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 â€œWhy I Chose the Names I Did.â€
All about Uglies!
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.
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!