Thursday, March 26, 2009

Main Character Names, Take Two

As promised, here are the results of last week's male main character survey. At the time, I really didn't think it would turn into a survey, but it so did. And I added my male MC names, and that totally skewed the results. Yeah, the J's just skyrocketed. Ahem. Obviously, that post should have been entitled, "What's With the Letter J?" instead of "What's With the Letter K?" (Click on that title if you have no idea what I'm talking about. Cuz it was great fun.)

So this first chart is the names with my MC names. (Jon, Jared, Jess, Jesse, Jarvis, Jake, Jag and Josh included. Holy crap. Just looking at that makes my eyes cross. Why do I write so many J names? Because my last name is Johnson? J's are made of kewl? They're funner to write by hand? Which of these are working for you??) Some of you left female names, which was great and all, but I only included the boys.

And the second chart is without my main characters. Hey, I had a Hunter, an Adam and Ames, a Gordon (the only G in the above chart. Ha), a Zenn, a Miller, a Cal, a Ty and many others I'm sure I'm forgetting. But here's the one without the barrage of J-names from yours truly.

Either way, the results are interesting. Quite a large clumping in the J-N range, just as I predicted. Hey, maybe I missed my calling in life as a statistician. I did complete a brief secretarial stint in the Stats Department in college. Anyway, after the middle letters, it seems a lot of us go for names that begin with letters at the beginning of the alphabet. Z had a nice showing, as did the popular Wheel of Fortune letters R, S and T.

So that leaves me wondering why. Kat asked this question on her blog last week. But it's a good one, so here goes. How do you choose the names for your characters?

I left her a comment, but I'll repeat it here. Most of the time I choose a name because it just fits, or I want to use a nickname. In my NaNo novel I chose Gabby (I know, I know, it's a girl's name, chillax) because I wanted to use the male name Gabe. And Gabby has to pretend to be a yeah. Her real name is Gabriella. She goes by Gabby when she's a girl (well, she's always a girl) and Gabe when she's pretending to be a boy. Are you confused yet? Yeah, me too, maybe that's why I haven't finished this novel yet.

In Control Issues, a futuristic science fiction novel, I wanted a funky male name. Heck, I wanted funky names for everyone. I named a girl Tyson, my male MC Jag, his brother Pace and the "other boyfriend" Zenn. In the sequel to that novel, which I tinkered with last summer, I watched American Gladiators to find kewl names. I had to look since it's been so long, but I found Gill, Nash, Fret, Van, Viggo and Xan.

And Jet.

Holey Swiss cheese.

Another J-name.

Smack me. Smack me hard.


Unknown said...

Xan is becoming quite popular! (My eldest is Alexander but goes by Xan or Xander.)

Okay, now you've done the male chart, I'm curious what the female chart would look like. All vowels and K letters? They seem to dominate to me. Maybe it's because that's what I like, but there does seem to be a lot of them out there.

As for how I pick guy names, I usually like to stay simple. I pick a popular boy's name like Tyler and I just change a syllable - Tylos. I'm kind of a geek, but I LOVE creating new names. Love it! Maybe that's why I write fantasy. lol!

Anonymous said...

Lots of things influence the names of my main characters - everything from what a name means, to what name I just think sounds cool, to a name of someone that reminds me of a quality of te character.

In my current WIP, I chose the name SETH for the evil dude 'cause it means evil one (appropriate, yeah). Jason (another character) was chosen because of a song my Jason Marz (I am way too into music), and David because of a guy with an amazing voice I know (whose name is David)....

So I guess, I just wait until I hear, or see a name the rings a chord with me...

Fun post, Elana

Anonymous said...

My husband comes from a family of all J-names. And I fit right in. So I'm a little biased toward "J" too. I often pick character's names by feel, or sometimes by meaning (but only if I can find a name I like with the meaning I'm going for).

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Wow, those are some interesting statistics! I choose names that feel right that I've always liked. I sometimes research them. It depends on the character and the story, really.

Great post! That is a lot of J names. And Jesse is my favorite. He's one of my all-time favorite characters that I've written. Ahhh, red-headed Jesse. :)

Janet said...

I bow down to your statistic/graphing awesomeness :)

As I write medieval, I am limited in the choices I make (Tiffany, Tyler, and Xan are out). I do lots of research to make sure the names I choose are historically correct.

My contemporary - that I dabble with - usually come with characters already named. Then I have to decide if they will have nicknames and/or why they've been named that.

Great post - interesting data.

Rachael said...

I like to go on baby name sites and look my names with specific meanings. Or just pick a random letter and see if I can find one that just "fits." I usually try to pick names that start with different letters and don't sound the same.

I recently realized that in one novel I have a bunch of characters who's first name all end with the same letter. Carina, Claudia, Selma, Helena, Annika, Eleonora, Karolina, Henrika. And they're all girls. Not one of my boy characters has a name that ends with "a".

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hey, just stumbled across your blog so I thought I'd leave a comment. I like a lot of those names you mentioned. I think I go a little more traditional with names, but then I write contemporary fiction. Most of the time, names just come to me. But every time I see a name I like, I always write it down so I can use it later. I always like to watch the credits in movies because there are so many names. Then I write down as many as I see that I like and most of the time end up using quite a few. Cool post!

Jenn Adams said...

I don't think the pattern is all because of the writers - some letters just do have more popular names than others.

This is where I get my names from a lot of the time:
Love. It. It takes all the information from the Social Security records and organizes it into a really cool graph format that shows you which names are the most popular in what years. So when I want a name that's really new and hip and cool, I choose a name that suddenly rose in popularity in the last few years.

I just named a female character for my futuristic novel Ava, for instance. Ava was down in the top 300's and 400's for decades, and then dropped out of the top 1000s altogether through the 70s and 80s. In the 90s, it made a slight comeback and ranked #571. But suddenly in '03, it jumped to the 41, then 25 in '04, and by '06 it was up to the 4th most popular girls' name in America.

Dude, I know. I'm geeky like that. But when I'm naming an older character, I'll look for a name I like that was popular in the '60s or '40s. Y'know?

So when I go through the alphabet in the boys' names, I see that A-E have a lot of popular names, so it makes sense that a lot of characters would have those names. F has hardly any names, so it makes sense that it drops down. But then G has a lot of popular names, and it's not gettin' the love on your list. (Note to self: choose some more G names for my next book.)

And don't beat yourself up on the J's. Go check the site out and look at boys' J names. There are TONS of them on the list. There are a lot of K's, too, but not as many as J's. Lotta L's and M's. Not so many N's O's or P's, hardly ANY Q's, mid-range on the R's, Quite a few S's and T's, and hardly any of the rest until you get to Z, where there are a few more.

Wow, I didn't mean to get so specific. But sometimes I just can't stop myself. It's a sickness. :D

Michelle McLean said...

Ok, I just copied that link Jenn left :D I do the baby name book and website thing. I am big on my characters names meaning something (like the villain in one book is Rellik...spelled backwards, it's Killer - very appropriate for him). And sometimes I just like the my MC Minuette - LOVE that name; would have been my daughter's name if my unimaginative husband hadn't vetoed it.

My current MC got her name because I needed an Egyptian name that didn't sound too "outlandish." I wanted something with the right background but that could still be young and cute and fairly normal sounding - and I found Kesi. It also means "born of a troubled father" which works for the character's background.

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