Hello! My name is Melissa Robbins

I took to heart Joan's earlier post about names. In my current WIP, I have to be careful what names I choose. There weren't any Britneys and Tiffanys running around in World War Two England.

A resource I have found helpful is the Social Security's website that lists the most popular names for a certain time period. Roxann mentioned this one in Joan's comments. Just be careful to figure out when your character would have been born. My hero, Jack's name ranked number #26 in 1916. Yes, Jack is a common name even now, but I think I would cry if an editor asked me to change it. Jack's name, short for Jackson, suits my hero.

For my heroine, I went against normal 1940's names and christened her Wren. I have a pretty common name, so I wanted Wren's name to be unique, but not weird. I first saw the name from the Baby Blues comic. After choosing my heroine's name, I discovered a neat connection between my plot and a story about a wren, so I knew Wren's name was perfect.

I also have a couple of nicknames in my story. Wren is called Liberty by one of the pilots due to her being the only American among the British. I thought I was so clever when I came up with Spyder's nickname. His real surname is Snyder, but having a German last name in WW2 England was frowned upon. Amazing what changing one letter can do, but if you ask Mick how Spyder got his nickname, he'll tell you it's because Spyder is so handsie with the ladies, it's like he has more than two hands. ;0)

One does have to pay attention to national origins of the characters. Two of my characters are third generation Irish, so they have Irish names. I have a Jewish girl in my story named Abigail. Babynames.com's website allows one to look up the national origin of a name from Aboriginal to Welsh. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the list. The website also has great tips for writers thinking about their characters' names. Tip #3 made me giggle. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I ignored Tip #6, so sue me.

A handy resource I believe all writers use is the phonebook. If I need a quick minor character name, I'll flip mine open and point. A trick I learned from a mystery writer was keeping the programs from various graduations and performances. In one program for a selection of one-acts, I found the most delightful hyphenated name for a minor character. It screamed upper crust British. I later learned from my exchange student, that the actor was in fact really British. I bet he is popular with the teen girls.

Care to share any name resources?


Roxann Delaney said...

Yeah, I love the SSA website for names, but it's true that you have to know when your character was born. Even for someone as math-challenged as I am, it's easy, as long as you know how old your character is.

And I love the name Wren for your heroine! With Jack a more common name, it's perfect! Let's face it, if parents didn't sometimes choose unusual names for their children, we'd have nothing but a bunch of Adams and Eves. *grin*

Joan Vincent said...

The phone book is a great tip, Melissa. I also use the obituaries. Odd I know but I got in the habit of reading them when I was teaching which is a whole other tale. I have two cousins with what the family considered unusual --Sterling and Crystal.

Melissa Robbins said...

You know, Roxann, having an unusual name like Wren along side Jack's common name never occurred to me, but you're right. It works. Wren was created first, then Jack weaseled his way into both our hearts.

Joan, I never thought to check obits, but that would work for me since my names need to be old fashioned. Sterling and Crystal are not odd to me. My daughter has a Sterling in her class and I have met a couple of Crystals. I'm even old enough to know who Crystal Gayle is.

Reese Mobley said...

In my first book, the hero's name was Jack. It's also my grandson's name. And I love the name Wren. Can't wait to read the book!