarcity of original names. Edward, Richard, John, Nicholas, and James are the most frequent in the London registers, but the king was Edward, so I can't use it or risk confusion. Same with women's names. There were thousands of repeats of Margaret, Eleanor, Alys (spelled about 50 ways), Ermegarde (yuck), and Mary. I've already used Margaret and Mary as main characters and the diminutive (of Eleanor) Nell in ON A HIGHLAND SHORE.
Sometimes I have fun with names - ugly sounding names for ugly spirited people, names with particular meanings, like Muirin, which means "of the sea" in "Daughter of the Sea" in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF IRISH ROMANCES.
And then there are the surnames. I've frequently used family names. The Hale sisters are named after His Majesty's mother's family. The MacCurries were named after my mother's cousins. Burke was another cousin, changed to de Burke to suit the period. Sometimes I use names that have a special meaning to me - like Louisa, in the KILGANNON books, named with gratitude after Louisa May Alcott, who wrote LITTLE WOMEN, which started me down this path.
OK, enough procrastinating. Back to the name game! Let's see . . . maybe Marmaduke isn't so bad after all.