Uglies Character Names

Way back in this post, I gave a brief history and explanation of all the character names in Midnighters. As promised, and because you asked so many times, here is episode two of “Why I Chose the Names I Did.”

All about Uglies!

Tally Youngblood
This was obviously an important one. Midnighters bounces between five POV characters, but we’re stuck inside Tally’s head for 240,000 words! So obviously, her name can’t be too annoying or unwieldy. “Plaztercrappitastica” is way out.

But Uglies takes place 300 years in the future. Names probably won’t be the same as now. So I needed something that’s not a current name, but that doesn’t make your brain fritz when you read it. So I chose a regular word in English.

That’s right: “tally” as in “count.” As in “Hey, Mr. Tally-man, tally me bananas.”

Thus, the little spell-checker in your brain doesn’t ping every time your eyes scan across those letters. (And the real-world MS Word spell-checker doesn’t draw a squiggly line under it.) “Tally” is capitalized, of course, so you know it’s a name, but otherwise “tally” reads as a perfectly normal word.

But not too common. When’s the last time you actually used the verb “tally” in a sentence, like “Let me tally those Scrabble scores for you, Old Chum?” Too common could be very bad, like if you named a main character Ask, or Her, or The. (Actually, “Said” would be the worst. Even writing about the late writer Edward Said can be quite tricky.)

“Tally” in itself doesn’t mean anything, but her last name has a host of associations. Youngblood is sort of halfway between “Young Turk” (a political upstart) and “fresh blood” (a newcomer). You can tell Tally is going to disrupt the system.

In fact the whole thing would be a bit too obvious, except that last names don’t get used very often in the uglies world. Usually people only say Tally’s last name when she’s in trouble (in that parental way, as in, “Get back in this house, Scott David Westerfeld!”), which makes it especially appropriate.

I knew I’d chosen the right last name for Tally in Pretties, when the savages who think she’s a renegade god fallen from the sky started calling her “Young Blood.” It just fit.

Shay is a real name, but it’s not very common. If you check the US Social Security baby name rankings, you’ll find that it hasn’t cracked the top thousand in the last ten years. It made 981 back in 1995, but that was as a boy’s name in the US. In it’s place of origin, Ireland, it’s a girl’s name that means “fairy palace.”

I’m not sure where it came from in my brain, but I like that it shares two letters with “Tally,” because they’re more alike than most readers realize. Heh.

David has the only “normal” name, and of course he’s from outside the system, so he should stick out. Because he grew up in the wild, David’s kind of old-fashioned, like that home-schooled kid in your town whose name is Ezekiel, or whatever.

And yes, David is my middle name, and I have a tiny scar across one eyebrow. I actually don’t know where David got his scar, but I got mine fencing. (Wear the mask, people! That’s what it’s there for.)

Zane’s name started out as “Asher,” after a friend of mine’s kid. But ultimately I didn’t want any city-dwellers to have normal names. Justine suggested Zane, which has the always science-fictional Z-thing going on, so I liked it.

“Zane” is actually a last name, and fairly common. Mostly, I like that it rhymes with “sane,” and that in both books 2 and 3, Zane is Tally’s main link to sanity. (Or at least her real self, which may or may not be sane.)

Sounds like, but isn’t, a real place name: Paris. Again, it’s familiar and yet not quite 20th century. Also, Paris is a mystical city of lights that people fantasize about going to, sort of like New Pretty Town, where we first meet Peris. (Just thought of that.)

In the original outline, Tally’s pretty former friend was named Peri, and was another girl. But their first conversation was easier to write using “he” and “she.” (How lazy is that?) Also, I liked that Tally had a BFF who was a boy, and that it wasn’t about romance.

Dr. Cable
Like Peris and Tally, Dr. Cable has a name recognizable as a normal word. But “cable” brings to mind electronics and suspension bridges, so it’s much more technological and cold than, say, Peris/Paris. Think steel cable and wiry muscles. (Or being overcharged to watch TV.)

Andrew Simpson Smith
Like David, Andrew was raised in the wild, so he has an old-fashioned name. Plus I like it that his name is “smith” even though his people haven’t invented iron yet. (Smiths all got their name from being blacksmiths, or silversmiths, or whatever.)

Part of me thinks it amusing that the babarian is the only character in the trilogy with a middle name, becasue triple-barreled names sound posh and non-barbarian to me.

Australian slang for “criminals,” to go with all the other Aussie slang in the book: crumblies, littlies, spagbol, etc.

Who have I forgotten?

Also: Pretties has climbed to #4 on the NY Times children’s paperback list. You may woot. Specials has retreated from the hardback list, but all those people buying book 2 have to finish sooner or later. Hah!

Warning Do not put spoilers on this thread! Put them on the Specials Spoiler Thread. Spoilers in this comment thread will be deleted!

Update:This post has been boingled! Run for your lives!

