3 Months to Release: Character Names!

It’s May 24, which means we are now at 3 months to the release of YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED.

T H R E E  M O N T H S !!!

A little over a week ago, to celebrate 100 days until the book lands in stores everywhere, I released a parody video of the 1980s song “Jenny/867-5309,” replacing the chorus with “It’s Not 1995.” In case you missed it, you can still watch it here.

The song is directly linked to this month’s release countdown topic:

How do you choose character names?

My answer varies depending on the book, but at least for the main character, it usually has roots in three things:

  1. The meaning of the name – I have been known to give characters names where if you know what it means, it might give you clues to a plot point 😉
  2. Most popular names for the year the character was born – I get a lot of secondary character names this way, just by scanning through the year’s list.
  3. Who their parents are – Think about it. At some point, you’ve probably asked your parents why they gave you the name they did. I know I have! And my husband and I were very particular about the names we chose for our own kids. So knowing about the character’s parents can be key to naming them. Are they mainstream? Quirky? Trendy? Weird? There doesn’t have to be a big story about your character’s name, but if a girl with super uptight parents has a name like Flower, that would be odd 🤔.

Sometimes a character name jumps right out at me, and I immediately know it’s the right one. Other times I spend hours reading through my physical baby names book and/or searching the internet to find names that fit them. Here are the stories behind some of the character names in Your Life Has Been Delayed.

While I did not name my main character “Jenny” because of the song “Jenny/867-5309,” I suspect I was on the same wavelength as Tommy Tutone in choosing this name. Because in the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed like every other girl was named Jennifer (often shortened to Jenny/Jennie/Jenn), so it places her as a sort of everygirl of that time. (Although I don’t by any means intend to say that every girl was like Jenny.) This Stacker article shows that Jennifer was the number one baby girl name from 1971-1984. That’s quite a run!

Dylan’s name is just me being mean to Jenny. Her favorite TV show from the 1990s is “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and there’s a moment where he tells her he was named after Luke Perry’s character. Yikes!

By the time Jenny’s younger brother was born, her parents had realized how popular her name was, so they were a little more careful about not choosing the same name as everyone else 😂. But in all serious, the main consideration for his name was that I wanted one that could be shortened, in this case to “Brad.” When she boarded Flight 237, he was still going by “Bradley,” but as he’s now an adult, everyone calls him “Brad” and she just can’t wrap her mind around that small thing in addition to everything else.

I mainly picked Angela for Jenny’s best friend because it was one of the top names for the time period, but it also provides a nice contrast as it means “angel.” According to Angie, this definition would be closer to fitting Jenny’s personality.

Art was a fairly minor character when I first wrote the book, so I didn’t put a lot of thought into his name as I was drafting. During revision, he grew into a much more important character. But I love that Arthur means either “noble” or “rock,” because he demonstrates both of those meanings in the end.

Ted and Agnes are the oldest passengers on Flight 237. Their first names are indicative of the decade in which they were born (1910s), while their last name is Spring because, well, they aren’t spring chickens 😊.

Jenny’s niece and nephew become an unexpected source of joy, so I looked for names that would represent that. Kira means “sun” or “light” and Eli means “uplifted.”

Funny story: In my first draft, Jenny’s 1995 boyfriend had a different name, and when I read through it again, I realized it was the same name as someone I had a connection to in high school. Didn’t even occur to me at first because I’d plucked it off the common names list, but I quickly returned to the list and carefully chose a different name.

Obviously there are many more names in the book. A few more of them even have stories, but I can’t talk about them now because… SPOILERS! So you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

For the other writers out there, do you have any other methods for picking character names? Drop them in the comments!

In case you missed any of the previous release countdown features, they included:

If you’re ready to pre-order the book, you can do so on my books page. Information on a pre-order campaign and launch events will be coming soon, but in the meantime, if you pre-order from The Novel Neighbor, those books will be signed and include a bookmark.

Thank you for supporting my publishing journey!!

Responses to “3 Months to Release: Character Names!”

    • Michelle I. Mason

      I’m glad to hear someone else does! I had put this question out on my Instagram, and the people who responded mostly said they didn’t look up the meanings. I was starting to think it was just me :).


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