In May, I wrote about how you can see Social Security Data to name your characters. More here: https://jamiecblake.com/blog/2018/5/15/character-names-part-i
Once you have looked at the social security dtaa to name your characters, and it has helped you place your character in time, convey the right impression--what if you have to change their name?
For me, characters usually are created with their name already existing. As soon as I think of them, their name usually comes with them. But I have had to change several of my character's names, and some of those changes were more painful than others.
1) Baby Name Drama
In 2017, I signed my book contract for THE LAST GHOST with 50/50 Press, and my first child was born. Suffice it to say, it was an exciting year, but there was an issue with my character's name. One of my characters in the novel had one of my favorite boy's names, and it was quickly rising in contention for the name of the baby. In fact, it was in the top three remaining boy's names that we liked.
Even though I created the character ten years prior, I changed his name the year of publication because I was thinking of using it for my child. So my advice to you is to not name your characters names you would use on living children.
2) Your name is too Similar to a Character's
People love to ask if my character's are based on anyone in real-life. For me, this is a resounding no. However, in my current work in progress, I had a character who is petite, with reddish-brown hair, and plays basketball. Unfortunately, I gave her a name very similar to Jamie. Since those are attributes similar to me, I thought I should change her name so that it did not create the impression that she was me. Luckily, her new name suits her even better.
3) The name isn't Conveying What it is Supposed to
In THE LAST GHOST, the main character, Woe, doesn't truly understand humans, and so when she adopts a human name, she doesn't pick an actual name. However, she originally had a different word as a name, but that name was popularized in a television show. So in the years that I worked on the book, the name rose from being unheard of to a very common girls' name.
So I changed her name to a different word so that is would seem that she still doesn't understand.
Tips for Changing a Character Name
1) Be careful with find and replace: You can't just find and replace and hope for luck.
2)Do not use find and replace if your character's name was Will.
3) Be cognizant of character's nicknames, initials, anything related to their name that is not their whole name.