Thursday, January 05, 2012

What's in a Name?

Hi, Anne Gracie, here. I was taking a little break from a mad whirl of blogging and writing and I picked up Jessica Hart's Secret Princess. I hit page 9 and suddenly I was TOTALLY distracted!

Raoul the Wolf...
It's just a name without so much as a shadow, a throwaway line, a distant ancestor, of the heroine, but what a name! I want him.
I want to write his story.
I know nothing about him, but ... sigh....

Why do I have to fall for the heroine's ancestor?
I haven't even met the grumpy Scottish hero and I'm sure he'll be fabulous but oh, Raoul the Wolf.

Is it the fault of Mary Stewart, do you think, that I imprinted on Raouls young? Ascribing heroic qualities to all Raouls? 
Wolves, too, though that's not her fault — I've always been a dog person.
Anyway, to me, the combination of Raoul and wolf is irresistible.
It helps that I have never met a real live Raoul. Or a wolf, for that matter.
Still, I yearn for Raoul the Wolf.
I wrote a Dominic Wolfe once, but still, Rrraoul... that growly French sound.;)

Shakespeare said, "that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet" and that might be right, but I don't think roses would be nearly as romantic by any other name — spikethorns, or babiesbottoms, for instance, or even indefatigables,  because roses are strong plants that can endure a great deal of neglect. In the Australian bush you'll often see an old, abandoned farmhouse where all that remains is ruined stone chimney and a rose bush or two, planted no doubt by some pioneer woman who wanted a bit of beauty in her hard life.

It's the same with writing. Names matter, and naming characters is harder than you might think. You might know exactly what your story is about, some exciting idea that you know is going to be fabulous, and you start writing... and it's flat and dead. All the elements are there, but for some reason your hero or heroine hasn't sprung to life; they're just going through the motions, sulking, refusing to be heroic, or even interesting.

Silly as it sounds, often the reason is you've given them the wrong name. I once started a book with a heroine called Serena — she was smug and dull and I hated her. I renamed her Tallie and she sprang to life and the story was off and running.

I've tried to name a hero Adam on several occasions. I have no luck with Adams. They invariably turn out to be Nicholas or Sebastian or someone, and I once tried to write a Francis but he declared he was a Hugo. Names are important.

In my new book, BRIDE BY MISTAKE, it was the heroine who was stubborn about her name. She insisted she was Isabella, even though I didn't want her to be — the name Isabella is already taken by a very special member of my family. I tried other names on her, but no, she refused to budge on it: she was Isabella, or Bella.

I should have known then she'd be a handful. It doesn't take Luke, my hero, long to discover that either. He'd married her eight years before, during wartime, when he was a young Lieutenant of nineteen — tall, dark and beautiful as an angel, a warrior angel. Isabella was only thirteen, in desperate peril and fleeing a hateful, forced marriage. Luke saved her by marrying her himself. He didn't think anything of it — he didn't expect to survive the war, you see. (That's my hero in the pic — well it's Rufus Sewell, but he's also my Luke.) 

But the war is over, and Luke's application for an annulment was refused. Now he must return to Spain and fetch the bride he had almost forgotten. At least, he thinks, after eight years in a convent, she will be docile and obedient. . .

