Sunday, February 12, 2012

Names are important

Here is a list of names from a book I'm reading. Look at them, and then I have a question for you.


Now, how old are these people?

That's right, those are names of people I grew up with. In other words, if they're not forty yet, they're nearing that age. And yet these are characters in a YA book published in 2008.

I'm not surprised that I picked up the book from the remainders table at Books a Million. I'm just surprised it got published at all. It's not even very good--the main character is repulsive and the plot is slow and dull. And the author is clearly out of touch with something as basic as what this generation of young adults are named. It's no wonder that she has the main character wanting to read a Rolling Stone magazine (have high school kids ever read Rolling Stone? At least since the 70s?). And I'm only 68 pages into the book.

Character names are important. If you're sloppy about naming your characters any old thing, you're probably being sloppy about other details. And you will end up REMAINDERED. Be warned!


Ash-Matic said...

This is really interesting. Some of these names seem fine, but some are really jarring.

Peter, Tracy and Monica have never hit the top 20 name lists (since records begin in 1880), and the last time Larry featured was 1955, and Henry was 1927.

Billy and Mike seem older, but William has been in the top 20 boys names every year since at least 1880, and Michael since 1939.

The other names were last in the top 20 between 1987 and 1998, except for Ryan which was there in 2009.


Yes, I was geeky and looked it up.

I completely agree though, choice of names is vital; the combination of the first five names I referenced would easily be enough to jar me out of a piece of fiction set in the modern day - and I don't even read YA.

K.C. Shaw said...

A fellow name geek! :)

Yeah, some of those names are timeless (especially Mike) but the rest are not typically names you hear in high schools today. It wouldn't have been so bad except that those were ALL the names--there were no Aidens or Kayleighs or Noahs or anything mixed in.

Murr Brewster said...

I grew up as one of a plethora of Marys. Now I have acquired a patina that previously accrued to the Blanches and Mildreds of the world. Even I abandoned the fine old name, as my college friends slurred it into Murr. But look out for YA fiction in 2020: Mary is overdue for a comeback.

K.C. Shaw said...

I've always loved the name Mary (and Murr is a charming nickname). I'm not sure why it's not more popular these days.

Kelly Robinson said...

Wow, some of those are just glaring. A little creative spelling could maybe bring some of them into the century. Ryan and Kyle could be repurposed as girl's names with or without spelling variations. (Ryann?)

Maybe Trace and Monikka could have a place. Heather and Amanda are probably just out of luck, unless they're somebody's Mom.

K.C. Shaw said...

Heather especially. I'm sure there are still kids out there being named Heather, but it was so popular for such a narrow band of time that it's forever dated. At least for a few more generations.