I have only ever met two people names Fred. One of them, a kid, was one of those types you cannot help but like the second you meet them (and I am not just saying that because his mother may be reading this). The other was a teacher that I, for various reasons that shall not be mentioned here (since some of them were better reasons than others), did not particularly like. Apart from these two, the only Freds I have known are characters of literature, movies and television, ranging from Fred Flintstone to the man who eventually ends up as Diana’s husband in Anne of Green Gables (yes, those were the first two that sprung to mind. Yes, it is a weird mind).
My experience with the name Fred, then, has been limited, but varied. Consequently, I don’t have any particular quality connotations with this name as I so often do with other names. And yet, it appears to be my go to name when I am at loss for naming a character.
In my current WiP, which is based on a idea I have had for years, but that I only started writing seriously last November (and now intend to complete[-ish] for BuNoWriMo), I suddenly discovered that I had no less than three characters named Fred.
Now, this can be okay in very special circumstances (maybe these characters share a special bond because they have the same name?), but generally it is advised against because it most likely will lead to confusion. In my case, the three Freds was not the result of a conscious decision at all, but rather an easily-fixed mistake.
The first Fred is a very minor character who normally would not get to have a name at all (had it not been for the fact that his name is written, ahem, somewhere, which is sort of the point of his entire appearance in the story). So Fred # 1 gets to stay, though I am considering changing his name to something “less Fred”, but equally neutral. Maybe Ted?
The second Fred is the doorman in my main character’s office building. This is a reoccurring character, so he gets to have a name, but again I don’t want anything too characteristic or descriptive. Thus, he will have to have his name changed. At this point I am thinking Frank (though “Frank the doorman” sounds familiar. I might have to google that to see what comes up. Ach! The show Samantha Who? has a Frank the doorman, played by Tim Russ. Hm… What about Tim the doorman?).
The third Fred is the one I am least happy about. The other two can be explained by my need to find a non-descriptive name (which Fred appears to be to me) for relatively unimportant characters. Fred the Third, though, is not so unimportant. He is a semi-important character (my protagonist’s boss), who needs a proper name and a proper back-story (at least to me – it probably won’t go into the actual book). The fact that I failed on both accounts just means I haven’t done my job.
So, Fred the Third had to be renamed (for the moment he is David, but I am still testing it out), and I will think about what sort of background he has. People as self-important as Fred #3/David really should always have a reason to be so…
Finally, (no more Freds, I swear), I have a problem with my main character’s name as well. Her first name is fine – even she started out as something else but for several years now she has been Claire, and I am happy about that. Her last name, though, continues to bother me. I originally called her Claire Bennett, as a funny little reference to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (although one that makes no sense, since she acts nothing like any of the Bennett sisters). Or at least I thought that was why I called her that.
One day, though, it occurred to me that this name sounded a little familiar too. Not familiar as in “I am going crazy because I now thinks my character is a real person”, but more as in “where have I heard that combination before”? Again, I googled, and guess what… As many of you will have realized by now, I am not the only one who thought Claire Bennett was an appropriate name for a character. So did the creators of Heroes. I am not convinced I would win the lawsuit against NBC claiming I came up with that name first, so I’m just gonna silently change it. I haven’t made up my mind yet, though, so at the moment my heroine is simply called Claire Lastname.