January 4, 2012

There I am the Expert

"But people? Their hopes, their aspirations...
I am the expert."
- Emma (2009)

This weekend my family and I were on a short road trip, and the drive afforded me an opportunity to gather some names. You see, I have a terrible time coming up with surnames for random characters. And I've found that it is necessary to be able to do so for books like The White Sail's Shaking, as extremely minor characters who may or may not need to be named often pop up in one scene or another. Thus, I have started a notebook in which to collect names as I come across them. I found six or seven during this trip, and I thought it would be fun to take them and try to form an idea of what sort of person would have each name.


A teacher or a doctor. Middle-aged and stocky with thick sandy hair (baldness is a long way off) and perhaps sideburns; he has pale blue eyes and his eyesight not being the best in consequence, he wears strong glasses. His suit is usually grey and he sometimes carries a cane with an engraved silver head. He likes to jog and his shoes do not always match his suit; his passion, however, is the study of medicine - its history, development, and practical use. Although of a decidedly no-nonsense turn of character, he is not a bad sort and quite knowledgeable in his field.


Winslow is a man of about thirty, dark-haired and -eyed, always with a black suit, an impeccable cravat (his manservant is especially good at cravats), and a silver watch that doesn't work but which looks like an antique (don't ask if it is, and don't ask him the time). He comes from a rich family, but their wealth is a new development; his grandfather began to amass it and then his father's successful speculation increased the family's standing still more. Winslow has a head for business, but I daresay the speculation will ruin him.


A rough fellow with a strong accent (and a strong smell). Hugely blond, he keeps some of his hair and his beard plaited and on special occasions will grease the braids with some manner of fat. Rhyne falls into the category of "brawn," not brains; his life revolves around being paid and sitting in his favourite tavern until the wee hours of the morning. He works on docks and has all his life. I wouldn't get on his bad side (which is most of him), especially after his first few pints at the aforementioned tavern.


Miss Genevieve Awtrey. Miss Awtrey is a small young lady - mouse-like, in fact - but her brunette hair has definite red highlights and so does her character, once you get to know her. Her features are pale (except for her mouth, which is too small and red) and distinctly pointed; she has light freckles and very grey eyes. She is not very pretty at first glance, particularly because of her habit of wearing a shade of grey that makes her look washed-out, but she does have character. She rides well and enjoys hawking with the other ladies, but she also likes reading poetry and Shakespeare aloud, paints landscapes well, and can embroider passably. The piano forte, however, is her Achilles' heel. (Actually, this young lady will probably make her way into one of my stories at some point.)


Moreland is one of those dark, brooding hero-types - the Count-of-Monte-Cristo-vampire kind. Of course he has black hair and eyes and shows no emotion (except maybe when his eggs are done improperly), but contrary to his staffs' belief, this is not owing to any childhood tragedy; he's always been like that. I think he never got over the annoyance of being born. However, he consoles himself passably by spending his days hunting with his three dogs, in making plans for improvement to his house (which he never puts into action), and in importing wine from the Continent. Tough life, isn't it?


  1. Wow! Abigail those names are so intriguing. And I do hope one day you are able to use some of them. I love the way you describe Miss Genevieve Awtrey and I look forward to some day reading about her. I too have a hard time coming up both with first names and surnames.

    I was wondering could I borrow the name Winslow. I just came up with a neat idea for a mystery set in Victorian times and I have a first name already picked out but I couldn't find the right last name. Until now. Winslow fits the first name perfectly. Can I use it?

    Again, you truly take my breathe away with your incredible, awe inspiring posts.

  2. Thanks, Londongirl! I had fun writing up these descriptions. Yes, you're quite welcome to take Winslow; I hope he behaves for you. Just give him a nice cravat and I'm sure he'll be charming.

  3. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

  4. Dear Abigail,

    I recently came across your lovely blog, and have been loving it ever since! The posts you write (especially the ones with the writing tips) have been so helpful to me in such a short time period.

    I 'discovered' you through another blog that made a review for your book and it immediately sparked my interest so that I had to look your book up on the internet! I've just ordered The Soldier's Cross from Koorong and I can't wait to start reading it :).

