BeakSpeak, A Fable & Language Workbook by retired teacher & author Peggy Marceaux
BeakSpeak Book, Interview Questions

How did I name my characters?

Actually, I had a tough time with this.  I wanted to name them something that would be similar to children’s names today, but that would soon change with another generation, so what was the point?  Books are ageless. I didn’t want any strange names that wouldn’t even sound like human names, even though they are actually chickens, so I went with the Dr. Seuss method: rhyme and alliteration. I did name one cockerel Chuck, which worried me because I have a brother we nick named Chuck since birth, because he is a Charles, Jr. Mixed-Up Chuck is nothing like my brother, though, who is anything but plump, and I didn’t purposefully name Mixed-Up after him. It was just the perfect rhyme. So Re-Say Renee, All-the-Same Jayne, Nothing-New Sue, Mixed-Up Chuck, Short-Cut Sean, Fill-the-Space Chase, and Street-Talk Walt became my cast.

Each worked best with the language skill they would portray. All-the Same would be about stereotypes, because stereotypes lump everything that seems similar together as one; Jayne rhymed with Same, therefore Jayne was born. Re-Say represented the language error that doesn’t further explain the initial statement with a specific example, so by alliteration and rhyme, Renee was born. The language that is pervasive among our less-read citizens, and especially our youth, deals with idiom or clichés.

When I attached Nothing-New Sue to the emptiness of those examples, so it would alliterate and rhyme, Nothing New Sue was born. Mixed Up Chuck was a rhyme only, and he represented the language error that mixes up words that sound like each other but are not the words reflecting the definition he intends. Street-Talk Walt was another rhyme, only, and like I imagined him, had the sound of a chicken with a prideful, bouncy step. His language errors are obvious and intentional, but still need to be eliminated in proper English situations. Short-Cut Sean is pure alliteration. The sound is terse and choppy, just like his language problem, which, like Walt’s, is just fine in its place. With Fill-the-Space Chase, I used rhyme only. Pausing thoughts with “uhs” and “ers and “likes” is a thinking and speaking problem only,  and is common among all of us who don’t think before we speak; however it does hamper communication and makes the speaker seem like he or she can’t carry through with his or her train of thought.

One editor thought it might be wise to cut out a couple of characters. It seemed pretty crowded with all these complicated nick names, and she suggested fewer characters would make it easier for younger children. I did consider it, and it was sound advice, but I decided to take my chances and go with my original lot.  I needed all these characters to get a multi-level story going that would cover the skills I wanted and the moral of the fable, both. As it is, I didn’t cover generalities, which the story has examples of, and other levels of stereotyping, like Chase’s small size for a rooster. However, I knew the skills I was asking teachers, parents, and students to address were challenging enough, and I had to be selective and realistic about my expectations. I’m aiming at parents or teachers of older elementary grade levels in BeakSpeak. It remains to be seen if my intuitions are right. Please let me know if they were.

You can buy Peggy’s new book BeakSpeak, A Fable & Language Workbook on Amazon, or everywhere books are sold online.