I try to make sure my characters' names give a sense of the character. Even ordinary run of the mill names can communicate how old they are. LISA is probably in her forties. ASHLEY is probably twenty. SAM is either ninety, or nine.
You can look up the most common names for each year at the Social Security Administration
. Another good place is your alumni newsletter, if you get one.
The nice thing about your alumni newsletter is you also run across some spectacular real names, like the above-mentioned Barnard alumna, Willow Sanchez. I have never met the woman, but she has a wonderful name. If I were coming up with, say, an assistant coroner, and I wanted to give her some character in very few words, I'd give her a name like Willow Sanchez. You just know there's a story there.
Ahem. Lisa is the name of a "29" year old woman.
My favorite name that I've stumbled across (was a laborer on a construction site for whom I did mindless accounting (eg payroll, etc) one summer in college):
What a great combination, eh?!
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