When I'm coming up with a secondary character, if I'm not trying to suggest ethnicity (MR. AZAD, CHELSEA FRIEDMAN), I'm often trying to suggest age. The Social Security
website will give you the most popular names by year, and the incredibly neat Baby Name Wizard NameVoyager
shows how the popularity of a given name waxes and wanes.
But many names are popular every year, e.g. Michael, Robert, William, Katherine, Margaret. Fortunately NameTrends
will show you the uniquely
popular names from each era. Kaden just learned to walk. Cody is probably in high school about now. Lindsay's in college. Damon and Misty are probably having their first baby. Todd and Sherri are fighting over custody.
The site includes historical popularity of each name, and even breaks it down state by state.
Labels: blog fu, writing resources
The Nametrends one is fantastically useful. I mined the Social Security statistics, but I didn't know about Nametrends (or maybe it didn't exist in 2006), so I had to do it manually. I wanted a 1970s-born couple, and came up with Jason and Amy.
Nametrends shows that I made pretty good choices. Their top 1970s girl-name, Jennifer, seems to have a broader spread over time than Amy, and I wanted names that strongly suggested that the characters were 30ish.
It's obvious that the writers of Grey's Anatomy didn't look too closely at name statistics. If they had, they wouldn't have named Kate Walsh's character "Addison"; that was strictly a surname in the late 1960s. Katherine Heigl's "Isobel" is rather improbable for someone born in the late 1970s, but as a variant of "Isabel" it's not completely implausible.
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