Dated Name = Dated Character

This topic works for any genre, but because my main character is of an older generation I needed a name that would match the year/decade she would have been born. And spelling. And gender. Today we have names that we have classified as feminine when in reality they were first masculine. This sounded strange to my teen’s ear when she learned a name was once male.

And that then carries a personification to it, a male with a feminine name must be ______. Same if a female has a name that’s more male recognizable, but I’m going off my intended track with this topic.

My main character is a woman who is older than me, probably my mom’s age or even grandmother’s age, which changes everything considering how old my grandmother would be today and would she behave as my character Iris. Once again I’m stumbling off track of this topic…ageism. There’s one truth…most everything has multiple tracks of discussion.

Either way unless my character named herself, her “parents” would have picked a name suited for their social upbringing times. Their understanding and acceptance of the time they lived in. Of course, Iris has changed with the social times, but her name came from the time of her birth. Since I’m her writer-parent I need to research the appropriateness of her name. However, I have one advantage reality never does, I know who she has grown into being and I can find a name that also fits her as I want her to be. Fits as in how I want readers to see her…being, personality being my goal, not appearance.

There was a detective show in the 80s where one male lead said to the other male…how did her parents know their daughter would grow into a _____ or a ______ basing her name equals her appearance. Pretty name = pretty girl. Ugly/plain name = ugly/plain girl…now we’re back on the track of sexism in naming. Name stereotypes.

Nothing in writing is without something attached to it, intentionally or not.

Maybe I should rename this post, The Importance of Naming, I was trying to share how a name can date your character and have opened up a kettle of assumptions on names. I think we can all see how naming works and the traps we, as writers, can fall into when we pick a character name that doesn’t fit the true showing of our character. There’s more to explore here, but I’ll save that for another time and place.

For now, you now know why Iris is Iris. (note to self, must change website, previous character name still showing)