Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Do You Choose Names for Your Characters?

Check out the list of the top baby names of 2009. This website http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/which lists popular baby names for present years as well as for past generations is an excellent place to choose names for characters for fiction. Did you know that Isabella was the number one chosen name for baby girls in 2009? What about Aiden? Where did that name come from to be so popular with couples giving birth to boys?
As I began following names back to the late 1800’s and early 20th century, I found that my father’s name, Coy, was among the popular names in 1900 when he was born. Since I came along much later in his life, I never knew anyone with that name. This site provides links that show where the name originates and the meaning of the word.

Find the year you were born and see what names parents gave their kids. In my generation, many girls were named Linda. But Glenda is also on the list.

My mother chose to name me after Glenda Farrell. Glenda Farrell was a movie star who has a roster of films to her name. My pursuit of the name led me to a page about Miss Farrell. I learned that she was a blond and beautiful woman.

Girls’ Names 20091. Isabella
2. Sophia
3. Emma
4. Olivia
5. Ava
6. Madison
7. Madelyn
8. Chloe
9. Lily
10. Addison
11. Abigail
12. Emily
13. Hailey
14. Mia
15. Kaitlyn
16. Kaylee
17. Riley
18. Ella
19. Zoe
20. Peyton
21. Layla
22. Sarah
23. Avery
24. Mackenzie
25. Hannah

Boys' Names 20091. Aiden
2. Ethan
3. Jackson
4. Jayden
5. Jacob
6. Noah
7. Caden
8. Logan
9. Lucas
10. Jack
11. Matthew
12. Ryan
13. Brayden
14. Caleb
15. Connor
16. Nicholas
17. Dylan
18. Michael
19. Gavin
20. Joshua
21. Alexander
22. Benjamin
23. Liam
24. Tyler
25. Landon

In the year of my birth, Glenda was 112 on the list of names. Brenda was higher on the list. The name Charlie was 112 on the list of male names.

In 1950 Linda was the number one name for girls. Glenda had moved up to 87 on the list. By 1960, Glenda had fallen behind to number 156. Out of the top 1000 names for girls in the last ten years, no one named their girl Glenda. Why has the name fallen out of favor with the American people? Have they all forgotten Glinda the Good Witch?
Linda and Brenda are well loved names and these two climbed up to the top twenty in 1960. From 1947 until 1952 Linda ranked as Number One name for girls. But what is the all time most popular name for girls since 1910? Mary. Mary has always been a popular name and I imagine it is because Mary is the name of the mother of Jesus.

Find your name on the Social Security listing and see what surprises develop?
What if we use an enneagram to decide the personality of a character? Then we find a name in the baby list of his birth year. I think I’ll try this for my next story.

Has anyone done this?

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My Carolina Kitchen said...

How fun Glenda. This is a great idea of naming characters. I'm going to check it out right away.

I'm named for my great grandmother Susan Ann. My mother did not like middle names, so she named me Suzanne. Sam is a nickname Meakin gave me when we first met and it's stuck.

Thanks again. I will definitely use this information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Glenda

Interesting site. I've saved it in my web research folder.

I, too was named for movie stars. Patricia Roc and Anne Shirley. But that's okay. I was due on Easter Sunday and had I been born then, my young mother was planning to name me Bunny. The first lucky break in my lifetime - I arrived on Saturday.

Pat D

Glenda said...

Hi Sam, I love the name Suzanne, but I think Sam is cute and fits you.
you'll enjoy researching your name and using the names for characters.
Thanks for visiting.

Glenda said...

Hi Pat,
So good to hear from you. I had to laugh at the good fortune of not being born on Easter.
You certainly don't seem like a Bunny to me.

Anonymous said...

Naming characters has always been fascinating for me. Call me woo-woo or just plain crazy but my characters ALWAYS introduce themselves by name, which is, for me, the first seed that's planted in my mind. It may take a month for the character to "reveal" parts of the story to me, but it's always the name that comes first.
Of course, I have a small black book where I copy names from obituaries...especially the Sunday New York Times, where you find great names and background histories. Items in background histories are stored in another "little black book". Guess every writer has their quirks!
Nancy Purcell