The Name Game: How this author goes about selecting people and place names

Medieval image of Edward I

I recently had the interesting experience of responding to a FB request from a fellow author. She wanted help naming a character. I’ve had trouble with this from time to time, as I suspect most authors have. So I developed a few methods for selecting character and place names. Since I write fiction, I prefer not to use the names of real people and real places if I can avoid it. Occasionally that isn’t possible. For example, Edward I, aka Longshamks, appears briefly in several of my medieval romances. He was a major player in English history, but his role in my fictional work is as a supporting character. Since he was a real person, the least I can do is use his real name. So what methods do I use for selecting fictional setting and character names?

Iconic image of Julian of Norwich

I use research into the history of a country. For example, the heroine in Knight Errant is named Juliana in honor of a real medieval holy woman and mystic named Julian of Norwich. You can find details about her fascinating life and visions here, As for my heroine’s family name, ‘Verault.’ I needed a name from a French or Norman family that was not too prominent during the late 13th century when Knight Errant is set. I started my search at While this site did not give me ‘Verault’ specifically, it led me to search place names and locations from which my fictional Juliana’s family might have come. And you may ask why I wanted a French name for an English heroine? About 200 years prior to the action in Knight Errant, William of Normandy (a Duchy adjacent to France–an which had language traits in common with France) conquered England and became William I of England. He brought with him knights and courtiers from Normandy to whom he gave lands in England as a reward for their loyalty and help. He also imposed a large number of Norman customs and his native language on England. While the Anglo-saxons and the Normans have long since resolved their differences and become one English people, the Norman invasion of England left an indelible mark on English person and place names.

I use the character’s personality. The best example I can give of using a character’s personality to name that character is Talon de Quereste from The Herald’s Heart. Now there may well be some other character or person somewhere or from some era named Talon. However, I’d never before encountered the use of ‘talon’ as a first name. Nonetheless, I knew my hero was sharp-minded and tenacious. A bird’s talons are very sharp and very strong. They have to be, since they are key elements in the survival of most avian species. So I have a fictional man who is both sharp and tenacious. Other words might have worked. Indeed we’ve all encountered characters named things like Hawk, Raven, and Wolf. I wanted something similar, but different enough to stand out, hence, Talon. In addition, this hero’s name had to be period appropriate. Most etymologies of Talon show the ‘origin’ or first appearance of the word in print to be about 1400 AD, That’s one hundred plus years after my story takes place. Why then did I feel the use of Talon was appropriate? Well, scholars of English language history postulate that any word’s ‘origin’ pre-dates actual usage in print by at least two hundred years or more. Prior to the advent of the printing press (about 1436 in Europe) most records were hand written, and establishing the date of origin for hand written documents is not easy. I chose to follow the scholarly principle for word usage of at least two hundred years prior to the first written record of the word. That puts ‘talon’ well within the era and  geography of the setting for The Herald’s Heart.

Aerial view of Duval Street, Key West, FL

I use news and information from current events. Most frequently, I use news and information from current events to create events or situations in my books. The Wildfire Love series is a terrific example, because each story involves a major fire. These fires were inspired by the destruction and devastation wrought by recent wildfires in California and the rest of the American west. But certain ‘modern’ or contemporary places information and events creep into my character names as well. One example is Cerise Duval, villainess of One Moment’s Pleasure (Wildfire Love # 1). I knew Cerise was a mulatto from New Orleans who emigrated to San Francisco during the gold rush and made her fortune first as a prostitute and then as a madam. All of that knowledge is based in history. Even her surname, Duval, is based in history, albeit Key West Florida (William Pope Duval was the first civilian governor of Florida Territory), not New Orleans Louisiana. I chose Duval because it is one of my favorite streets, and Cerise was after all a ‘street’ walker. That brings me back to Cerise, and how it was inspired by current events. I used to

live in Michigan where the National Cherry Festival is held every year in Traverse City .  I wrote One Moment’s Pleasure during the spring and summer, and of course a lot of talk and advertising about the Cherry Festival was going on. What better name for a prostitute than, Cherry, I thought. However, Madam Duval was no ordinary prostitute. She had a lot of pride and being from New Orleans had a fair number of French connections in her background. Hence, her name became, Cerise. Just to be certain that Cerise was period appropriate, I double-checked the etymology of the name Depending on the source, Cerise originated as a word anywhere between the 12th and 19th centuries. You already know my preferences (stated above) for determining first usages. Whether the 12th or the 19th century applies, Cerise is still period appropriate for the mid-19th-century American west.

