When Everyone’s Named Aiden

A few months ago, I saw Divergent in theaters.

This shouldn’t be surprising. I love dystopian novels; I thought Divergent was well written; I wanted to be there.

What was surprising: I spent the whole time whispering to a friend of mine, asking her who certain characters were. Have a picture:

White brunettes cast as secondary characters in Divergent

I couldn’t, for the life of me, keep those actors straight in my mind. It didn’t help that I pictured Edward as blonde, Will as Asian, and Al as Black. And I know I struggle with keeping faces straight. But it was constantly pulling me out of the story.

In the books, Will has a budding relationship with Tris’s (the main character) best friend Christina. Al has a crush on Tris. Edward is one of the antagonists. I should be able to keep them straight. But because 2-hour movies don’t do 450-page tomes justice, their back stories weren’t developed, and I didn’t know how to react to them.

Unfortunately, the same thing is happening in preschool classrooms around the U.S. Well… sort of. For that connection, you’ll have to journey with me back to the year 2010.

Okay, so it was only 4 years ago. It was the year that Divergent sold to publishers. It was also the year that Aiden, Cayden, Braedon, Jayden, and Hayden were all in the top 50 boys’ names for the year. (Hayden also hovered just outside the top 50 for girls.)

Which means, in preschool classes everywhere, Ms. Smiths are telling Jaydens to partner with Brayden for a project, and the confused student is replying, innocently confused “Brayden C. or Brayden M.?”

The rise of Rhyming Name Syndrome (source)

In both the Divergent movie and in preschool classes everywhere, there is a case of Unnecessary Confusion. Unnecessary Confusion is just as terrible in novels as in movies and in real life.

I studied writing for eight years. I spent plenty of them perusing baby name websites and looking at lists and facepalming over Rhyming Name Syndrome. I knew what to avoid, and I knew exactly why I needed to avoid it.

Which is why, when I went to review the names of the characters in my book, I managed to shock myself.

In a single page of my manuscript–ONE PAGE–I mentioned Aba, Abel, Alice, and Amelia.

Other name mishaps I found after yet another read-through (and after changing Alice’s name):

  • Of 23 characters, 11 of them had names ending in an “a” sound. THAT’S NEARLY HALF.
  • I had more than three characters whose names started with the same letter… for FOUR different letters. THAT’S MORE THAN HALF.
  • In my original draft (a few have been through several name changes since then), I had nine characters whose names were Biblical.

I’ve since changed the names of seven of them, cutting out the worst culprits, since a lot both started with the same letter AND ended with an “a” sound. Others are minor characters I’m less worried about.

It’s strange the things that can slip through several drafts of your own, and the things those slip-ups reveal. (For instance, I like names that begin with A, J, K, and S…)

What names or name patterns do you see popping up a lot? Do you change them?


  1. Haha! I am the worst culprit of this. I’m going to have to take stock of my characters names again. I’ve already changed a few because for some reason I like names that start with “M”. *sigh* The problem with my current WIP is that I’m making up most of the names, so when I find one I like I get pretty attached to it.

    The better questions is how has this affected your search for your baby’s name?

    • Yeah, after a ton of Beta complaints about all the A names, I finally took an official roll call. Others were bothered by the number of names that started with A, and I was bothered by the number that ended with A, so those were the ones I changed. The Js, Ks, and Ss weren’t as imposing, since many of the characters with those names are minor. 🙂

      Baby’s had a name since about a year before we got pregnant. 😉 And our decision on her first name goes back to an IM conversation we found from less than a month after we started dating. But we didn’t have any boys’ names picked out. I just avoided the ones that were on our shortlist. I would hate to name a child after my *own* character, after all…

      • Haha! I hear ya! I have a girl name on hold but I’m scared we’ll never get a girl. If we don’t get one I’ll probably use it in a book. As a nurse I had so much trouble picking names because when you have a weird patient that names their baby Gavin, you can never consider that name for a child OR character. 😛

  2. In my YA historical I’ve got Gracie, Gabriel, & Gulliver. In the sequel I’m about 5K on, the two main characters are Garnet & Goose. (& btw, only one of these is human!) =) Apparently, I like the letter G! Also, one thing I’m totally nervous about if I ever do(crosses fingers) get my YA historical published is that there are gryphons in it. And my son is named Griffin. =0 I started writing this before I ever got pregnant, though my husband had mentioned he liked the name Griffin. So when I realized that was what we were going with once I got pregnant, I changed the griffins to liofalcs and…nope, no go. They were gryphons and that’s what they had to stay. So I said all that to say: If I’m lucky and my book does make it into published form, I’m going to love people thinking I named my son after the mythical creatures in my book. *sigh*

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