Naming Your Characters

thoughtfulI hate naming characters.  One time, I heard a girl’s name and thought, “Wow.  That’s perfect for a villain.”   Once. 

Normally, I use baby name books, but knowing the root doesn’t always help if you are trying to name someone born at a certain time — and aren’t we all?  Born at a certain time, I mean.  

When a character is born is vital. 

When I was a kid, every other girl was named Ann(e), Sue/Susie/Susan/Suzanne, Beth, or Judy.  I knew tons of boys named Bobby, Billy, Will, John, Jim, Dan, and Tony.  Now I’m hip deep in kids named Emily, Jared, Danny, Brandon/Brendan, Jade/Jada, Alex, Will/William, and Aaron. 

If you’re writing something contemporary, look at a year book or a school buzz book.  But what about historic names? 

Hurray for the Social Security Administration!  Click this link to get lists of the most popular names by state, by decade or by specific birth year all the way back to 1880.

Just for fun, I typed in 1880 and found both my first name and my grandmother’s first name in the top 20 women’s names.  

Now if someone says “A girl in 1900 wouldn’t be named Anna.  It sounds too modern,” you’ll have the data you need to back up your decision.