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:
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.?”
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?