A Well-Rounded Cast

I was hunting for ideas last week and someone suggested I do a post on character names – so here it is!
I had a hard time deciding which book to choose to highlight the characters, but I ultimately decided to go with the one with the biggest cast of characters – my first MG, Dragon Dancing.
Dragons is about a girl named Ros Durrell. Her full name is Rosalind, and frankly I have no idea where it came from. But the old fashioned grace of it suits her. She’s a bit stand offish and not generally inclined to like people. She’s very smart, scientific, and independent – so you can imagine that when she realizes she’s going to need other people’s help to solve her problem, it’s something of an issue.
Ros’s brother is Norton, which I chose because he’s a little bit odd himself so I wanted a name a little off the beaten path. He’s a little goofy and likes to have fun, so I didn’t want something too traditional or with the same more rigid connotations as Rosalind, but I liked that it has more timelessness than say Jax or Parker.
Ros meets a girl early on in the story who is both surprisingly similar to her and very different. Paisley Jones has four braids that stick out in all directions and the same interest in science, but her family has only been in the US for a few years, and she lives in a crowded basement apartment in a building her dad cleans. I actually stole the name Paisley from a girl I worked with for a short time. I thought it had a fun, different ring to it that could have come from being part of another culture, and I liked that it was so memorable.
The other kids Ros, Norton, and Paisley spend time with are Yeng, Clarice, Alex, and Lilly. Their names I borrowed from some of the kids I’ve spent time with in various environments. My goals was to create a group of kids that was representative of the experiences and personalities of many different kids, so that anyone reading the book would find someone to relate to. Yeng is so smart he skipped a grade, but struggles with peer relationships. Alex plays the trumpet and fancies himself the king of swing, Clarice is bold and decisive, and Lilly is a meek vegetarian.
The three most important adult characters in the book are Mrs. Feasty, the kids’ science teacher, the Durell’s mom, Emma, and the dancing Instructor – Master Bartholomew Z, or Master Beez as the kids call him. I liked Mrs. Feasty because she’s not a particularly pleasant character, and her name feels sort of mealy to say. Emma Durell is a tired, overworked single mom who loves her kids and does her best to keep up with their shenanigans despite the stressors of daily life, and I’ve always loved the name Emma. Master Bartholomew Z had an interesting advent: my friend has always wanted to name her first son Bartholomew, and I liked the very old-fashioned, historical sort of quality to the name. However, Master Beez is…not from this planet, shall we say, so I couldn’t give him a traditional first and last name. The solution was giving him just a consonant, and then for most of the book having the kids use the nickname they assigned him as a shortcut.
So, there you go – a brief overview of Dragon Dancing’s characters and names. Where do you find inspiration for your characters names? Does the name or the personality come first?


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