Help me rename Max and Billy

hello lovely girls who heart – and write – books. I’ve a challenge for you this month.

When I’m writing a story, new characters introduce themselves in different ways, I find. Sometimes they stroll fully formed into my head. Circe Shaw, the  heroine of my first book, ‘How to Keep a Boy as a Pet’ did exactly that, showing up really vividly on the screen between my ears (i.e. my brain) from the first line of the book.

Sometimes, they mumble around in the back of my mind for ages before I can capture them on the page and then change and change again as I write.

Then, at other times, they just plain butt their way in…


Or they bray their way in at four o’clock in the morning…


Meet Billy the goat and Max the donkey who weren’t meant to be in my new book, ‘What Not to Do in The Dark at all. But, when I was on a writing retreat down in deeepest Devon a couple of weeks ago, Billy butted his way into my heart when I walked across his field every day, and Max woke me up at dawn every morning begging to be a star, so I promised I’d find them a role alongside Johnny Depp the cat, Daniel Craig the guinea pig and Harry the hamstericidal ratlet – the only thing is, I’ve come up a bit blank on good names! (I can’t use their real names – they might sue me!)

Can you help? Max, by the way, is a real softie with a serious apple addiction. Billy’s really nosy. Oh, and I tend to like quite unusual names. It’s a tricky business, naming characters, but I’d really love to hear your ideas, and if you send one I love enough to put in the book, I promise I’ll send you a finished copy with your name in once it’s finished.

Diane x


32 thoughts on “Help me rename Max and Billy

  1. Urgh, can’t log in to my wordpress account! Diane, what do we do with the names, just leave them in the comments?

  2. Hi Diane,

    Naming characters is a very somber and serious thing… (she says snickering…) but it does matter. Not only that, for me, I try for names that are easier to type as we’ll be using them a lot.

    So here are my suggestions on first glance at the photos and your descriptions:

    Billy the goat…. Bruiser (as he butted into your heart)

    And as for Max the donkey, I have heard they are mostly gentle and soft souls, like a soft breeze on an autumn day… so how about:

    Zephyr… also lovingly known as Zeph.

    Those came to me quickly, so I won’t offer more as they wanted to be the names!

    Good luck and please let us know what you decide!



    • Brilliant – thanks Kate, they’re both really interesting names, I’m not going to make any decisions till everyone’s had a chance to comment, but they’re already on the shortlist!

  3. I love them! My boyfriend’s stepfather keeps donkeys and, I discovered, they’re named according to a letter of the alphabet each year. This year it’s D, so the newest baby donkey is called Diabolo.
    For your purposes, we need celeb D names… so how about Danny Dyer the donkey, David Tenant the donkey or David Walliams (who does look rather donkey like)? There’s also Declan Donnelly of Ant and Dec fame. In fact, you could call the goat Ant and the donkey Dec.
    Feel free to ignore

    • LOL. Thanks, Hilary. I love the idea of letters and years – and Diabolo is an excellent name for a donkey – wan’t the donkey in Asterix called Diabolo?

      They don’t need to be celebs as it’s only Circe’s mum who names her pets after dishy men (she’s so sad, I’d never do that – okay my cat is called Rufus Sewell, but he’s the exception).


  4. I was thinking about goats,and I started thinking about the star sign Aries-the goat,but the symbol for Taurus is almost the exact same shape as the goats head,so mabye Aries or Taurus for the goat?

  5. How about Chesterton for the donkey? (if you’ve read Chesterton’s poem… ).

    And the god Thor had two goats who drew his chariot – Tanngrisnir and Tanngjnostr. Your typesetters would love you!

  6. How about Deefer for the Donkey. When you say “Deefer Donkey” It’s like D for Donkey 🙂
    Or you could go with something really random
    Billy the goat- Moo
    Max the Donkey- Meow
    Billy the Goat- Savvy (I can just imagine a goat chewing solemnly on something and looking at you with very wise eyes.) And that’s about all I can think of. Unless maybe you could name them after Disney characters? Aladdin and Remy. Or Shrek and Hiccup. Or Mowgli and Baloo.

  7. Jason the Donkey? (After the new Atlantis show on BBC, of course). Or maybe Doris, for a girl?
    And Derek the Goat? I don’t know if they’re any good, but seeing a Goat called Derek would definitely make me smile 🙂 xo

  8. Brilliant brilliant – thank you so much everyone for all the suggestions. I’m going to write up my shortlist and will let you all know as soon as I’ve made a decision – this might take a few weeks to be honest as I need to have a play with the names and the characters to see how they develop and what suits them best, but I promise I will get back to you asap! I’m going to see Max and Billy again next week too, so can also ask them what they think!

  9. Nim for the goat, and Alpha for the goat, no reason, but I couldn’t think of any names, then they just came into my head when I wasn’t even thinking about them …. In the middle of the night actually!

  10. Ummmm… if you wanted to call them famous peoples names, how about Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Watson if theyre a bit nosy? Or you could call them pairs of names like Jack and Jill? Or maybe Erik?lol! You could pretend that they thought one of them was a girl so they called it something like Alexis but they found out ‘she’ was a boy so called them alex??? Hope I helped or gave you some ideas! X

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