The solution I came up with a few years ago is fairly simple: Baby names sites. My personal favorite site has name finders, top 1000 boy and girl names, and lists of names with common themes. I usually go straight to the top 1000 lists to browse. It's kind of like window shopping, only without windows and without shopping.
The other day during lunch one of my friends was complaining about how common his name was. "I mean, come on, James is like the most common boy's name in the country," he said.
"Don't flatter yourself," I told him. "That would be Jacob."
Some of my friends raised their eyebrows at me. "Really," James said. "Mine is second then?"
"Nope, that's Michael," I responded.
He was frowning now. "The third?"
"How do you know?" another friend demanded, so I explained about my frequent trips to the baby names site. I ended up printing off a copy of the top 1000 boy names list for them, and spent the rest of the time listening to exclaims like, "Diego? Diego is before my name?" and "How is James only number 16? Every other kid in this school has that name!"
Until then I hadn't realized how much the frequent trips to the site had sunk in, to the point that I could rattle off the first x most popular baby names from memory. The amount of times I go through my name-finding process goes to show how important names are to my stories. If the name doesn't fit, the character doesn't seem right. So do yourself a favor, and 'window shop' for a name until you find the one that fits your character. From personal experience I can attest that it will be worth it.
Also, the look on my friend's face made it worth it as well.
- No overused names (like Bob or Sally)
- No bizarre names simply for the purpose of being bizarre (like Kynarylismuthosa. Unless it makes sense in context. And if you can get that name to make sense in context, you have full permission to use it)
- No fairytale or cliche names (like Dewdrop or Aurora. Again, unless it makes sense in context)
- If I'm modeling a character off of someone I don't like, don't choose a name similar to theirs (no example here, sorry)
- If I'm modeling a character after someone I do like but don't want them to know, see above.
- No recognizable names of characters from books or movies (like Hermione or Jack Sparrow)
Of course, there are other rules, but I usually come up with those as I go along.
I will be posting that on my website soon.
You can find Daryl's website at http://darylgregory.com/
Friday morning came dressed in white. The snow was thick enough to cover the grass in most places and was falling continuously from the sky. The biggest shock was when school was canceled. Our first snow day of the year came on October 16th. Everyone was stunned, but I seized the opportunity. My sister and I had an epic snowball fight, played Scrabble (I lost), drank hot chocolate, and watched our second favorite show together. The entire day I kept surprising myself by realizing Halloween hasn't even come yet.
The snow was even heavier this morning. As the day progressed the temperature rose and the snow is now melting into a wet slush. I'm not sure if it will refreeze overnight, but it has been a nice little winter preview in the middle of fall.
I've been battling some sort of illness the past week, but I believe I'm better now. It's amazing how much make-up work is assigned for missing only two days of school! Actually, it's amazing how much homework students get in general. Thinking about that reminded me of an English assignment last year, when I had to give a persuasive speech. The topic I chose was homework. I decided to post that speech here. Any opinions?
How many of you like homework? …Haha, that’s what I thought. Most kids don’t, but their complaints are usually ignored, or considered ‘whining’. But what if they—and you—are actually right?
You know, homework wasn’t always assigned. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that we started really experiencing it, and the response to this new idea wasn’t favorable. In fact, in 1901 homework was banned in California, and that lasted fifteen years!
During the early 1900’s, doctors warned that homework was “unnatural” and unhealthy because of the stress it induced, the weight it put on children’s spines, and the hours spent sedentary at a desk. Citizens were speaking out against it until World War Two.
Feelings changed during the Cold War, when there suddenly was a push for more rigorous education so we could compete with other countries. Homework became a daily routine, and since then the amounts have only increased. Today, we see a huge rise in levels of homework, especially among younger children. And yet, we automatically assume that this is okay?
As students, we spend six or more hours a day in school, and more if you are involved in extracurricular activities. Is it fair of school districts to require homework, which is likely to take up an hour or more of non-school time, as well? There are many people, including students, parents, teachers, and other adults, who say no, it is not fair, and believe that homework actually has a negative impact on schooling and student’s lives.
There are other people, though, that argue that homework is beneficial and that students get the right amount. It can’t be ignored, though, that homework levels are rising rapidly, especially among younger children.
I’ll let you guess what the two main sides of this issue are. Yeah, you got it: For Homework and Against Homework. The people that are For Homework claim that homework extends learning beyond the classroom, allowing students to continue learning at home, creates independent study habits from working on their own time, and improves achievement academically. They also claim that homework connects parents to the school by letting them see what students are working on and the type of work they are doing.
Against Homework people say that homework creates stress and steals free time. Do you like it when your parents have to bring work home? It only makes them irritable, stressed, and unable to do things with you. It could be argued that homework creates the same situation, leading to missed opportunities, less exercise, and family tension. In addition, homework may actually impede learning by causing students to hate the subject.
Opinions are great, but what are better? Facts. And the facts of the matter are these: Stress is unhealthy, and homework definitely causes stress in the majority of the K-thru-12 students. In most cases, homework is assigned as a drill, which is the opposite of helpful because these repetitive assignments offer little to no additional help and take up in-class time with review. As mentioned earlier, the homework amount is rising, especially among younger kids. The amount of children aged six to eight that have homework on a given night rose from 35% to 65% in the past twenty years. Also, many high-scoring countries like Japan and Taiwan are actually trying to lower their homework level.
But this is perhaps the most important fact: Nowhere in any studies done has substantial proof been found that homework improves test scores of academic achievement. In fact, in some cases it’s just the opposite—students that were given more homework were shown to have lower test scores than their peers that weren’t.
So, is it fair to ask students to do hours of homework in addition to hours of schooling? To have to do homework in order to “connect parents with the curriculum?” To be assigned generic drill homework that does not help their academic performance? The truth is, homework is simply assigned as a routine, and in reality it is unhealthy and in most cases impeding our learning. In short, it gives kids a legit reason to dislike school.