Are these the only methods for winning the fictional name game? Hardly, but these methods work fairly well for me. One added benefit is that I often find inspiration and story ideas as I search for just the right name for my character. My books are filled with interesting characters whose names are intended to reflect their personalities and fit the settings of their stories. If you’d like to know how I decided on a specific name in one of my books, please feel free to ask me via email at

You can get Knight Errant, The Herald’s Heart, One Moment’s Pleasure and all my available books on line:

Buy Link: Knight Errant


Buy Link for all Rue Allyn’s books

ABOUT RUE: When not writing, learning to play new games, (I’m starting to learn Bridge) and working jigsaw puzzles, Rue travels the world and surfs the internet in search of background material and inspiration for her next heart melting romance. She loves to hear from readers, and you may contact her at  <a href=”” title=”Contact Rue Allyn” target=”_blank”></a>. She can’t wait to hear from you.

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A Wee Bit o’ Scotland in the Land of Sunshine

A Caber is a very long, tapered log . They “vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance, all of which affect the degree of difficulty in making a successful toss. Competitors are judged on how closely their throws approximate the ideal 12 o’clock toss on an imaginary clock.”

Last weekend I attend my first ever Highland games. Oddly enough (or not) these games took place in Northeastern Florida. Nothing about Florida is ‘high’ in any way. However, the distribution of Scots throughout the world is tremendous. Scots have always numbered high among the rovers of the world, and the equally large number of Highland Games held throughout the world confirms this.

Wikapedia’s entry on Highland Games states that, “the origin of human games and sports predates recorded history. . . It is reported in numerous Highland games programs, that King Malcolm III of Scotland, in the 11th century, summoned contestants to a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich (overlooking Braemar).[2] King Malcolm created this foot race in order to find the fastest runner in the land to be his royal messenger. Some have seen this apocryphal event to be the origin of today’s modern Highland games.[3] . . . However, the modern Highland games are largely a Victorian invention, developed after the Highland Clearances.”

Utensils were passed down for generations until too worn to be used. Then new ones were made or purchased.

I enjoyed this event very much from the re-en-actors to the dancers, the clan displays to the plaids and bonnets. But like a large number of people I was fascinated by the Pipers and thrilled by the Pipe and Drum competitions. I took a few pictures (see below), but I will spare you the multiple images of the various Pipe and Drum corps marching to and fro. If you have a Highland Games in your area, please attend. The clan members and other participants are very kind to visitors. I intend to go again as soon as I may.

My favorites, the pipe and drums.

Preparing a snack.

A talented pair of young dancers.

A distinguished gentleman in highland garb

The French Duchess Is Coming. Get A Free Prequel

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#MedievalHop All for the Hope of Heaven in Knight Errant by Rue Allyn

rueallynkecoverKnight Errant Last ExcerptWhose blood? Juliana’s? If so, who attacked her? Basti!

It had to be. No one but that damned ship’s captain could know Juliana was here, and he had bargained with the priest’s minions. How long since she’d been taken, where exactly was she being held, and how to find answers to those questions? He’d start with the traitorous captain.

Robert raced from the inn. If the priest had her, then she was among the accused heretics he would try. If found guilty, she would burn at the stake. But even before that she would suffer untold tortures. The thought of Juliana broken in body and spirit chilled Robert’s soul. No one deserved the cruelty Basti was famous for, least of all her. He must find a way to rescue her. Even if it cost him his hope of heaven.

This is the last excerpt. Please share your thoughts in a comment.

BLURB: If Sir Robert Clarwyn can’t find a way to compel Lady Juliana Verault to return to England, he’ll lose any chance of regaining his family lands and redeeming his heritage. Yet Juliana must complete her mission to improve her gender’s future in the church. With danger and intrigue mounting, Robert and Juliana must rely on each other and risk everything … including their hearts.

BUY LINKS:  Amazon   B & N   iTunes   Crimson Romance

#MedievalHop Can She Save Him? The Answer Is in Lane ‘s Lindsey

12lanemcfarland_lindseyToday a hero’s life is at stake.

Lindsey Excerpt 12: While supporting Logan’s head, Lindsey held a flask to his parched, cracked lips and dribbled the liquid into his mouth. He sputtered, gulping at the water.

“Easy,” she said, giving him sips while she studied his disfigured face. “I’m here to help ye.”

