What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...
Names really shouldn't matter, should they? But actually, if you are writing a book they count for a lot. I doubt that I'm the only writer that only feels I've “got” a character when I've found the right name for them, and worries away until I do.
For Chloe and the Secret Princess Club, I didn't happen on the right name right away. When I was working on the book proposal, I thought of my main character as “Cleo”. Somehow this didn't feel quite right, and when my editor suggested “Chloe” instead, I immediately felt we'd got the right name for my character.
|Chloe or Cleo?|
Why? Well, my character has big dreams, but an ordinary life, and so Chloe made more sense for her than the rather exotic “Cleo”. (She does get to be a Cleo though – briefly and rather disastrously – towards the end of the book.)
Secondly, I have good associations with the name Chloe. One of my favourite picture books is Chloe and Maude by Sandra Boynton. Chloe and Maude is very much a story of friendship, and so is Chloe and the Secret Princess Club.
There was also a presenter called Chloe on Playschool – a TV show I loved as a child.
|Playschool: Chloe with Brian, Humpty and Jemima|
Thirdly, although I have good associations with “Chloe” I don't actually know any Chloes. On the whole, I don't like using the names of people I know well as my main characters. It gets in the way somehow.
Fourth and finally, the meaning of the name “Chloe” is green shoot – and this is perfect for my character, because first she is full of bright ideas, and second her mum is a keen gardener.
Then there are Chloe's friends. Chloe's best friend is a British Muslim of Pakistani heritage and I found her name tricky to choose. I know the popular Muslim girls' names in my neighbourhood, but I don't really know the nuances of why particular names might be popular. After trying out several options, I chose Aisha, which is a classic name, but again not a name that I associate with anyone I know.
The third member of the club, Eliza, is Jewish. But most of the Jewish people I know don't choose especially Jewish names for their children. I chose Eliza because 1) it was a name I liked 2) I don't know anyone in real life by that name and 3) it's a bit out of the ordinary. Somehow it seemed the kind of name her parents - healthy-eating, slightly pushy professionals - might be expected to like.
Another important thing was that none of the names of the three main characters began with the same letter or sounded too similar or looked too much the same written down.
Although I didn't plan it that way, if you look at the letters of their first names – they spell ACE.
And that seemed a nice thing too!
They weren't the only important characters in the book. Chloe has a twin brother, and he was Arthur from the start. This seemed right because Chloe's mum (like Chloe herself) is a bit of romantic, so would have loved the idea of naming her son after the famous King Arthur of Camelot.
But also, I suspect, I had another association in my head – this time with Arthur the Church Mouse, from Graham Oakley's wonderful Church Mice books. Arthur the mouse is practical, sensible and down-to-earth (and rather scathing of those people who aren't) and that's just how I saw my Arthur too!
Of course, like all children everywhere, my characters don't like their names. (No gratitude at all for the time I spent choosing them!) Part of their pleasure in their secret club is that they get to choose new secret names. Aisha becomes Araminta, Eliza is Elisabetta, while Chloe goes for Clarinda (that is until her class do a workshop on Ancient Egypt and she opts for Cleo instead).
What are your favourite character names in the books you've read? How do you choose names for the characters you create?
Emma Barnes's book Chloe's Secret Princess Club is out now.
Find out more about Emma's books on her web-site.