18 April 2015

Popular Names

**My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is THE NAME GAME. Everything you’d want to know about naming characters.**

There are so many different things that can influence how you choose a character's name. You may want to choose a name that is unique and interesting, or you may want to choose one that is more common and believable. It will all depend on who you want your character to be and the kind of story you’re writing. One thing you can take into consideration is how popular a name is.

Think about the first names that were popular when you were growing up. When I was in school, there were a lot of Ashleys, Brittanys, and Michaels, for instance. A popular name will probably come to mind first if you just try and think of a random name, because it’s probably something that you’ve heard over and over again. The more people who have a particular name, the more popular it is.

When it comes to naming your fictional characters, knowing which names are popular may help you figure it out. If your book takes place in a particular year, knowing which names were popular is important. Even if you want a unique name for your main character, you still have plenty of other characters who need names. Giving them popular or common names may make your cast of characters seem more realistic. If every single character has a unique or strange name, the reader could be thrown off. Popular names occur in real life, so they should probably occur in your story.

FUN TIP: The Social Security Administration keeps track of name trends in the US. If you want to see which names have been popular from year to year, check out their website!

So what causes trends in name popularity? Pop culture can be a HUGE influence on what people name their babies. If a TV show or movie is particularly popular, new parents often jump on the bandwagon and name their children after its characters. For instance, the name Arya was at #942 in the US in 2010. In 2013 it had risen to #277. Game of Thrones premiered in 2011. Coincidence? Not even a little bit. 

Movies, television, and books are constantly influencing name trends. The name Luke started to rise in popularity after the first Star Wars movie was released, and has been popular ever since. Willow gained popularity after Buffy the Vampire Slayer first premiered. Official 2014 numbers aren’t out yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Elsa is in the top 100 after the popularity of Frozen.

You can, of course, name your characters after other characters, although this can be tricky. But just knowing what names are popular can help you figure it out, whether you want a popular name, or even if you want one that isn't...

Do you choose popular names for your characters? Come back on Monday for pretty much the exact opposite of this post...


  1. I absolutely love naming characters. I do think of the time period, which is present day in my novels. I look up the most popular names or just hang around my teenage boys to get good names:) Nicknames are fun too. I always take into consideration nicknames when choosing a character's name.

  2. I try to keep my characters' names pretty unique, but they do name themselves, and my current character is Jo. I have looked at popular names for the years characters were born - just to make sure I'm in the right ballpark.

    Annalisa, writing A-Z vignettes, at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

  3. A friend of our family named his daughter Arwen because he is such a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings. It's a beautiful name. I think if one of my characters had a deep connection to a piece of fiction or other pop culture "thing", then using such a borrowed name could work.

  4. I often check out popular name lists for the year my characters were born, if I'm writing a contemporary piece and don't have all the names already figured out. I also have a tendency (though it's not always the case) to give my main character a fairly common name, and have one member of the supporting cast have a more unusual one!

  5. I don't like to use popular names. I try to think of different names you don't see much. You won't see an Ashley in any of my books. I know too many of them! I did name a very, very minor character Britney but she's only in the story once. I do have a character named Luke, though.

  6. This is the weekend before the last full week of A to Z. You’re amazing for staying with us this long. Thanks for your commitment. You’re almost there. This event only happens once a year, so get ready for the home stretch!

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Cohost
    P is for Paranormal Vs. Supernatural

  7. This has been a helpful theme. Naming character is so tricky. I use the SS link all the time, mostly to stay away from the popular names. : )

  8. I've not had to worry about popular names...

  9. I love naming my characters! As I write sci-fi, I don't tend to worry too much about whether a name is popular or not :) - but quite often my characters like to name themselves anyway!

  10. I've used common names, but not sure about popular. I like to stay away from those and try for something unique and memorable.

  11. A good thing about a popular name is that everyone knows how to pronounce it. I love sci-fi and I'm always wondering if I'm saying the character's name right in my head!

    You can find me here:

  12. Emma and Olivia...hm...Fans of Once Upon a A Time and Scandal, maybe?

  13. Names are crazy with trends. Even the spellings when all the i's turned to y's after a while.