What’s in a Name?

I’ve blogged before about coming up with ideas and creating characters and today I’m going to talk about naming your characters. Names are VERY important and I always put lots of thought into choosing them.

Here are some of the names I’ve chosen for various characters in my books and why I picked that particular name:

Amy Green – My daughter’s name is Amy (Amy-Rose to be precise) and she loves the fact that Amy Green shares her name – big mummy points here. It’s one of my favourite girl’s names and it’s a name lots of girls can identify with – most people know an Amy. I added Green as I wanted a surname that again, is well known, as Amy in the books is my ‘every girl’ character, a girl that readers can hopefully relate to.
Being ‘green’ also means helping the environment and Amy Green loves helping people.
Her nicknames are: Ames, Green Bean, Beanie, Greenster and Bean Machine.

Sneak Peek of the Next Book - Out in Sept

Remember to give your own main characters nicknames – most of us have them in real life!

Amy Green’s best friend is called Amelia Starr or ‘Mills’. She’s just that, a star, and most Amelias I know are shortened to Milly, so I thought Mills was a little bit different.

Clover Wildgust (also in the Ask Amy Green books) – Clover is a little bit crazy and she powers around the place like a tornado. I chose Clover as it’s a bit unusual but not too whacky to be unrealistic, and Wildgust is a name I found in a graveyard in Ireland. I thought it suited her perfectly as she’s just that, a wild gust of wind!
Clover is always just Clover, she doesn’t have a nickname.

Graveyards are excellent places to find unusual names, or names that are particular to that region. If you are setting your book in West Cork for example, the names would be different to a book set in Dublin city, especially the surnames. I’m sure it’s the same in London and Devon for example.

Other names I’ve used (in Ask Amy Green) are Seth Stone (Amy Green’s solid as a rock boyfriend), Bailey Otis (Mills’s surfer/musician boyfriend – there’s a famous old song called Miss Otis Regrets), Nina Pickering (who never stops picking on people), and Sophie Piggott (who is a total pig!).

Funny, clever names are more memorable than ‘ordinary’ names – like Mary Smith for example, unless you are using the name to make a point eg ‘Mary Smith was a very ordinary girl, with an extraordinary secret . . .’

Some writers are brilliant at naming their characters:

Derek Landy is a naming master in the horror genre – Skulduggery Pleasant, Melancholia, Ghastly Bespoke.
Darren Shan also creates brilliant names – Lord Loss and Larten Crepsley.

Me Getting Strangled by Darren Shan

I love Cathy Cassidy’s names too – Dizzy, Ginger, Scarlett.
And Jacqueline Wilson’s – Lottie, Floss, Hetty Feather.
And what about J K Rowling’s names, genius! Hagrid, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore.
And Roald Dahl – Matilda, The BFG, Charlie Bucket.

What are your favourite character names? And why?

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

34 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Pingback: By Any Other Name, Would The Character Be The Same? | L.M. Gil, Author's Blog

  2. Hi Sarah!

    When I read a book, the character names I usually like are the nice, normal ones. I feel like I know the characters better, because they are names that are common and likely to come up. For example, I wouldn’t walk into school and find a Hagrid, but I might find an Amy! Thats not saying that I don’t like adventourus names, if Hagrid was called Amy then Harry Potter would not be what it is!!

    I love the idea of finding names in a gravyard! Might use that one…

    Fab Post!! xxxx

  3. This was such a useful post for me… I’ve just begun a new plan for a future story!

    I heard that the song Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles (one of my dad’s favourite songs) was written after Paul McCartney say a gravestone with the same name. It sounds like a great idea for coming up with characters’ names, especially if you’re writing a story set in a different time period!

    I like names that you can shorten; bouncy, interesting names. Like Abigail to Abby or Persephone to (the much easier to spell) Penny – or Georgina or Georgia to Georgie, like me! And for boys I like names like Max and Ollie and Sam, names that are simple and trustworthy. Especially in novels, I find it easier to relate to a character if I love their name… like Pauline, Posy and Petrova Fossil in Ballet Shoes, three of my favourite characters of all time.

    And Amy Green was such a good name to choose because girls can definitely relate to it! xx

    • Hi Georgie,
      I love the names you’ve chosen like Penny and Abby – great ones. I agree Max and Sam are boys you would trust – nice solid names.
      Names are so interesting, aren’t they?
      Best, Sarah

  4. gr8 post

    All the names you’ve made up are great, and the ones you’ve metioned by other authors.

    I’ve made up a story with the main evil charcter named Mariachi Glune

    and the ‘hero’ of the story are Josh McGrady and Melody Van Sterling

  5. Hi, Sarahxx
    Love the post…and the Amy Green books!
    In the tween novel I’m working on, quite a few characters have unusual names. My central character (male) is called ‘Tyco Brown’- Ty for short. The ‘Tyco’ came from a documentry I watched years ago on TV . People have tried to persuade me to change it, but I can’t imagine him being called anything else.

    Ty’s girlfriend ‘Anoushka’ is named after a girl I used to play with when I was small. I gave her the surname ‘Flemyng’ because her father’s worked for the Foreign Office . Noushka wants to be a actress, too, so I thought a suitably-flamboyant name would give her a head start.

    And Ty’s mum’s new guy’s terribly posh, but nice with it. So, what else could I call him but ‘Miles Garforth?’

