I love hearing about baby names and have some new cousins coming along! There’s always the excitement of choosing a family name or something original or doing a twist on it. We were talking recently about how hard it is to see a family member as the alternate name—although nicknames abound, of course!
When writing novels, though, it is both easier and trickier. People have favorites and sometimes unconscious patterns about names. And when writing multiple books, and multiple versions of each book, it’s hard to keep them straight!
I’ve worked on a couple of bible options (that’s when an author writes a series and keeps track of all the ages, names, books, mentions, etc.). Some are done before you start the series (especially if it’s commissioned by a publisher or author group), and sometimes you do it afterward to keep track of babies and ages and family members and time passing. It’s time consuming at the start, but incredibly useful as you get deep into the story.
Recently I was working with an author who had two different series going on and had realized that she was going to have heroes with the same name coming out this year! Luckily, she was able to do a switch and now they have different ones. But it is something to worry about!
I suggested that perhaps she print out the top 100 baby names in the UK (where one series is set) and the top 100 baby names in the US (the other!). Then take four highlighters. One color would be the hero/heroine’s names (or potential hero/heroine names) the other the family/friends minor names. Do that for each series. Then post it on the wall near the computer!
That way, you can hopefully check the main characters from one series with already taken names in the other as you choose them. It can help solve—or prevent—issues down the road!
Choosing the top 100 (or more!) names in the UK is also a great way to think of some new ones for the American series. Or picking out the top 100 names from fifty years ago—those names are coming back! And looking at the international names can also challenge you to keep in mind making your characters diverse.
I’m not sure how rigorous these sites are, but they can be fun to explore…
And there are plenty more!
A couple of pleas, though. Try not to have hard to pronounce names without giving readers a clue (and yes, looking at you, Aoife and Saoirse and Siobhan from Ireland!). And though gender neutral names are very popular, try to give an indication of the gender on the back cover copy and early in the book. You want to make it clear to readers the roles of the characters! (Unless, of course, that’s the purpose of the story!)
How do you keep your character names straight?