Saturday, March 30, 2013

Character Name Calling by Author Stephen Bly
Stephen Bly (1944-2011)
In my book Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, the narrator is never identified by a particular character name. He is just called "Little Brother" by the six old cowboys.

However, had he a real bona fide character name, what should he be called? I was pondering that as I read this week the 10 MOST POPULAR NAMES FOR 2008: 1) Aidan, 2) Jayden, 3) Jacob, 4) Michael, 5) Ethan, 6) Caden, 7) James, 8) Caleb, 9) Andrew, and 10) Matthew. 
But "Little Brother" in this story is 10 years old in 1954. That puts him in the 5th grade, born in 1944. So, the question is ... what were the 10 MOST COMMON BOYS NAMES IN 1944?

Here's the list:  
1. Robert
2. James
3. John
4. William
5. Richard
6. David
7. Charles
8. Thomas
9. Michael
10. Ronald

Character Name Calling & 1954 5th grade class
1954 5th grade class
So, he should be called by a character name such as Bobby or Jimmy, Johnny or Billy, Dicky or Davy, Charlie or Tommy, Mikey or Ronnie. Notice that Michael and James were on both lists. But I rather fancy Stevie, if I had to give him a choice character name.That might give you a clue as to who this character is most like.

One of the boys in this 1954 5th grade class could be the narrator for this story.

Character name calling is one of the most delightful parts of being a writer. I love finding different sounding names. Whether it's Tapadera ... or Lixie ... or Jolie. Or Devy. Or Miss Oliole Fontenot. I don't limit myself to the Top 10 of the Year. But that's a good place to begin.

Along with character name creating, there's the fun of discovering the environment of the character's times.
1950s F.W. Woolworth store
For today's consumer, it's a shopping mall world. But for someone like Little Brother, it's hard to imagine the incredible thrill to him of a product-packed Five and Dime store. I'm not sure kids today can experience anything near that excitement.  

Here's a "Little Brother" narration excerpt from Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon:

When WalMart was beyond anyone's imagination, we had Five & Dime stores like Newberry's and Woolworth's ... Mama worked at Woolworth's right out of high school. Even in 1954 most of the merchandise was inexpensive. And they had everything. What a marvelous world for a boy from the country who thought the Fuller Brush man had so much merchandise in his Chevrolet CarryAll that is must surely be sinful.
To the casual observer, we must have looked like an invasion of old men in narrow brimmed Stetsons, cowboy boots, white shirts buttoned at the collar and a little boy with plastic cap guns holstered to his side. But to my 10-year-old imagination, we were a posse surveyin' a crowd, on the trail of some bad hombres.

Stephen Bly - Copyright 2008

Whether it's picking a character name in writing a fiction story or choosing a name for a newborn child, what's your guidelines for making that awesome choice?
What's your clearest memory of when you were 10-years-old?

If you're looking for a character name or what to name a baby, check out this Baby Names site:

Character Name Calling for novel Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon
Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon
Here's where to find Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon:

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