In this week’s naming I used popular names from England for a character that was described as being more grounded, logical, gentle, sweet, and timid than another character. This could mean that he is very of those characteristics, or that he is slightly of those characteristics, or anywhere in between. It could mean almost anything, because it is a generic sort of description—just like the generic sort of names that I chose.
And that’s all right. Sometimes a character needs a popular sort of name, or a name that could fit a variety of characteristics.
Take, for example, a popular “mean girl” in a young adult novel. This character doesn’t necessarily need a special name to show how especially bitchy she is, she could instead have a popular name to emphasize how ubiquitous mean girls are in our society. You could call this character Emma, Madison, or Olivia.
Or, for another example, look at what I call the false love interest in a romance novel. This is the guy who is nice, the guy who fits what the character wants, the guy that is doomed to come in second place. He just isn’t as sexy, dangerous, or challenging as the true love interest. He is just there to show the main character what life could be like if she really got everything she “wants” rather than what she needs. You could call this guy Daniel, Matt, or Jason.
By necessity, some characters are there to prove a point more than to make a final difference. These characters may be somewhat two dimensional, and they are certainly not the main characters, but they do have their place in the story. Give these characters the names they deserve—popular every-man names that don’t have strong connotations (bad boy, nerd, villain), so these characters can grow into whatever the plot needs them to be.