199 thoughts on “Uglies Character Names

  1. Actually, “Tally” is short for “Talia.” And “Croy” is an actual name. Short for “Croydon.” “Sol” is a form of “Saul” or “Solomon,” all of which mean “the sun.” “Astrix” sounds a lot like “asterisk” (*

  2. OH! And “Dex” is short for “Dexter” and I have a feeling that “Sussy” is a derivative of “Suzy.” (Or “Susan”, whichever.)

  3. haha im POSTING AGAIN(: lol my friends are getting mad at me now because i keep on talking about t he book

  4. Is there really going to be a movie? Can someone tell me the tryout dates? I have a secret weapon for this movie: TWO UGLY DIFFERENT COLORED EYES! One is blue and one is brown. YAY!

  5. Darn it, how do I CONTACT YOU? If I click the contact button, it doesn’t do anything!! ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

  6. Well, my first comment really can’t count beacause it’s just me complaining to you about how I can’t contact you. ((By the way, help me on that, I have a letter all typed out for you))

    Uglies rocked! I loved Zane and no one else can love him as much as I do, even if he died…. which I still can’t forgive you for..
    By the way, real name is Lauren, but all my friends call me Chulupnik… ((It’s my last name spelled wrong))

  7. Tally is an actual name. You sort of implied it’s not.
    Can you do So Yesterday next?

  8. hey u r an awsome writer! And how did u get all the ideas for the uglis books i have read them all the third and how dare you stop at three books!Do you think that you will ever write more books in the uglies seris and it would be awsome if you did!
    and i think that u should have another book with more details and how dare u let zane die!

  9. Hey i love your books! Are they going to put out an uglie movie? A fourth book? I need the info!!

  10. By the way, how did you come up with the -wa.-la bits? I guess you call someone that when you’re familiar with them…right?

  11. I just wanted to say I didnt really like Uglies, but my theory is tis because my teacher read to my classs, and I think it wouldve beenn more exciting if I had read it my self, but I digress. I just wanted to say that the Smoke is a nickname for Toronto Ontario, up here in the great white north. I doubt that, its where you got the name. Anyway I want to read Uglies again, and then the other two books!
    Cant wait till they start the movie trilogy!

  12. and london (UK) is called the big smoke because of the smog (we don’t have that anymore) but it also used to be called The Great Cesspit (which is like a mediaeval toilet and burial place… GROSS)

  13. i’ve just read Pretties, and you’ve forgotten Fausto, which is a really cool name. And like that story of the guy called Faustus who sold his soul to the devil.

  14. i was reading the year of secret assignmets (it takes place in new south wales, australia) and it said spagbol!!! it really did!

  15. hey- i loved ur books–i like the uglies and pretties most. I’d probably have to say that pretties got me most into the series though. I had prblems getting into specials though. It was drawn out until the near end. I was deaply disapointed with this book. I can’t believe what happened. I didn’t like the ending either. It was an appropriate one, but i wished it was something that was easier to understand, considering I was up half the night wondering why u had to end it in such a way. I cried in specials might I add. I think u changed Tallys WHOLE character in specials…alittle too much I think. It was just a let down for me. I still am upset over it actually. I wish u will email me to explain what u exactly meant in like the last 2 or 3 pages..and why did u do (the sad thing) if u follow..I don’t want to ruin it for im speakin in code..I finished specials in 3 hours..on the day i got it–so i got a major letdown..but i must say i was biting my nails almost the whole time..i wish i knew what happened more with tally at the end tho..seriously I want to know why…? –taylor

    (this series was one of the best I have ever read..i wished specials ended happier–i want MORE..tho) LOL ———

  16. oo one last question –which 2 people are on the front of pretties–tally and david or tally and thinkin david tho


  18. !!!OH my gosh. These books are amazing. I’ve got all my other friends reading it and every time i see them I aske them where thaty’re at in the book. It’s really hard to not tell them whats goning to happen adn really anoying whenever they beg me to tell them whats going to happen but I won’t. [spoiler if yu haven’t read pretties] I got so mad when Tally fell in love with Zane becasue she was saposed to be in love with David but she couldn’t really remember him. I don’t really know what to do with myself though since I finiished them all so the next book has to come out soon!!!

  19. ok, so these books are my favorite books EVER and I really think that you need to make them into movies because they would be absolutly AMAZING movies.

  20. I originally took an interest in th series because one of my (offline) nicknames is Tally. And people have actually sung that song to me. (“Tally me bananas”) It made the series more special to me, I never thought it was weird.

    There’s also a Specials spoiler up there, by Monique Diviner.

    Thanks for the books, and thanks for the “extra” 😉

  21. i just have to tell you that you need to make the uglies trilology into a movie!!!
    This is the only series that i could read and finished. i learned about this from my friends at tap. i have just one question…is extras a nother book coming out because if it is i an tottally excited. by the way did i tell you that you are my favorite author. thanks!!!!
    bye…. 😛

    oh, i almost forgot im really looking forward to bying peeps on my next trip to barns and nobles. 🙂

  22. Speaking of totally random, Scott. Is there a reason why there isn’t any subtext for the Specials cover?


    Just curious; I usually use the subtext to decide whether or not to read a book, but after reading Uglies and Pretties, it would be pretty retarded not to finish the series.

