There are countless names to choose from, yet many are rarely used, writers opting for the most common. Naturally, you also want to find the name that seems to fit your character, his traits, her age, behaviour and history, even.
My latest work in progress takes place in China. Now, that country presents a challenge regarding names! With over a billion people, you’d think there’d be plenty of surnames to choose from; but this isn’t so. Of the 12,000 surnames that once existed in China, there remain now just about 4,000, though moves have been made to correct this state of affairs, by some adoption of western names. In comparison: recent surveys say that there are about 150,000 different surnames in the US.
Nearly a third of the population of China shares just five family names. Apparently, about 90% use just 100 surnames, with 90 million sharing the name Li. The most common surnames in China, in order, are Wang, Li, Zhang, Chen, Yang, Huang, Zhao, Wu and Zhou.
The most common surnames in UK are, in order: Smith, Jones, Williams, Taylor, Brown, Davies, Evans, Wilson, Thomas, Johnson, Roberts and Robinson – gleaned from a list of 300 ‘most common’.
So, with thousands of people in China sharing the same full name, there can be frequent cases of wrong identity.
Often, I find it useful to note the name’s meaning; this can help link the name to the character. For example, the Chinese secretary of my villain is Zoo Peizhi – the surname is Zoo (that is it’s the first name used); Peizhi is the given name and it’s meaning is ‘respectful’, so it seemed to fit!
Good luck in finding that right name for your character.
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