Choosing character names

April 4, 2016

In my third novel, "VisionSight," the main character’s name is Jenna.  But it didn’t start out that way.  Originally, her name was Donna.  That was a boo boo my first readers pointed out to me.  Donna is passé.  So passé, that it’s on a list of girls names “about to go extinct.”  I kind of doubt it’ll become extinct because some extremely old-fashioned names do make comebacks, like Sophie and Ella.  But Donna was all wrong for a woman in her early twenties circa 2015.  So she became Jenna.

 

I got off on the right foot naming the main character in "The Time Telephone."  She’s 17 years old in 2014.  So the name Megan was a good choice.  Megan was #14 on the Social Security Administration’s list of most popular girls names for the 1980s and #10 for the 1990s.

 

In "The Shade Ring," I felt I had some freedom to choose whatever sounded right for a story set a hundred years in the future.  Neave Alvarez is the protagonist’s name – a variation of Neve, which was originally spelled Niamh in Gaelic.  Neave’s mother is of Irish extraction, her father is Mexican-American.

 

Since my novels are multi-ethnic stories, I also try to choose names that clue readers in to each character’s background.  Barry King is the press secretary for President Rachel Cohen in "The Shade Ring."  King is a handsome black man whose name hearkens back to Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.  President Cohen is Jewish.  And then there’s Kieran Mehta in "The Time Telephone," who’s half Indian and half Irish.  The name Kieran is both Indian and Irish, though the Indian version is spelled Kiran.

 

Sometimes, though, I’m honoring a friend.  In "The Shade Ring" I named the president of Georgia Geosciences University after my dear late friend, Sreeparna Bhattacharyya Ray.  And then there's Angela Galloway in "The Shade Ring."  The character reminds me a lot of a woman I became friends with while working with the PTSA at my son's high school.  Rikki Washington in "The Time Telephone" got her name from my fifth grade bestie.

 

Character names are important.  They can add or detract from a story.  So I choose them with care and a little help from my friends.

 

My own name was most popular in the mid 1950s, but Connie doesn’t show up in the top 1000 these days.  You can look up the popularity of your name on the Social Security Administration’s website: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/#&ht=2

 

By the way - that's my mother, Bobbie, in the picture, whose name peaked in popularity in the early 1930s.

 

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© 2015 by Connie Lacy