    So you got lucky that time, but next time I will hunt you down.


  23. Haha, aren’t I annoying. I know. But I have to comment again.

    Scott, I have a confession to make. I am madly in love with Zane.

    Wow, that’s a load off my chest.

    I haven’t read Specials yet. So I’m seriously hoping he doesn’t die or something. If he dies, I’m pretty sure anyone who reads this will be maniacally laughing their heads off going “Poor girl, her life’s about to lose all meaning!”

    Why did Zane have to die? Oh, wait. Does he die? Ack, I’m confusing myself, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

    Zane, please don’t die. And keep being sexy.

  24. LAST THING, I promise. I just read Jennifer’s comment about a good song for the movie if they made one. If they ever somehow put books 1 and 2 together into a movie, a ood song for David’s character would be “When You Were Young” by the Killers.

    It’s random, I know. But if you think REALLY hard, you it’s kind of like David being pouty about Tally and Zane.

    And there’s a reference to a hurricane, a mountain, and a beautiful boy.

    Okay, the mountain means nothing. Cut me some slack. I’m sleepy.

  25. hello. My name is shannon and i love your book. i could read them for hours. sitting there imagining things that have happend to a girl named tally. and her best friend shay. belive it or not my friends and family call me shay. i was very much into this book when i read this name. also the action scenes and where you have a hint ( or what i think of it ) is looks dont matter. a figment of our imagination. we can Out grow it. Its great. I love it. Awesome job. I hope I become such a great writer as you.

  26. Sorry last thing for a while. Seriously I swear last thing! Anyways. Im kinda sad about The adventures of tally is over. What if you make another book. About what happends after… Everything. What goes on how do THEY start over. you know what im talking about right. What does shay do???? Really very much i wish to know more, i seriously was on the verge of losing my mind thoroughout the serese. I truly felt hurt for david, what she said to him. hes been waiting.And i want to know more about what they do together.

    What she does without.. You know

  27. @ Sarah #173

    omg, you look exsctly like her (cover of UGLIES) in some pics…
    almost *too* exact..
    AND you even have modelling pics?!

    .. could it be?
    ahah i don’t know.
    you look EXACTLY like her.

  28. Hey , LOVE the books !! They are My Favourite Next To Harry Potter. Anyways, I was re – reading Uglies and I thought , These books would make good movies . Just a thought .

  29. Ello!
    I am a fellow reader. The uglies was on my school reading list, i read the back, and it totally reminded me of a twilight zone episode. So i decided to read it. I got sucked in to it! I love it. So i decided to read the rest of the trilogy. i am currently reading The Specials, and i’m enjoying it. I truely think that you should turn all three books into a movie!!!! I have been raving over these books ever since i started reading them.
    LOVE YOUR BOOKS! keep it up!

  30. I love the name Tally!
    And the person who wrote the last comment has a cool name!
    You should use that.
    Luv ur books.

  31. At first the name Tally threw me off, but then it grew on me as the story progressed, and now she’s one of my favorites. I am nearly finished with The Uglies, but I accidentally left it at my sister’s house, so I am dying without it, even though it’s only been a day. 😛 I really think you should consider making it into a movie. You would profit greatly from it, because of its interesting story line and constant suspense. I truly think this book is among the best of all that I’ve read, and that is quite a few. I can’t wait to finish The Uglies and read the rest of the series you have wonderfully created. Your work inspires me very much, since I am planning on becoming a writer, professionally. Thank you. 🙂

    P.S. You forgot Maddy and Az!
    Their names were the ones I was curious about…

  32. Oh yeah…
    After starting from the bottom and reading
    up [[strange, i know]] to comment 99..[[i think]], it has made me want to also read ur other books like Twilight and New Moon. Maybe it was subliminal…
    Oh well, who cares? ha ha
    Just thought i should add that.
    Also, you are the first author i have written to, so feel free to gloat. 😛

    P.P.S. i wrote more loosely in this comment to
    show that i am not some stuck up smarty-pants. 🙂 haha

  33. i’ll stop bugging you after this one, i swear.
    Just sorry that i wrote SO MUCH in both…
    and i kinda took advantage of the use of smiley faces *MUAH HA HA*


  34. I have read all four of the books! Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and I just finished Extras. Are you making a 5h one?!?! Please Please Please do! This has been my favorite series EVER!

    I’ve been looking up information on the movie that they are coming out with and I want to find a way to Audition for it! That would be sosososo SUPERLY amazing to the EXTREME! But I can’t find any dates or anything on places and such…Can you help me out?!?! Since it is your book…. PLEASE!

  35. Wow, there is alot of non-regular-commmenter on this post. Whats up with dat?

    These people need to post on the regular post more often.

    Cool thingy Scott. It was interesting. I likes the ‘(just thought of that)’ part.

  36. I loved your book specials, and just got done reading Extras.
    Out of all your charaters, I think Zane was my fave.
    I can’t wait to read more of your books.
    I was wondering if there would be anymore books after Extras, about (or with) Tally?.?.

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