One eye was swollen shut, the other barely open. His brown hair hung in filthy strands across his forehead, and a red irritated gash crossed his grimy cheek. She sat on the nasty hard floor and cradled his head in her lap. The medicinal salves would do little to heal him, but she had to try.

Follow along next week by checking out my blog with excerpt #13

BLURB: The Daughters of Alastair MacDougall Series

Set in late thirteenth century Scotland, this series tells the stories of Laird Alastair MacDougall’s four independent and oftentimes, headstrong daughters coming of age in a country fraught with war and feuds amongst rival clans. Follow his daughters as their lives become intertwined with four fierce, rebel highland warriors bent on eradicating the English soldiers from their homeland.

BLURB: Lindsey

Who said life was fair? Certainly not Lindsey MacDougall. She rebels at a world dominated by men. Dressed in lad’s clothing, she manages her father’s stables, caring for, breeding and selling horses. Unwavering on performing her duty to the rebellion, Lindsey throws caution to the wind and secretly delivers missives behind enemy lines to the Scottish warriors.

Logan Ross uses his happy-go-lucky smile to warm the hearts of many willing lasses, but it also masks his pain—the pain of his birth. As a bastard son, he is unacceptable for any Laird’s daughter, including the spirited Lindsey MacDougall. However, she haunts his dreams. Determined to prove his worth, he throws himself into the middle of the rebellion, leading men into mortal danger.

After helping Logan escape from a brutal English dungeon, Lindsey fights her traitorous attraction to the virile highland warrior, vowing never to lose her heart to any man.


#MedievalHop A Last Second Rescue in Lucan by Bambi Lynn

11lucan-bambi-lynnToday Bambi Lynn saves her hero, Lucan, in the nick of time.

Lucan Excerpt 11:  Just when he thought the end had come, that he had lost the battle, the man’s head flew clean off his shoulders. Blood spurted red as dawn from the gaping hole, splattering him with its warmth. The metallic smell assaulted him as the headless body began to topple. Before it could fall on top of him, he shoved it aside and found Màili standing over him. Blood streaked her face, giving her the appearance of an ancient shield-maiden. She grinned and stuck out her hand to haul him to his feet.

Follow along next week by checking out Lane McFarland’s blog with excerpt #12

BLURB:  Neala Comyn, wife of a powerful laird, wants to end the pain and suffering of an abusive marriage. She is a woman without hope, believing God has forsaken her. When she is kidnapped by a rival laird who claims to be a god himself, her faith is further shaken. Could Lucan Munro be the salvation she has prayed for? Or will her sins condemn her to eternal damnation?

Lucan Munro, has the power of a Celtic god. He can conjure his heart’s desire from thin air. But can he save the woman he loves from a demon hell-bent on claiming her soul?



#MedievalHop A Bully Revealed in The Highlander’s English Woman by Ruth A. Casie


Now we get to see what a medieval bully looks like.

The Highlander’s English Woman Excerpt 10:  Jamie didn’t care for bullies or being baited by them. He wouldn’t fight.

“Here, here Bryce. That’s enough.” Richard grabbed his neighbor’s arm but Bryce shook him off. Reeve pulled Richard back.

“Enjoy the spectacle. It’s time he learned his place,” Reeve said.

“Stay out of this,” Bryce screamed at Richard, then turned to Jamie. “Fight, or are you a puny coward, too?”

Jamie said nothing. He held his fists at his side and stepped back again.

Follow along next week by checking out Lane McFarland’s blog for excerpt #11

BLURB:   Laura Reynolds is in love with her long-time friend, Jamie Maxwell Collins. She adores his playful sense of humor, caring nature as well as his strong sense of family and honor.

Jamie lives across the border in Scotland. Outwardly carefree, he hides a dark secret. He can’t involve Laura in this deception. He can’t give her hope for a future together.

Laura stumbles upon Jamie’s secret. In her heart of hearts she knows Jamie is innocent. Their relationship in tatters and with no hope of reconciliation, she plays a deadly game to exonerate Jamie, she agrees to a political marriage. She has no idea the entire game has been orchestrated by her future husband, Jamie’s greatest enemy.

BUY LINK:  Amazon

#MedievalHop Betrayal in The Highlander’s French Bride by Cathy MacRae

9thehighlandersfrenchbride_high-resCathy MacRae show us that sometimes betrayal is closer than you think.

The Highlander’s French Bride Excerpt 9: She opened her eyes, settling her gaze on Melisende’s shocked face.

“Once Raul began annulment proceedings, their interest increased a hundredfold. I will have no lack of sponsors once I return.”

