Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Name Worth Remembering

Naming kids is tough.  I'm half way through my third pregnancy, and the first question I get from friends, family, and even strangers in the supermarket is, "Boy or girl?"  When I tell them I don't know, the next question--without fail--is "What names have you picked?"

Talk about being put on the spot.  The truth, dear friends/family/perfect stranger, is that I haven't decided on a name.  I haven't started THINKING about names in any serious way.  I tried to throw a few around near the end of my first trimester, but nothing felt right and I gave up.

What annoys me most about naming my flesh and blood children is not that I wait until the last month or so to settle on a name, but that I am the exact opposite when I write stories.  I get a brilliant idea (or mediocre idea...or downright crappy idea--doesn't matter) and before I can sit down to outline the plot, I start looking for names.  I've read about writers who use place markers for their characters as they outline, with things like, "He drove to town while She made breakfast."  That doesn't work for me.  I HAVE to know His name.  I HAVE to know who She is, and where She came from to get to this story.

In books, you generate the characteristics that make your characters who they are.  You give them qualities, good and bad, that anchor them to their name in a unique way.  When an author has done her job right, she's created not just a simple story, but a realistic person, and world, and adventure, that will forever stick in the reader's head.  Think about your favorite books, and the characters that inhabit them.  Do their names jump out?  When you hear Harry or Ron, what comes to mind?

One trend I'm seeing as I slowly begin the search for my future offspring's moniker is an increase in book-related names.  Isabella and Jacob topped the Social Security Office's list of most popular baby names in 2010, and hardly budged in 2011.  Over at Baby Center you can find a list of inspirational sources for naming your child, and at the top of their list is "Baby names inspired by writers."

In an article from the Daily Mail, listed the following book/movie-inspired names as up-and-coming popular choices for parents: Atticus, Darcy, Eloise, Esme, Gatsby, Holden, Kairi, Katniss, Rhett, Zuzu.  And as the teen readers from the last decade grow into adulthood and begin families of their own, I think we'll continue to see a rise of characters-turned-baby names.

As for me, I think I'll keep looking.  I've got a few more months to figure it out.  And if all else fails, I can do what I did with my first two babies: steal my favorite name from one of my own stories.


  1. It used to take me ages to think of names in books, but eventually I realized how very many people there are to name in books. If I spend hours stewing over the name of my main character's new friend's father, I'm going to drive myself crazy. So lately I've only allowed myself a minute or two for each name. Oddly, I don't think it has lowered the quality of the names in my books.

    For me, one of the hardest things about naming my children was finding a name both my husband and I could agree on. If I had to share naming privileges with anyone while writing, I wouldn't get very much written.

    Good luck finding a name for your child! I'm so excited for you!

    1. My husband has absolutely no desire to throw out names for children. The brainstorming is all on me. That being said, he fully invokes his dad right to veto whatever names he doesn't like. So I'm with you about naming characters. I would struggle a lot with characters if I had to share the responsibility of naming them.

  2. Naming my real kids was tough. We waited till the end to pick out names too, but I did a lot of brainstorming and making lists. It's fun to think of the names we almost gave them.

    Naming characters is a little easier. I have used placeholders at times until a better name comes to mind. Yay, for find and replace. :)

    Good luck with baby and all that fun baby stuff, so exciting.

    1. I only spend a day or two coming up with characters' names. I don't like placeholders, but I've got no problem changing a name halfway through a story if it's just not working for me.

  3. A friend of mine thought she had a name all picked out, until her daughter was actually born, and she and her husband looked at the baby and thought, "She is NOT a Maia!" Good thing they had a backup name or two picked.

    So yeah, brush all those annoying questions off with some noncommittal answer like, "We're still trying to narrow it down," and then if they persist, tell them you're thinking of naming your child Spike - boy or girl.

    1. Ooh, I like that response. A friend of mine is also pregnant and she was getting a lot of, "Do you know what you're having?" I borrowed her response: "A baby human, presumably."

      I'm a little behind on my ultrasound appointments because of the move, but I'm going in today to find out. Maybe then I can stop offending little old ladies in the supermarket. :)


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