word craft



phonebookI 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”

  1. 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.

  2. A few of my favorites — Lis­beth Salan­der, Pi Patel, Har­ry Pot­ter, & from Game of Thrones — Hodor & Tyrion.

  3. I’ve always been fond of Ralph Tog­gs and Hor­a­tio Drab­ble. Also Clarisse McClel­lan, Hare­ton Earn­shaw, Effie Trin­ket, and Jean Esta­van Tannen.


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