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The Name Your Character Game

The Name Your Character Game

Crystal Bowman from FBBLOGGER: CRYSTAL BOWMAN

Crystal Bowman will serve as a children’s writers’ mentor in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

 

THE NAME YOUR CHARACTER GAME

I’ve been writing children’s books for two decades and have learned many things along the way. Writing for children is much harder than most people realize—until they try it! The challenge is to write an engaging, creative story using limited vocabulary and word count. Another thing to consider is choosing the right names for your characters. Whether they are human or animal characters, names are important to the story.

Here are a few tips on naming your characters:

  • Be sure the name fits the time period. This is one of the mistakes I often see when critiquing manuscripts. If your story is set in pioneer days, then names like Kaitlyn or Parker are not the right choice. Writers often want to use the names of their children or grandchildren, and those names may or may not work.
  • Site word names. If your story is written for beginning readers, then the names you choose must be early grade level site words. Names like Kate or Jake are first grade words, whereas Charles or Abigail would be at a higher grade level.
  •  Characternyms: Similar to onomatopoeia, when the sound of the word defines its meaning, a characternym is when the name of the character defines the identity of the character. For example, Swimmy is the name of a fish, and Barkly is the name of a dog.  In my Otter and Owl I Can Read! stories, the first draft included actual names for the two characters. The otter was Rex and the owl was Ray. After several revisions, the editor and I found it to be very confusing and we kept getting Rex and Ray mixed up. I then decided to drop Rex and Ray and named my characters Otter and Owl. Problem solved! When used appropriately, characternyms can add fun and creativity to a story.
  • Names and book titles. In classic fairy tales, it’s common for the name of the main character to also be the title of the story. Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel are some examples. When a series of books are created around a main character, the character’s name is often used within the title. In my I Can Read! series based on Jake, a lop-eared rabbit, Jake’s name appears in each of the titles— Jake’s Brave Night, Jake Learns to Share, Jake’s New Friend.  This lets the readers know from the title that these books are different stories, but include the same main character.
  • Avoid the obvious! Although names are not copyrighted, a writer should never use a name that is already popular in another book or series of books. If you have a monkey in your story, do not name him George. If you have a duck in your story, do not name her Daisy.

Writing for kids is always fun, but never easy. The rewards may not be monetary, but having children fall in love with your books and stories and characters, is worth a pound of gold. And you can even put your name on the cover.

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Come meet Crystal Bowman at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22.

Click here to Register Now!

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