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
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
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
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.)

Peris
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.

Crims
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. Hey, I just read this new book called “Twilight”, and “New Moon”. Have any of you guys read them? I think you would like them a lot.
    Also, you know how on Amazon.com, if you are looking at a certain book, you can see what other books the people who bought the one you’re looking at bought. Does that make sense? Anyways, I noticed that people who bought “Twilight” also bought all the Uglies books, and “A Great and Terrible Beauty”, both trilogies that I have read.

  2. Ok, let me just say that this is the first time that I’ve ever actually commented but I’ve been reading Westerfeld books forever and love them all. Anyway, i just wanna say that I agree with Misshu about Shay’s name. I totally thought it came from Shay’s rebellion. That’s the first thing I thought when her name came up. And I have to agree with the other readers about there being another book in the triology, though I guess it ruin the whole idea of a triology, but still I really want to know what happens now!

  3. well in the hitchhikers guige to the galaxy trilogy there are 5 books. on the front of the 5th book it says ‘the 5th book in the increasingly inaccuratly named hitchhikers trilogy’. you can do whatever you feel like i guess. and alot of people would but it, but the title would be hard, wouldn’t it?

  4. Omg. I’m getting so frustrated. When i try to eamil him it says errors. and blah blah blah.
    this is what it says
    scott AT scottwesterfeld.com
    and this is what i do
    scott@scottwesterfeld.com
    and it doesn’t work
    help!!!

  5. Also it says the server can not be reached. The server is me right.
    Where do i put my email address. this is very odd.

  6. Ooh, a fellow fencer! And the names are back! But what about Croy, Maddy, Az, Sussy, Dex, etc? They all have extremely cool names too!

  7. Awesome! I loved that you told how you got the names. By the way, your books are awesome. I satyed up until 3 in the morning a few days in a row trying to finish Uglies and Pretties before school break ended.

  8. I know aren’t these books so addictive? Gosh i thought i was the only 1 who stayed up really late. these r such good books.

  9. if they ever make these books into a movie(which i know they will cause if THEY don’t i will, by the time I’m old enough) so, if they ever make this a movie the perfect song for a hover boarding scene with Zane would be “On Top Of The World” by Boys Like Girls. When ever i hear it, i can see it in my head and i just want to be the directer of it, so I get to make it perfect.

    And another one would be “The Great Escape” by Boys Like Girls, its the perfect name too

    this song would be in like a chase scene or a fast paced scene when tally escapes to the smoke

    it would be perfect

  10. in response to kelly-wa:
    its not shay-la on the cover of pretties cuz in the book it said that shay-la had green eyes and tally-wa had silver eyes.

    anywayz soo happy ’bout extras!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. When I think of Az I think of A to Z. Az was a doctor who figured out with his wife the hideous flaws of the way they were living. He had to consider every aspect of his society in order to make his discovery. Probably a lot of data and tests just like any of the “rusty” doctors we know. So I think of him looking over many papers and files before the ingenious lightbulb went off in his head. As in looking at all the letters in the alphabet. A to Z. That may have been his thought process as well.

  12. I have one question and one question only…can you make the Uglies Trilogy into a movie….if you do, can yougive me audition about it! the movie is so bubbly!!!!

  13. if u dont ill have to kill myself…SERIOUSLY!!!! I love the books so much i think i would di without them, I read the whole series 5 times from 5 PM, to 5 AM the next day a few weeks ago!!!!

  14. why would specials be icy, it doesnt sound fun…i guess for a special, that’s just what the feeling is

  15. My bday is in october and thats when extras is coming out….it better be out by Oct. 12, that would be the bubbliest bday presetnt ever!!!

  16. The Rusties weren’t barbaric. The PRE-rusties were. As in Andrew Simpson Smith? We are the Rusties and our use of resources is going to lead to our explosive end. (According to Scott)

