So here’s the problem, really. I keep embarking on projects (short stories, novels, games) where the people — the guys in particular — need to have relatively mainstream English names, the sort that have been used historically. And when you get down to it, there aren’t a lot of those. And the more of these projects I build up, the more of the mainstream names I’ve used for major characters, such that I would feel weird then applying them to someone else.
But at this point, it means I’m hesitant to name anybody Julian, Robert, Leonard, Roger, Luke, James, Gregory, Edward, or Jacob, just to choose the most major ones. If I let Memento get in there, I have to add in Thomas, William, Simon, Francis, Stephen, Philip, Jacob again, Christopher, Archibald, and Nicholas. “Nine Sketches” also used Nathaniel, Francis again, Charles, Richard, and Jonathan. I could keep going, but you get the point; a lot of the common names have strong associations for me already.
This doesn’t mean there’s nothing left. I haven’t had anybody important named Henry (except oops, there will hopefully be the thing about Henry Welton someday) — okay, George (wait, that’s Caroline’s husband) — how about Samuel (Eleanor’s father) — crap. And some of my remaining choices, I don’t like very much; Andrew isn’t one I’m particularly fond of. Some of the names are currently reserved by future projects; others are bound up in old projects, and I face the question of whether I think I’ll ever resurrect them, or whether I should just go ahead, cut The Kestori Hawks loose as unusable, and free up half a dozen names for other people to have. (Assuming I can. Assuming my subconscious will let go of the idea that “Leonard” means that guy, the one over there, with all the angst.)
Oh yeah. And then, because I’m not having issues enough, there’s the problem that if I name a character in the Elizabethan period Gabriel, most of you will roll your eyes at the slightly flashy name, and a few will run screaming and waving your copies of the Lymond Chronicles. My own work isn’t the only association I have to watch out for.
I should name the guy John and be done with it, but it just doesn’t work. And I’m not yet to the point where my subconscious is ready to reuse things. For secondary characters, sure. But not the main ones.
Which is how I end up with ideas like Peregrine Thorne. But that isn’t his name — though whoever’s name it is, he looks interesting — so I keep working.