Background to the excerpt: Luke and Bella are leaving the convent. Luke, expecting Bella to have a lot of luggage, had brought a donkey but it's not needed.
            "What are you going to do with the donkey?" she asked.
            Luke mounted his own horse. "Miguel can take him."
            The boy, hearing his name, looked up. "Take him where, señor?"
            "Wherever you like. I don't need the donkey after all."
            The boy's eyes widened.  He clutched the donkey's lead in his grubby fist and glanced from Luke to Isabella and back at Luke. "How much?"
            "Nothing. It's a gift," Luke told him.
            "A gift ?" The boy's eyes gleamed then the excitement faded. "Señor, my mother would not allow such a gift. You paid her already, most generously."
            "They may be poor but they have their pride," Isabella said softly to Luke. She said something in the boy's language and Miguel turned to Luke in surprise. "Is true, señor?"
            "Tell him it's true, Lord Ripton," Isabella said with a hint of a smile.
            "It's true," Luke said, hoping it was.
            Miguel's face split in a brilliant grin. "What a place England must be! Thank you señor, may you have many fine sons, many fine sons!" he told Luke enthusiastically. "My mother will be so happy. With a donkey I can collect more wood for winter. With a donkey we can carry goods to market."
            They set off, the convent community clustered in the gateway calling last goodbyes and waving. Miguel and the donkey ran along beside them for a short while, waving, whooping and wishing them even more fine sons, until Isabella shouted a final goodbye to Miguel and urged her horse into a canter.  She had an excellent seat
            Luke followed, and in a few minutes they were alone on the narrow, winding road, heading down the mountain, leaving the convent and the village far behind.
            After a while the track broadened and Isabella slowed to a walk. Luke brought his mount alongside her mare so that the horses were walking side by side.
            "Not finding it too tiring?"
            She gave him a surprised look. "Not at all." 
            He pulled out a flask of cold spring water and passed it to her. She unstoppered it, drank and handed it back to him with a murmured thanks.
            He was about to drink, when a question occurred to him. "What did you tell Miguel about the donkey?" 
            "Just that it is an English tradition for a bridegroom to give a male donkey as a gift." She added with a glimmer of mischief, "To ensure a son, you understand, donkeys being... well endowed."
            Luke, in the act of drinking from his flask, choked. She gave a gurgle of laughter and rode ahead. His demure convent bride.

So Bella is a handful, and she leads Luke a merry dance, which is exactly what Luke needs. I loved writing this book and I hope you enjoy Luke and Bella's romance as much as I did.

Now, returning to Raoul the Wolf. Who is he, do you think? Portray him in 10 words or less. I'll give a copy of BRIDE BY MISTAKE to the most fun portrayal — as long as you remember he's mine, all miiiine. (Or Jessica Hart's.)

Tweet with me:!/AnneGracie

***Eli Yanti is the winner of BRIDE BY MISTAKE! Congrats, Eli!!  Please send an email to with your full name and mailing address so we can get the book to you!
Thanks to all for stopping by!***


Jessica Hart said...

Hey, what was wrong with the first 8 pages, Anne?? But so glad you liked the sound of Raoul the Wolf. I liked the idea of him too, I must admit. I've loved the name Raoul since Mary Stewart's NINE COACHES WAITING, but when I tried to call the prince in ORDINARY GIRL A TIARA Raoul it didn't work at all. I was SO disappointed. Hit the wall, and the only way I could rewrite the book was to change his name to Philippe. He'll always be Raoul to me, though!

Great post, by the way!

Jessica x

Anne said...

Nothing was wrong with them, Jessica ) I loved them -- and loved the book, but Raoul just insinuated himself into my consciousness!

Yes, It was Nine Coaches Waiting Raoul who hooked me on Raouls, too. Wonderful book, fabulous hero.

Interesting to see you have the same difficulty with names and characters as I do -- if the name doesn't fit, they won't spring to life.

I loved ORDINARY GIRL IN A TIARA, too, BTW. Gorgeous books.

Eli Yanti said...

Hi Anne,

i'm not sure who's Raoul the wolf but i like wolf story, i think they are a strong, smart, greatness in smell and beautiful creature ;)

Judy said...

I laughed out loud at poor Luke almost choking. I like the spitfire, Bella. Luke needs that in his life.

As for Raoul the Wolf: Strong willed warrior, barking out commands to protect beloved land.


I'm loving the book, Anne.

Jeanne M said...

Anne -

I can't wait to get Bella and Luke's story and after reading the excerpt I'm already got a huge grin on my face! It's going to be so much fun to read.

Hum, now Raoul the Wolf a man of few words who is:

Lil said...

I have really enjoyed reading your books, Annie. Never have a doubt that I will be swept away by your stories.

Raoul the Wolf:

Fierce protector, growling menacingly turns playful pup in mate's arms.

