Hi Duana,

I’m slowly and steadily working on a novel, it has always been a dream of mine to write and publish something. I’m thinking, that there is no time like the present, so I am going to go for it. It might take some time though, so bear with me if you don’t get your copy in the mail this week. :)

One thing I am struggling with is the names for the three female protagonists. The novel will be set in the present day, with three protagonists of different ages.

Mom: 45-50
Daughter One: 23
Daughter Two: 16

The mom is a girly girl who was raised on the ‘women can have it all’ philosophy of the 80’s. She’s done well in her career, married young, did everything she was supposed to do, but is battling some disillusionment that started to take root about 10 years before the novel is set. Of course I’m thinking for the mom, that Jennifer or Kimberly are clearly timely, but too bland. I can only think of names of my friends which could be embarrassing when this eventually sees the light of day. I’d think of an ‘aspirational’ name for the mom, as it would suit her character.

Daughter One is a post-millennial, but the only names I can think of for this age group are Madison and Mackenzie, both of which don’t feel right. I was thinking Summer, but I’m not sure that fits with the timing of her birth? And I’m not sure that my mom character would name her daughter Summer. She would have done the supreme court justice test and would have given this girl a name with heft, in the mid-90s, mind you.

Daughter Two is a teen, Mom would have taken a different approach with naming her second daughter as the seeds of her disillusionment were being planted at that time and also because daughter #2 was a surprise. So what does my mom name a surprise kid in the new millennium, when the millennium is letting her down? I’m thinking she chose another ‘aspirational’ name—but knowing absolutely no children of this age group (except for boys) I’m at a loss.

Any ideas would be welcome!

PS I named my dog Ella so that is immediately disqualified as a name for anyone.



First off, writing is HARD. I know a hell of a lot of writers, of books and TV and movies and longform magazine articles, and nobody will say it’s easy. So don’t be anxious to get something out the door or embarrassed at how long it takes. Writing something takes as long as it does, and then usually more after that.

Also, if we’re making blanket statements about writing, I’d say that writers I know fall into two categories. Those who understand how important this conversation is, and those who don’t understand what a name says about your character. I’m very glad to welcome you to the former category.

Having said that, I have a small bone to pick with one of your proposed name criteria. You say that mom ‘did everything she was supposed to do’ and has an aspirational name, but – aspirational for who? If she’s 50, she was born in 1965 – so what did her probably 23-year-old parents want for her? To get married, to have children – maybe to have a nice job? Girls of that age were called Laurie, or Kathleen, or Angela, or maybe Libby or Janet or Carole. KAREN. But I suspect the sort of run-of-the-mill familiarity of these names is not what you’re looking for.

Remember to ask yourself whether the path she took up was because of her name, and the intentions behind it, or in spite of it? As for slightly ‘aspirational’ names that fit the time period, how about Angelica? Or the time is right for the rise of Jackie – Jacqueline being very new and sophisticated around now. In fact, anything French was also in Vogue – Lisa was in heavy use, but there are also names like Colette and Monique that were popular for being ‘exotic’ at the time. There’s nothing to cause you to be limited to names that were happening back then, of course, no reason you can’t throw in Marguerite or Allison or Harriet, but if the timing or the ‘age’ of the name is important to you…some Heathers are that age, some Antonias and Lorettas.  See what works.

The girls don’t strike me as quite so difficult – or so different (though depending who you ask, millennials are from 1985-2000, so Daughter #1 would be right in there). Names in this age were easy, easy peasy while still being fashionable. Emma, Aimee (that spelling), Alexandra, Katie (SO many Katies), Lauren, Emily, and the occasional early-adopting Taylor or Emerson.

Now where I’m different than you is that I think the same glut of names can encompass both of your intentions. These names, chosen for kids born in the early to mid-90s, are the beginning of ‘success-oriented’ names, where parents focused on really choosing ‘strong’ names that don’t necessarily imply femininity above all. So I buy that it’s the kind of name that would be chosen for daughter number one and I also buy that hearing everything around you, just kind of going with the flow, would make daughter #2 into an easy Kate – or Sophie or Jane or Stella or Hannah. God, Hannah was all over the place. Not because she felt the strength in it or whatever, but because a lot of us come to like names by osmosis – what we hear over and over again.

Definitely you were on the right track, but also consider Michaela and Madeleine and even more Alexandra and Charlotte and Elizabeth in this mix – girls have gone classic for a long, long time.

As for the name Summer – yeah, I’m not sure either. It seems like kind of a f*ck you to something or somewhere for this mom to choose that out-there name, but I’m not sure to whom that epithet would be aimed, you know?

Keep us posted – I bet there are a lot of people invested in the story already, because I am.

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