Monday 1 February 2016

What's in a Name? by Natascha Biebow

I’ve been thinking about character names . . . Namely, if you can come up with a really unusual name for your character, people will remember it. They will remember that character’s personality traits, their unique story and maybe even use it in their everyday life. But you don’t want your character’s name to be too unusual so that it trips people up when they are reading the book aloud. Instead, the name should sound friendly, a little bit unusual and universal.

I took a look at my bookshelf:

There are names that alliterate:

Names chosen to go with a concept

Names that say ‘what they are on tin’:

Names that are fairly unusual:

And names that are quite ordinary, but that have become associated with extraordinary happenings and memorable personalities:

And then, there are the names that are really quite usual and sound just like that person:

 And fanciful names made up to make a rhyme:

And names – like DUCK, BEAR, MOUSE, PIGEON – that are really quite comfortingly familiar and instantly recognizable in the kind of story that is really everyone’s story:

Of all these names, these are my favourite ones:

They make me laugh and you can see who these characters are right away.

Which NAME you choose, depends entirely on the story you want to tell . . . 
What will it be? What are your favourites?

Natascha Biebow
Author, Editor and Mentor

Blue Elephant Storyshaping is an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission. Check out my NEW small group coaching courses!

Natascha is also the author of Elephants Never Forget and
Is This My Nose?,
editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Regional Advisor (Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.


Michelle Robinson said...

Cool post, Natascha. I almost never name my characters. Bloomsbury wanted me I give the boys in There's a Lion in my Cornflakes' names, so I did, reluctantly. 'Chicken Nugget' is a very rare one for me, but his name was kind of vital and it was where the whole idea started. I generally prefer to leave characters nameless so that kids can imagine themselves in the story, - or whoever they want it to be.

Moira Butterfield said...

What fun to look at all these lovely books. Thank you! Funny alliterative names always catch my eye because I think there is likely to be fun inside. I thought Hugless Douglas was genius!

Abie Longstaff said...

Chicken Nugget is a lovely one, Michelle! It can take a while to get a name right. You want it distinctive yet pronounceable; full of character but not cheesy. I collect names that I like in case they come in useful - at the moment I'm waiting to use the name Alafair (which I stole from a child in my daughter's class). It's a wonderful old fashioned name that I'm going to use for a fairy, I think. When I was little my ballet teacher was called Candy Lacey-Smith. It was such a fab name that (in the manner of all authors) I pinched it and rejigged it to become Kittie Lacey, the Fairytale Hairdresser.

Paeony Lewis said...

Enjoyed discovering your choices, Natascha.
I adore the name Amelia Bedelia. Weirdly, I'm not a big fan of the books and I'm not much of a fan of rhyme. Even so, it often pops into my head and I've no idea why!

Natascha Biebow said...

All great names that I'd omitted - Amelia Bedelia, Chicken Nugget and Hugless Duglass - thank you! I love the idea of collecting names for future use. Also goood point about nameless characters so kids reading can identify with them.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Aunt Fidget Wonkham Strong is my favourite name ever in a book (Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake). I'm definitely planning on recycling a name that I used in a story that almost-but-didn't get picked up by a publisher. Names are great. But I also like books where the characters remain nameless, as Michelle prefers.