  6. I love making up names! The names in your books are fab! Especially Clover, after reading the AG series that became one of my fave names! I agree with you about other authors too-especially J.K. Rowling. Not just her names for people which are brilliant, but the way she named everything, from spells to random objects!

    P.S. I met Darren Shan too, I have a picture of him ‘strangling’ me as well-he’s so cool isn’t he?!

    P.P.S. I was thinking, I would love to meet you in real life! Are you doing any signings in Ireland soon? Thanks!

    • Hi Cliona,
      Thanks for the nice comments on the Amy books – I’m so glad you like them. I’m working on book 5 at the moment, Dancing Daze.
      Darren is fab all right – can’t wait to see him again soon – such a nice guy.
      And I’ll be at a reader’s day in Dun Laoghaire on 10th March with Judi Curtin, another Girls Heart Books blogger. Do come along. Tickets will go on sale in mid Feb and I’ll put it up on my facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/askamygreen if you’d like more info.
      Best, SarahX

  7. I like unusual names and normal names.
    I like normal names because, as you were saying, you can relate to your characters, because there will always be a Kate or an Amy – in the Amy Green series I connected with Amy, because I could just imagine her sitting next to me in Maths or phoning me for homework help because she was so realisitc. I can never imagine a Hermione jotting down notes next to be in double science.
    But on the other hand, exotic names make a book more interesting – rather than hearing about Marys and Johns and Katies and Ellas (no offence Ella!!) you can hear about names you’ve never heard before.
    I’d love to hear a book with Orli in it, but I doubt it will ever happen, although it would be so amazing..

    • Hi Judi,
      Thanks! I don’t really have one to be honest – Sarah is hard to shorten. But some of my friends call me ‘Sares’. But it’s mostly plain old Sarah. Do you have a nickname? Or is Judi your nickname? 😉

  8. Naming your ‘baddies’ in a novel written in a present day setting is a toughie. In ‘First Term at Silver Spires’ from my ‘School Friends’ series I’ve got a character called Lydia. She really is horrible! One time when I was doing a signing a smiling 9 yr old handed me the copy that she’d just bought of this book for me to sign, and when I asked her what her name was and she said Lydia, I had to explain about the nasty character who happened to share her lovely name. The real Lydia was very understanding and said she’d be fine with the book, but I still felt terrible!

    • It is a problem all right, Ann. I use the names Annabelle, Sophie and Nina as my ‘mean girls’ names – and there are some lovely girls out there with those names I know!

  9. Hi Sarah,
    A lot of people think I’m named after the French airport, Orly, which is why loads of people spell it with a Y. It drives me insane!
    So, no, its actually a Hebrew name, meaning ‘My Light’.

  10. Great names and great post!

    Like Georgie, I really like the name Abigail, the main character in a book I’m writing is called Abigail Grace.
    I also like unusual names, like Thalia, it just sounds magical. I like how Rick Riordan gets ordinary names and changes them so they’re different, like Percy Jackson-you’d think his name was short for Percival or something, but it’s actually short for Perseus.

    I love the Ask Amy Green books. Amy Green is such a catchy name!

      • Thanks!
        I like the names in Phillip Pullman’s books as well: Serafina Pekkala, Pantalaimon etc.
        Also the Mr Gum quotes and names: The truth is a lemon meringue! and Nicholas de Twinklecakes, Jammy Grammy Lammy F’Huppa F’Huppa Berlin Stereo Eo Eo Lebb C’Yepp Nermonica Le Straypek De Grespin De Crespin De Spespin De Vespin De Whoop De Loop De Brunkle Merry Christmas Lenoir but her friends call her Polly and Peter (a girl!)

  11. One of your characters is called Nina Pickering? That’s the name of a character in one of my favourite TV shows (Being Human) – that Nina Pickering is a nurse, very sharp and sarcastic and doesn’t suffer fools gladly but she’s caring and nice when you get to know her. Maybe they got the name from your book (she didn’t get a surname until series 2, made in 2009 and aired in 2010)… sadly the actress quit so she won’t be in the next series.

    Terry Pratchett is very good at the name thing too – Carrot Ironfoundersson (he’s carrot-shaped, i.e. broad shoulders and tapering down from there to his feet), Reg Shoe, Windle Poons, AdoraBelle Dearheart (nicknamed Spike or Killer), Jonathon Teatime (pronounced Tay-a-tim-ah or he gets very angry), Mustrum Ridcully, Gytha Ogg, Esmerelda Weatherwax, Agnes/Perdita Nitt (double personality), the unfortunately-named dwarf Cheery Littlebottom (one of the Discworld’s first openly female dwarfs)…

    • Hi, how interesting – Nina Pickering the 2nd! Great minds think alike!
      And I haven’t read much Terry Prachett to be honest, but those names are great all right! Eoin Colfer and Philip Reeve also have great names in their books.

  12. I love Derek Landy’s choice of names, his books rock.
    I like ‘Yelena’ and ‘Opal’ from Maria V Snyder’s ‘Study’ Series
    Of course J.K Rowling has fabulous characters. 😀

    I like collecting unusual names in the hope I can use them in the future. that’s why I like to ask for people’s names when we meet, even in passing. 🙂

  13. Hi!
    My dad is a Journalism teacher and so is my mom so I’m expected to write for my school’s newspaper, but I love writing literature. I used my name once in my school’s Creative Writing Contest, Moira means “bitter” in Hebrew and “great” in Irish, it was great! And I won. So I still love books because you can learn a lot from I book.

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