MsHellion said...

Raoul the Wolf: His bark is much worse than his bite. :)

MsHellion said...

And Raoul's for you are Sebastians, Gabriel's, and Raphael's for me. I like names that make me think of fallen archangels. Beautiful, protective, but a wee bit dangerous. You probably shouldn't entrust your soul to him, but you will anyway. :)

Anne said...

Hi Eli

It's just a bit of fun. Raoul was mentioned in the Jessica Hart book I was reading, not as a character, but as an ancestor of the heroine — and I just loved the idea of him, that's all.
And yes, i do like a wolf — human as well as animal. I've often thought if I wrote paranormal I'd write wolves. Love Nalini Singh's changelings.

Anne said...

Hi Judy, yes, Luke really does need Bella in his life. She's the perfect match for him, even though he doesn't realize that at first.
And I do like your Raoul-the-wolf description. Thanks for joinng in the fun.

Anne said...

Ooh, I missed that you've already started the book, Judy — and loving it. :) Thank you.

Anne said...

Jeanne, I'm glad you liked the excerpt and I really hope you enjoy the book. It was fun to write.
I like your life of Raoul-words, thanks for playing.

Anne said...

Hi Lil, thanks for saying that about my books. I hope you enjoy this book as much.
Love your description of Raoul, turning from fierce to playful. Thanks for joining in.

Anne said...

LOL MsHellion!
Love it!

Anne said...

Sebastians, Gabriels and Raphaels are all gorgeous names, aren't they? But I've written heroes with all those names, so maybe I need a Raoul. But this one feels medieval, not Regency era. At that time a Raoul would probably have been fighting for Napoleon.

But I do like your take on a desirable hero.

BookAttict said...

Okay......Raoul the Wolf in 10 words or less....
Tall, Dark, Alpha, Loyal, Warrior, Sexy, Difficult, Over-Protective & Redeemable!

Awwww.....c'mon Anne....won't you share him??!!

elizabeth @ bookattict . com

Anne said...

No, Elizabeth, he's mine, all miiiine. LOL Well, really, he's Jessica's. But if I ever write him — assuming Jessica gives me permission — I'll share him then.

In the meantime, you could always try my Dominic Wolfe in Perfect Kiss. He's a bad boy, who is everything you say.
Or try my Luke in Bride By Mistake. He's pretty gorgeous, as well.

Di said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Di said...

Love it when Rufus is a good guy (tho he does the bad guy so well).

RRRRRaoul - in 10 words

Tall (6'4" - because I'm almost 5'9")
Dark, Wavy Hair
Piercing Blue Eyes
Slow Smile

(just 10 words is hard - needed a few more to get my descriptors in - that's why you're the writer and I'm the reader)

sallans d at yahoo dot com

Barbara E. said...

Raoul the Wolf:
Tall, dark, strong, loyal, wicked wit and a courageous warrior.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

Anne said...

hi Di, thanks for trying. I know only 10 words is difficult, but I didn't want to make it too long. I like the piercing blue eyes...

And yes, Rufus is equally yum as a good or bad guy.

Anne said...

hi Barbara E, thanks for your contribution. You're in the draw for the book

Michele L. said...

Raoul the Wolf,

Purringly Handsome
Sly Fox
Cunning, Daring
Protector, Savior
Marlboro Man

LOL! Yeah, he is tall and muscluar like the Marlboro Man.

Yes he is my kind of man!

Anne said...

Hi Michele, love that purringly handsome..

thanks for joining in

Renee said...

Raoul -- rough, stubborn wolf passionately protecting his own sensual love

Alison said...

Raoul: the strongest, bravest and most tortured warrior in the clan.

Anne said...

Hi Renee, love that description.

Alison, hi — I love the clan, idea. The name does suggest he comes from a pack, doesn't it?

Thanks, both of you for joining in the fun.

Caroline said...

Raoul is "dark, dangerous and one woman's man for all time." Caroline x p.s wish he was mine tho' ;o)

marybelle said...

RAOUL: enigmatic, powerful, sexy beast.