Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Unique Character Names

“Hi, my name is…”
rural-boy-2756313_1280.pngI just went through a student assignment where most character names ended in the E sound. Some were spelled with a Y; others with IE. Not only does it get confusing with the same endings, but Gracie, Vicky, Lorie, Murphy, Bobby are also the same number of syllables. At least they started with different letters.
Varying your character names will help your reader keep track of who’s who.
But don’t just think about beginnings and endings, or number of syllables.
Think about different cultures and ethnicities.
Look at this fact: “The proportion of non-Hispanic white children in the U.S. has declined from 61 percent of all children in 2000 to 51 percent in 2016.” More from the same source here.
What about where you live? Or where you are setting your story? Who are the people there? When my daughter’s family moved to southern Georgia, my white grandchildren were the minority among a sea of black children. Where we raised our girls there was a significant Asian population. We spent a year in a town in New Jersey that had a large Jewish population. Where we live now there many people from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
I’m not suggesting you appropriate anyone’s culture, but surely in your main character’s classroom or among his/her friends, not everyone will look/be just like your character.
Don’t forget religious influences.
Names may be inspired by parents’ faith or customs. Biblical names are often popular in our country. Although the US has often been called a Christian nation, that has changed too. Read some of the statistics here from 2016. And again it varies state by state. As the above link states: “No state is less religiously diverse than Mississippi.”
Popular culture can contribute to unusual names.
This site has 100 unusual or surprising baby names of 2018. Some come from TV; while others are from history; and others are names of fruit. Those children may be off to school in four or five years.
Here’s a fun resource: popular baby names by birth year.
Place names are popular.
I’ve met both boy and girl Londons. There’s Paris and Brooklyn. Austin and Hudson. Here’s a list of over 100 place names.
Consider the meaning of names.
This can be helpful in creating character traits or the ironic opposite. My name means graceful lily. I’ve never felt particularly graceful or flowerlike, but I learned the meaning when I was a kid. Your child/teen main character probably knows the meaning of his/her name, too.
Scifi and fantasy often have made-up names.
And some authors seem to go overboard into making them hard to pronounce. Sometimes names just have unique spellings. Here’s an article about fantasy name generators. Science fiction writers don’t have to feel left out–here’s one for scifi character names.
Names that almost weren’t.
Some names become household words. For fun and inspiration look at these twelve who almost were something less.

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Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Inkling

InklingInkling (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) by Kenneth Oppel is a book I’m not quite sure how to describe. We’ve got a nonhuman, but likable main character, who is an inkblot. Seriously! He’s discovered by a boy named Ethan, who names him Inkling. Ethan’s sister Sarah who has Down’s Syndrome meets Inkling too although she calls him Lucy. We’ve got lots of drawing, both good and bad. We’ve got problems, kid-sized and adult. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s touching.There’s a bad guy. But with some help Ethan and Inkling win in the end. And so do some other people.
This is a fun and satisfying story. Looking at it several weeks after I finished it, I find it hard not to pick the book up and read it again.
Kenneth Oppel is an award winning author. You can read about him here. See his awards here and check out his books here.
The illustrations (inside and out) are done by Sydney Smith. You can see a bunch of the illustrator’s covers here.

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Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Mouseling’s Words

Perfect Picture Book Friday
MouselingMouseling’s Words (Clarion Books, 2017) by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke is a darling picture book. It’s a fresh look at an oft told story of mouse versus cat, but it’s much more than that. It’s also about leaving home, and the love of words.
Mouseling’s family has a collection of words in their nests. Aunt Tillie brings them home from the Swashbuckler Restaurant. Mouseling’s siblings have left home and his parents tell him it’s time for him to leave, but he doesn’t want to. He thinks he’s too little. He can’t leave his words. But when Aunt Tillie tells him there are more words out in the world, Mouseling determines to go.
I loved where Mouseling ends up.
See all of author Shutta Crum’s books here and read about her here.
Illustrator Ryan O’Rourke’s (no, not the baseball player) shows his books here and his bio is here.

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Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Wordy Birdy

Perfect Picture Book Friday
WordyBirdyWordy Birdy (‚ÄčDoubleday Books for Young Readers, 2018) by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Dave Mottram is a funny picture book. And it reminds me so much of one of my daughters when she was three because she didn’t stop talking!
Wordy Birdy doesn’t know she has a problem. Her problem is not listening because she’s too busy talking. But an almost disaster makes her aware of how she needs to listen, and in the end she finds she likes to listen. Don’t miss reading the end flaps and see who else is excited to be in the book…
This book has been put on many “Best Book” lists that you can see on the author’s site. Tammi is a well-published picture book author (as well as a very nice lady). You can see all her books here.
I love Dave Motram’s illustrations and sense of humor. I liked his about page, too! You can see other samples of his work here.

WordyBirdy_Cougarpants_CoverAnd there’s a sequel coming out in February!
I love the expression on the cougar’s face and can’t wait to see what is in store for us in Wordy Birdy Meets Mr. CougarPants. The title alone makes me smile.

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