  17. I was surprised by some of the names. Or rather, Shay. Although I do KNOW a shay (or shaylex) I kinda thought it was an indirect refference to Danniel Shays, since Shay’s a rebel and…ya know…Shays rebellion in the revolutionary war…Eh, whatever. History class has poisoned my mind.
    My friend has a little brother named Zane. Or rather, “Zayne” (which is just plain more fun because names with ‘y’s and/or made up spelling are just THE BEE’S KNEES *caugh*caugh* KaYli rather than Kayleigh…who needs those unnecesary silent letters?)…well anyhow, she says Zayne means beautiful, but I can’t find a website that agrees (which I guess could still mean it’s true).
    My friend Diana (or xinaad…seeing any pattern in our nicknames?) says Tally’s a weird name. Oh man, in our silly scoring system that’s uglies: 425 (for 425 pages of awesomeness) and Diana: 1 (for pointing out that Tally is an odd name). She’s closing that gap (but not too quickly). Well, if Uglies beats her horribly in this game she has to read it (which she doesn’t want too…silly Xinaad, but she’ll love it. I MADE her like Inkheart succesfully, anyway). Well, anyway, I’m getting my friends to read it (poking and prodding them subliminally…or superliminally. whatever). I have taken to calling my friend ‘insert first name here’ Talley “tally-wa”. ha ha ha.

    In closing, i apologize for this fricken long comment.

  18. Why would Maddy and Az name their kid David if they were from the city? Didnt they know that was a RUSTY name??

  19. i just fished reading “specials” i loved the book the ending sorta shocked me but it keeps me thinking what next???? i’m still thinking maybe i’m just not satisfied????? oh well i really like the sreies though… maybe reading it agian will do something???? i love the books 🙂 please wirte back!!!

  20. Hey I just wanted to say that your books are great..and I’m doing a book report on them, but I didn’t know what to put down for setting. Do they really take place in Australia?
    Thanks

  21. I must say that all of you people are jumping the gun on this movie business. I mean, has the screenplay even been written?! They can not make a movie without one. And it could take a long time, adapting a book into a screenplay. All the sounds, settings, dialogue… my head hurts just thinking about it!
    Anyways. Dani-Wa, which books are you talking about? Because So Yesterday, Peeps, and The Last Days take place in New York. But I suppose you’re talking about Uglies/Pretties/Specials. Which is the future in an undefined place. Looks like you’re stuck. Unless you’re doing Midnighters, which would speak for itself, location-wise.
    And, Tori-wa, someone said that Scott told them it was Shay… but maybe we should ask the cover designer? Or the photographer? Though the author knows best! And covers need not be exact. The girl has blue eyes, after all. So who is she really, if we’re sticking to the facts? Hmm?

  22. ok i got it!!!
    wells i like how the book ended i admitit but yeah ur books are good….. i can’t stop reading….. LOL!!!!! gtg

  23. Ruby, someone out there in the world has proposed the making of an Uglies movie. And so someone out there is writing a screenplay for it. And people here on this blog are all very excited. But it could take a few years…

  24. Hello Scott, My names Christina and I’ve read, The Uglies, The Pretties and im almost done with The Specials. I just wanted to say that I love your books and i wish u woild write more of this series I just cant let Tally and the crew go. I’m alittle mad , ok very mad haha that you let Zane die=[ I like him alot. I thought Tally and David were a good couple in The Uglies , but once she turned pretty and started dating Zane , I thought they were great toeghther. I’m so touvhed by your book that when I heard them say he was going to die, and that he did i started to cry. I just wish that you would write more , I dont care if It’s just one more book, I just need to hear more and when I read this series it makes me not want to stop reading , I say I’m going to stop after I’m done with a chapter but I don’t i read about 5 more haha. It’s just so addicting so when im done (which i almost am, I’m on page 325) I’m going to read them all over again.I’m so excited that you wil, have another one maybe called Extras? well i will deffinatley buy it as soon as it comes out!! cant waite!!!
    I’m saying thank-you and also thanks for taking the time to read this. I LOVE THE UGLIES SERIES!!!
    Truly,
    Christina

  25. Actually, I have a close friend named Zane. He’s Chinese, and it’s a direct translation/americanization of his asian name, Zhan. Pretty cool to see it being used in a book.

  26. I LOVED the Uglies trilogy!!! I know it is a trilogy but I’m still hoping for another book to come out some how! I have nothing but praise for Uglies Pretties nad Specials except for the cruel cliffhanger ending to the series. I also cried when (ya I know I can’t write their name) died. Great job, I am desparatly hoping for another Uglies book!

  27. OMG! i loved the trilogy! when i finished you 2nd book i thrw it against the wall and so i laughed hystericly at the little comment you made in the 3rd book! IM SOOO MAD AT YOU FOR ENDING THE TRILOGY! grr..lol youre a genius and i love you for bringing these books into my life

  28. okay, I would just like to point something out. I was telling my mom about the Pretties and about Andrew Simpson Smith. Well… heh heh heh… as soon as I mentioned his named my mom goes “You do realize what his initials are right?”… haha, yupp thats my mom!!! A.S.S.

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