I’m one of those authors who puts a lot of thought into character names. It’s one of my THINGS. One of those recurring thematic elements that crop up in pretty much every story I write, regardless of genre and not even all that deliberately.
Very often my characters have multiple names – given ones and nicknames both, with both being salient. Sometimes my characters have multiple identities, with different names for each. Or they change names from the beginning of the story to the end.
I say I don’t do this deliberately – all of the changing and nick-naming, etc. – but I do give those names a lot of deliberation when I come to them. I have a whole slew of naming and name etymology sites bookmarked and nearly every name I pick for a character has some kind of symbolism that plays into both the story and their character arc.
Though Heart’s Blood is a retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale, the only named characters in the original tales are the talking horse, Falada, and the lad who looks after the geese, Conrad. (Why those two? Who knows??? I mean, the horse is key, so I get that, but dipshit Conrad? Just bizarre what gets kept and what’s lost in these old stories.)
An interesting aside, “Falada” is not a name that turns up in any searches. The closest word is “falar” from Portuguese, which means to speak. So it could be that the name mainly referenced that she’s a horse who can speak. The Brothers Grimm version is German and Conrad is a German name, but it’s possible that the horse being called Falada is a remnant of a previous version, before the story made it to Germany.
Anyway, this meant that I needed to name my hero and heroine. Also, the waiting woman takes the heroine’s name, so I needed a second name for her. (See how this happens? I swear I don’t plan it!)
For my hero, the prince, I wanted a name that reflected his inherent nobility. He is the embodiment of Prince Charming, but unlike many of my prince-charming characters, Cavan is the real thing. He’s a good guy, through and through. Handsome, strong, caring and truly noble. He’s one of a kind and I wanted a heroic name for him that would be unusual and simple. Cavan is Gaelic and means “handsome boy.” I took that to mean in every sense of handsome.
For my heroine’s two names, I needed what her name as a princess had been and what she chooses for herself once that’s stolen from her. I ended up choosing “Natilde” for her given name. Actually, I made it up. It’s close to “Matilda,” which is a German name for powerful girl, but far enough so that she’s not that at all. As Princess Natilde, she possessed false power, and she wasn’t real. She hadn’t yet discovered who she was. When her waiting woman takes her identity, the “new” Princess Natilde is also fake, a construct.
When asked her name, my heroine chooses “Nix,” which means literally “nothing.” She picks that because she feels like she’s been reduced to nothing. In the end she keeps that name because she’s found identity in that. She’s discovered the value of the blank slate, in being the person who is empty enough to be able to receive everything.