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?
Novelists are 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. 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.’
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 television detective.
Rules are made to be broken and I have broken some in my novels, in the ‘Brief Encounters Trilogy’ you will find a list of characters before the start of each novel. And then there are plots where the characters give themselves pseudonyms.. but that’s another story.