Choosing Baby’s Name

Just like a newborn, deciding on a name for your characters can be difficult. Here are some elements to consider when choosing a name.

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A baby has been born and the parents cannot decide upon a name. Neither can the author. Choosing a name for a new baby is often difficult and the considerations to be taken into account are often as unique as the tiny new person. Family tradition or outrageously original, which names will go with the surname, what will the resulting initials spell?

Will the name suit them when they are adults? Dante Gabriel Rossetti swapped around his Christian names, but either way his name sounds more romantic for an artist than if he had been called Fred Brown. Would the music of Monteverdi or Palestrina (taking his name from the town of his birth) sound as sweet if we knew them as Smith or Jones? Mass murderer or leading statesman, who can predict what their child will be and choose an appropriate name?

Parents and authors alike are faced with another consideration. What may be a desirable name for one parent might remind the other of a ghastly child in their class at school. A name that would otherwise be perfect for the hero of a novel will never be used if it is also the name of that creepy bloke at work.

Novelists are also advised never to give their characters names that are similar, lest the readers get confused; each name to start with a different letter of the alphabet, so no more than 26 characters, 24 if Xanthe and Zachariah don’t suit the story. The same applies to rhyming; Don, Ron and John might be friends in real life, but would you use those names for brothers or the detectives in a complex case?

Even with very different names, too many can confuse the reader, so lesser characters remain anonymous; John’s father, the vicar, the doctor, the police sergeant. Pity the leading character in a novel.

‘We wanted to have more children, but the readers would have been confused.’

‘I hardly know the neighbours, there wasn’t room for them in the plot.’

Finally there is always the option of no name. In Daphne du Maurier’s famous novel ‘Rebecca’ we never know the name of the young woman who narrates the story and becomes the second Mrs De Winter.

Whatever names an author chooses, statistically there will surely be a real person somewhere in the world called the same, though you can Google to check the name that popped into your head is not the celebrity of the moment, Prime Minister of New Zealand or a fictional detective with his own TV series.

Janet loves writing novels, short stories and blogging. Her favourite theme is how ordinary people cope when strange things happen to them.

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  • Scott Bailey says:



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    My favourite Author – Stephen Donaldson has a real knack for names. Something I am very jealous of. He is particularly good at naming things – Ships, Spaceships. “Tranquil Hegemony” is one of my favourites, and a character simply called Vain.

    When we were choosing our eldest’s name we were determined to have something that could not be shortened. We ended up with Alexander – go figure!

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