I was recently doing a Skype visit with a library group when one of the young people asked, “How do you go about choosing names for your characters?”
There are all kinds of considerations. First, boy/girl. Then, the time period in which the story takes place because names become more or less popular. I was writing a novel set in the 1950’s. What was the most popular name for a boy then? JIM. That’s the name I gave my main character. Sophia was a popular name in the 18th Century. King George III (or last king) had a daughter named Sophia. And so, Sophia’s War.
If one character is named, say, Emily, I won’t use Evelina for another character. If someone is called Pip, I won’t use Rip.
In the Poppy books all the forest mice have names of flowers. Hence, Poppy, and her father, Lungwort, a mouse given to pompous speeches. My editor, Elise Howard, suggested the city mice in the book, Ragweed, have something city in their names. I decided on car parts, hence, Clutch. Sometime I name characters by way of suggesting what the person is like, both their nature and the way they act. Bear in Crispin is big, and bear-like.
In my own reference library I have books of names, modern, historical, and by nationality. And of course nothing is better for name choosing than a phone book.
What is your favorite fictional character name?
3 thoughts on “Names”
Hi Avi: I do like to read your posts and find the writing processes you describe most interesting. You can edit this out: I just wanted to let you know that I quoted you and linked to your blog in my introduction. Also, I listed you on my blogroll. While my blog was a short term project for a second year university course for me at Trent University (Ontario), I thoroughly enjoyed finding links and connections.
A few of my favorites — Lisbeth Salander, Pi Patel, Harry Potter, & from Game of Thrones — Hodor & Tyrion.
I’ve always been fond of Ralph Toggs and Horatio Drabble. Also Clarisse McClellan, Hareton Earnshaw, Effie Trinket, and Jean Estavan Tannen.