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Posts tagged ‘Jo Knowles’

How character names tell a story

What’s your strategy for naming characters? The right names can add depth to your characters and advance your story.

In See You at Harry’s, a book about a family who survives a tragedy, author Jo Knowles named her 12-year-old protagonist “Fern.”

In one scene, Fern and her mother discuss how Fern’s name was inspired by the book Charlotte’s Web.

“Do you know why I named you Fern?”

I nodded looking at the drawing of the girl on the cover of the book.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because Fern is one of your favorite characters?”

“And why is that?”

I shrugged.

“Because Fern cares,” she said. “From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul.  I knew you’d be a good friend. A hero.”

I looked at my chest and tried to feel my soul buried in there, deep in my heart.

“It’s true,” my mom said. “Not everyone would share a sandwich with Random Smith.”

I smiled, feeling my soul stir a little.

Fern isn’t the only character who is named after a character in a book. Fern’s brother Holden is named after Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. When Fern and Holden found out their mom was pregnant, they were allowed to weigh in on names, and they chose the name “Charlie” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Names can inspire personality traits in characters. The names can become part of the story, and the characters can sometimes live up — or not — to their names.

How do you choose your character names?

How author Jo Knowles uses storyboarding to imagine her stories

Even though I suspect I have a drawing deficiency, I’m intrigued by drawing and by how writers can use it to outline and build out stories. Drawing can bring ideas and insight to the surface.

So I was especially excited to read an interview that Debbie Ridpath Ohi conducted with award-winning writer Jo Knowles. Knowles has a master’s degree in children’s literature and has taught writing for children in the MFA program at Simmons College.

In this interview posted on, Knowles talks about her writing process and how she uses storyboarding to advance her writing. She says creating a storyboard helps her, “get organized, and figure out themes, plot and rhythm of the book.” Read more