    I am writing a historical fiction novel right now (which also happens to be my favourite genre), "The Crown of Life" about Christians in the 1st Century A.D. in Ancient Rome. Since it is rare to see young people writing historical Christian fiction nowadays, I just wanted to say that I've been really encouraged to find your blog and to see your love for history and writing as a young published Christian author. It really inspired me!

    This is a great post, and a wonderful way to come up with surnames for 'minor' characters. Your description of Horne and Awtrey are amazing!

    In Christ,
    ~Joy @ joy-live4jesus.blogspot.com
    P.S. it will be lovely if you could come and visit my blog sometime!

  5. I LOVE Moreland already.

    *hugs the name, causing the character much annoyance*

    I like the dark, silent, Count-of-Monte-Cristo types! *happy sigh*

    (And, no, spell check, I didn't mean CRISCO. Blahk.)

  6. Joy - I'm so glad you've found Scribbles helpful! I have fun writing these posts, and I want that to show in the spirit of the blog. As for The Soldier's Cross - do enjoy! I hope it meets all your expectations. Your own story sounds fascinating; I have a soft spot for novels of the early Church (and for books with titles like "The Crown of Life"!). I saw on your blog that you project it being a long work, but you're already a good way into it. Keep up the good work!

    Ashley - The Count of Monte Crisco. He makes sandwiches. Anyhow, glad you liked Moreland; as I was writing what came to mind for the name, I realized that he is so cliche that I had better acknowledge the fact and make fun of him!

  7. "Rhyne" is a gorgeous name! What wonderful, varied characters- have they all come straight from your noggin? Or do you base them on people you've met?

  8. Straight from the noggin, except Miss Awtrey; her looks are loosely based on someone I know. Everyone else is, as close as I could pin them, a reflection of the mental image their name conjures up. Glad you enjoyed the foray into my imagination!

  9. "I think he never got over the annoyance of being born."

    I am exceedingly tickled. Good show, Abigail!

  10. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Abigail, and for stopping by my little blog! I'm sure I'll enjoy reading your book :).

    I think one of the reasons (not the only one of course) my first novel is about the early Church is because I've always wanted to find good novels about that, but good ones are rare (there are some though, like The Acts of Faith series, The Martyr of the Catacombs, Twice Freed, Ben Hur and The Robe). Anyway, I know I'm rambling, but since you brought it up, and I had been meaning to ask it anyway, do you think it is alright that my story is going to be so big, especially being my first novel? I know I can cut back some extra scenes but overall to fit the whole story it will have to be big. A friend of mine suggested that I make it into a series but I don't think it will really work since it is a one whole story (i.e. like the Robe). So what do you think?

  11. I think you can do it Joy. Your book sounds marvelous and your blog is really neat too.


  12. Anna - He seemed like the sort of fellow to be miffed with the idea of being born. Poor man didn't have a choice in the matter.

    Joy - I am a fan of long stories, as long as they are not long unnecessarily. Each of my own novels since The Soldier's Cross has gotten a little larger in scope and thus in wordcount. So my advice would be to let "The Crown of Life" be just as long as it wants to be.

    However, you make a good point about it being your first novel. In general, I believe that agents and publishers do prefer shorter debut works. I'd say, don't let that deter you from making "The Crown of Life" long, but be prepared for the possibility of it not being the first novel you publish. It may be a later one. Don't worry about it, though; just keep writing!

  13. Thank you, Abigail, so much!! I do have that idea that this might not be the first novel to get published, but I'll just trust the Lord, write and see what happens :). P.S. did you publish The Soldier's Cross through an agent or directly?
    In His love,

    P.S. thanks too, Gabrielle!

  14. Wonderful names! Have you ever come across the random Regency Name Generator?


    It comes up with many different and unusual names and you can search by gender. They would work for more than just the Regency period! :)

  15. Joy - Would you like to send me an email? I'd love to hear from you, and it would be easier to answer questions that way. My email is jeanne [at] squeakycleanreviews [dot] com , if you'd like to send a message my way.

    Julia - I hadn't seen that before, but I just experimented with it; they have some good names, particularly surnames. (Godfrey, for instance - great one, that.) I'll certainly keep it on hand. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Thanks, Abigail! I'd love that... I'm sorry to clutter up your comment box by the way!

  17. Oh, you're fine! I love comments. I just thought that an email exchange would be simpler. I'll look forward to hearing from you!


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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