Naming characters can be very problematic as an author. Some of the cleverest names have come from the author playing with words and enabling the name to reflect the character. Here are some of my favourites and why I like them so much.
Heroes of stories don’t always have heroic names. Harry Potter immediately comes to mind – a plain ordinary name for an extraordinary boy. LM Montgomery made much of her heroine’s name – Anne of Green Gables insisted on her name being spelt ‘Anne-with-an-e’ as plain ‘Ann’ was too ordinary. Oliver Twist, the orphan who dared to ask for more by Charles Dickens: that name suggests that his life is not going to be simple, but might have many twists. Eleanor and Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, have names that suit themselves. Eleanor has a normal, sensible name while her sister has a poetic name which suits her personality.
Some characters are named after their characteristics such as Beauty in Beauty and the Beast. The March sisters in Little Women have normal names, but their surname suggests the wartime that they live in and that their father daily faces. Cinderella is traditionally named because she is always sweeping up the cinders, but it is also a quite pretty name. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan is clever because his name is actually Greek – Perseus – but it is shortened to reflect modern times. The stories are based on Greek heroes of mythology so the main protagonist’s name is appropriate. The characters of Wind in the Willows actually run a little against type. Ratty is a good friend to Toad, who, although silly is never anything more than that. Badger does indeed conjure up a name that reflects sense.
Pip in Great Expectations is short for Philip Perrip, a great name. Catcher in the Rye has Scout which is a really cool name for a girl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has Charlie Bucket which somehow reflects the poverty of his situation. Sherlock Holmes is such an unusual name, which has gone down into popular culture as the name of the greatest detective ever – you almost forget he is fictional. By contrast, his sidekick Dr Watson has a solid and sensible name.
Feel free to leave your favourite character’s name in the comments. There are many more great ones out there.
Roald Dahl famously had a chair in a hut at the bottom of the garden where he wrote his wickedly funny stories. Ernest Hemmingway wrote standing up as did Victor Hugo, the creator of Frankenstein. Charles Dickens wrote at a desk that he was so attached to, that he had it shipped away on holiday with him.
Jane Austen sat at a very small table to write at. You can see the table at the Jane Austen museum in Bath. It is not much bigger than a small side-table but then all you really need is somewhere to rest a pad of paper and a pen. Not for Jane the towering pile of notes to one side. She may also have been interrupted frequently by her family when writing.
Mark Twain wrote the first book on a typewriter. Such new-fangled technology it must have seemed! George Eliot had a small ornate writing desk that has sadly been stolen from the museum where it was kept. Agatha Christie used a typewriter to write 80 books! A picture of Virginia Woolf’s writing desk shows a small square table placed on a terrace, overlooking a view while Jackie Collins has a huge desk, shiny and polished, surrounded by beautiful and probably expensive things. Then there’s the cafe in Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in longhand pencil.
Some writers surround themselves with books: Nigella Lawson has been pictured in a room where books rule the roost – tall shelves surround her, but there is still not enough space and piles of books are under and around the desk she works at too. The late great Terry Pratchett was pictured a few years ago with six screens on his desk although in recent year his illness had meant that he needed to dictate his work.
Where do I write?
The best place I have ever written was on holiday in the Isle of Wight. I had something I wanted to finish and took my PC away with me. The chalet overlooked cliffs and the sea was in the distance, the weather was balmy and to just sit at that small table and write was heaven…
More usually, I have taken over what used to be known as DH’s study. I still call it that, but it’s now mostly consisting of my notes, my books and my odds and ends. It is a sunny room and on hot days I can open the back door to the garden and enjoy the weather.
Feel free to share where you write in the comments below…