Writing Tips: Rules for naming young adult characters

Rules for naming
                              young adult characters

If you want to make it in the market these days, you need to know what the market is saying.  You need to grab people's attention.  So what's the market saying about names?  Here are a few rules for picking a popular name for your character.  And in case you can't tell, I think a lot of these are wtf-holy-cow-ridiculous.  But as with any annoying or cliche element, you can use it and get away with it.  Half of these books are ones that I love.  But that doesn't mean I can't poke a bit of affectionate fun.  So please don't flame me if "Aspen" is your absolute favorite OMGHAPPYRAINBOWS favorite male lead's name, please? 

The Echo Emerson Rule

Heroines must have mysterious, unusual, or questionably-gendered names.  If it was popular during the character's probable time of birth or if you have a classmate, friend, or mail carrier with that name, then it's off limits.  

Pushing the Limits, Katie McGarry: Echo 
Houglass, Myra McEntire:  Emerson
Wither, Lauren DeStefano:  Rhine 
Fallen, Lauren Kate:  Lucinda 
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith:  Hadley 
Unremembered, Jessica Brody:  Seraphina 
How We Broke Up, Daniel Handler:  Minerva 

Who Breaks It:  
City of Bones, Cassandra Clare:  Clarissa "Clary" 
Everneath, Brodi Ashton:  Nikki 
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green:  Hazel 
Across the Universe, Beth Revis:  Amy 
Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater:  Grace 

The Aspen Rule

Love interests needs to have sexy, unusual, questionably-gendered names.  Completely old-fashioned names that weren't popular since 1942 are also acceptable.  

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare:  Jace
Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins:  Cricket 
Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick:  Patch 
The Selection, Kiera Cass:  Aspen 
The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han:  Jeremiah, Conrad 

Who Breaks It:  
Everneath, Brodi Ashton:  Jack 
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer:  Edward, Jasper, James  (since these characters were born in an earlier time, they get a pass on the 1942 sub-clause) 

The Vampire Diaries Rule
Sexy, brooding bad boys must be named Damon.   

The Vampire Diaries, L.J. Smith:  Damon 
Obsidian, Jennifer L. Armentrout:  Daemon 
Evermore, Alyson Noel:  Damen 
Marked, P.C. Cast & Kristen Cast:  Damien 

Who Breaks It:  
Any book with a sexy bad boy not named Damon or a reasonable proxy 

The Hunger Games Rule
Dystopian characters must have unpronounceable versions of modern-day names or excessively historical names.  Names must not match or appear to follow any reasonable patterns. 

Matched, Ally Condie:  Cassia, Ky, Aida, Abraham, Molly, Abran, Bram 
Across the Universe, Beth Revis:  Amy, Elder, Orion, Doc, Harley 

Who Breaks It:  
Scott Westerfeld, Uglies:  Tally, Zane, David, Peris, Dr. Cable
Veronica Wroth, Divergent:  Beatrice (Tris), Drew, Tobias, Eric, Albert 

The Harry Potter Rule 
Urban fantasy characters should have magical-sounding names derived from plants, stars, mythical creatures, and other ethereal entities.  Even if they were once human, or still live in the human world.  

Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling:  Albus, Sirius, Draco, Lucius, Hermione, Luna, Rubeus, Minerva
Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl:  Artemis 
Cirque du Freak, Darren Shan:  Larten, Murlough, Peris, Corma, Evra, Hibernius, Kurda, Harkat 

Who Breaks It:  
Ironically, J.K. Rowling:  Harry, Ron, Molly, Ginny, Bill, Charlie

The WTF That's Not a Name Rule 

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer:  Renesmee Carlie

Who Breaks It:  
Like, everyone else.  Okay, not everyone, but at least "Aspen" could be a name.  

More Name Talk

What naming trends have you noticed in Young Adult books?  What are your favorites?  The ones that make you groan?  

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