Naming a New Character

Frankie’s sewing machine.

How much effort do you put into naming a character?  I have to admit that for me it varies.  In part because how I create a story varies from piece to piece.

Some characters come into being with a name attached.  Felicity has always been Felicity.  That said, her last name has evolved over time.

Other characters take a lot more effort.  When this is the case, I’ll know the character’s story problem and some of the steps that she takes to solve it.  I’ll be familiar with what she values in life and what she fears.  I’ll be rock solid on what she wants most of all.  Heck, I may even know her cat’s name.  And then, finally, I figure out her name.

I’m going to admit that I’m a little suspicious about my current character.  The novel is set in the Cold War.  I think it is set in 1975 but it might be as early as 1970.  She lives in the suburbs.  She doesn’t have a job.  Unless she works at Golde’s, a now defunct department store that had a talking minah bird that fascinated me.  In the appropriate season, she hunts mushrooms in the country.  She sews many of her own clothes — Jackie O being her fashion model.

As you can see, she hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with the details.  Thus my suspicion.  But I do have her name.  Franky.  Or maybe she spells it Frankie?  I know for a fact she does not spell it Franki.

I know she’s a Frankie/Franky for a variety of reasons. She’s strong and resilient and classy but a bit unconventional.  She’s a woman who knows what society expects and that’s well and good, when it suits her.  When she wants/needs to do her own thing, there you have it. She’s smart and well read but doesn’t have a college degree unless you count her MRS.  Definitely a Franky/Frankie.

But I still wanted to know when and where this name would be popular. If ever (more on that later).  Thank goodness for the Social Security Administration.  In addition to checking out the top 200 names per decade, you can chart a name’s poplarity since 1900. Frances was most popular in 1918 when it was #8 for women.  #8!  By 1940 it was #28. Frank was #693 for women in 1929.  Frankie peaked in 1933 at 246.

So Frankie was never incredibly popular but I’m okay with that.  My character’s name is Frankie (that’s the spelling I’m leaning toward), because it’s a family name.  My aunt’s name is Franky.  My Grandmother was Frank.  Neither Frank or Franky yielded a search at Social Security. My family is well known for names that aren’t exactly top 40 hits.  Modelle didn’t yield any results but, to my surprise, Beryl which was most popular in 1920, did.

Do you ever research a character’s name to see when it was most popular?


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