Valentine’s Day, the day when traditionally birds were supposed to pair up, anonymous cards are sent and, according to an email I received earlier this week, gardens and estates in Devon and Cornwall count species in flower to see how advanced spring is for the year. It comes as no surprise to learn that record levels are predicted for this year. In my own garden today I recorded three varieties of daffodil, some of which already require dead heading and have been in bloom since Christmas, violets, crocuses, hellebores, snowdrops, nemesia and even a dandelion and a couple of daisies.
Valentine cards might be anonymous but characters in stories need a name and finding one to suit can be a challenge. One way is to write names on cards (or cut them from newspapers or magazines, pop them in boxes and take a lucky dip. You could divide them into forenames and surnames but then again some forenames are also surnames. In the same way a number of names can be used for either a male or a female character and can be used to advantage to lay a false trail. Jo, Sam and Hilary are examples of this useful trick.
Sometimes a name needs to suit the age of a person. You could use the lists published for the most popular names in particular years whilst the announcements in local papers for births, deaths and marriages could offer suggestions for particular age groups. On the local bus those using their bus passes tend to have names such as Enid, Doreen, Madge, Doug or John whilst the young Mums with their children have Josh, Harry, Maddie or Isabelle in tow. For historical fiction tombstones and memorials can be a useful resource.
However, finding those exotic sounding names often featured in romances doesn’t seem so easy until, that is you check your email, including sometimes, the junk folder. Here you can find not only unusual first names but surnames too. The spelling of quite common names can have several forms so look out for unusual one such as Jayson for Jason.Mixing and matching you can create a name to suit your character.