“That is a shameful way to live, and you know it, Lucienne.” Tears burned in Melisende’s eyes. “How can you do this to yourself?” She swept a hand toward the bed. “To her?”

Follow along for the next excerpt on Lane McFarland’s Medieval Monday blog April 10!

Blurb:  Heir to a lairdship, Kinnon Macrory is driven to prove his worth by fighting the English on the battlefields of France. His dreams of heroic valor are destroyed by the realities of war—the atrocities visited by fellow soldiers on the very people he is sworn to protect. Three years in a French prison for a crime he did not commit leave Kinnon longing for the one thing of beauty in his war-torn life—a young woman of great kindness and wisdom named Melisende.

Melisende de la Roche struggles to stay one step ahead of soldiers who would imprison her for helping an injured Scotsman wrongly accused of treason. She finds refuge in her uncle’s shop—until a chance encounter sends her fleeing into the unknown once again, haunted by the beguiling friendship with the troubled young Scotsman she is certain she will never see again.

Determined to find the woman of his dreams, Kinnon returns to France, only to discover nothing more than a trail of clues to Melisende’s whereabouts. Their reunion will open the doors to passion, but half-truths and lies from the past could destroy the one thing they both are willing to fight for—each other.

Buy link: Amazon

#Medievalhop To Kill or Not? Find out in an Excerpt from Angel’s Assassin by Laurel O’Donnell

8angels-assassin-master-cover-300x456-version2-2Angel’s Assassin Excerpt 8:

Roke’s gaze bore into him.  He shrugged.  “She upset many powerful men with her refusals.”  He ran a finger along one of the blades on the table.  “Still, I gave you ample time.  You had an entire week.  Why didn’t you finish her?”

Damien did not answer.  What answer could he give Roke?  That he had failed?  Never.  In keeping Aurora alive, he succeeded far beyond anything he could have imagined.  And he would see her safe, no matter the cost to himself.

Roke was silent for a moment, studying him.  “And you returned here to…?”

Damien was quiet.  He could not tell him the truth of his intent.  A new mission which he had every intention of completing.

Roke’s lips twisted into a smile of grim disappointment.  “Why did you leave Acquitaine?”

“There was no reason to stay,” Damien admitted.  And it was the truth.  He couldn’t stay in Acquitaine.  Not seeing the agony and condemnation in Aurora’s eyes every time he looked at her.

Follow along next week by checking out Lane McFarland’s blog with excerpt #9

BLURB:  Damien is an assassin, a man with no home and a tortured past. Sold into slavery as a young boy, he is trained to kill with cold calculation, without remorse. As a reward for his ruthless success, he is given a chance to earn his freedom from his cruel master. One last mission. One final person to slay…

Lady Aurora of Acquitaine is the epitome of purity and goodness, beloved by all her people. She lives her life trying to atone for her mother’s cruelty by being a fair and just ruler. Secretly she fears that one day her mother’s murderer will return for her.

When Damien enters Aurora’s life, tempting her with promises of dark passion and forbidden lust, he threatens to tear her peaceful world apart with shadowy secrets of his own.

Can Aurora’s light heal Damien’s dark spirit or will his evil consume her? The eternal battle of good versus evil, love versus hate, dark versus light, all come to a shattering climax in this historical romance set in medieval England.


#MedievalHop Marriage by Threat? from Barbara Bettis’s Lady of the Forest


Today we look at a villain who threatens marriage.

Lady of the Forest Excerpt 7:

The priest shook his head. “Words are not empty. Vows are binding, and vows of intent to wed have been likened to betrothal. A betrothal is as binding as a ceremony.”

“Never heard of that,” Mortimer shouted.

“It’s an old rule, made by the Church hundreds of years ago.”

“You lie.” Mortimer’s voice shook with fury.

“Of course, that tradition may no longer be observed.” The priest retreated a pace, his tone placating. “But the bishop should be consulted. We wouldn’t wish to–”

“I demand you marry us.” Mortimer’s voice became wild, and he brandished his sword. “It’s why I brought you from London, you lazy imbecile. Since then you’ve done nothing but lounge in my hall and eat my food. Now get to it, or by God you won’t marry anyone ever again.”

Will the priest cave in to Mortimer’s demands? See next week at Lane McFarland’s blog:

Blurb:  He must pursue his enemy; she must protect her people. Can their love survive the duties that drive them apart?

When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry isn’t an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.

Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate’s past catches her.

When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.

Buy links:   AMAZON        TWRP