Hello from Crystal Bowman!
I have been writing books for children for over 20 years and have learned a few things along the way. Writing for children is much harder than most people realize. The challenge is to write an engaging, creative story using limited vocabulary and word count. Another thing to consider is naming your characters. The characters in a book may be animals or humans, but either way, they need names—and choosing the right name is important!
Here are some 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 Madison 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 Jack 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 revision, 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 is 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.