The Elites: Behind the Names

THE ELITES is being released this week and in honour of this Natasha Ngan has written a blog post about the names in her book. 

Responses from people who’ve read THE ELITES have started coming in the closer it’s been getting to publication, and one aspect about the book keeps getting mentioned again and again is names. It seems readers are really enjoying the unusual names that feature in THE ELITES. To be honest, my first feeling was of relief. Yay! I had been worried some of my names would be a bit too different and weird for readers to get. But then I thought, how wonderful, because names really are so important to me as a writer. Whether it’s a character, place, category or event, names are such a big part in identifying something, and I don’t feel like I can write something until I’ve discovered the right title for it.

This is the most true for my characters. A lot of characters come to me with their names already attached, a bit like a tag in a store. Hi, I’m Silver! Please handle with care and don’t spin dry – I will throw up on you. It’s something as striking to me as their appearance or personality. It tells me who they are, gives me an insight into their story and their outlook. Sometimes a name just pops into my head and its character follows – this happened with Ember and Taiyo, two of the Elites.   

For many of the characters in THE ELITES, finding a name that suited their ethnicity was also a priority. Neo-Babel, the city in which the book is set, is such a multicultural place, and it’s set far enough into the future that some mixes of races have become common enough to have their own labels. Therefore, it was really important to me to make each character’s ethnicity feel real and plausible. Akhezo, a boy from the slums, got his name this way. I wanted it to have both an African and Oriental feel (he’s Afronese, an ethnicity I made up) without being too much of a direct reference to either cultures.

Another factor behind the names in book are the Elites themselves. Since the government gave the Elites their names, I wanted them each to have meanings behind them. I don’t want to give too much away, so if you do read the book, try and see how the names fit each character. But for example, the two main characters are called Silver and Butterfly. Butterfly is a boy with wings, so his name might seem a little obvious (though somehow Dragonfly or Daddy Long-Legs just didn’t work …) but it also hints at his character – wings are a metaphor for freedom, for justice, for hope. And although Silver’s name actually came to me along with her character before I’d even thought about what it could mean, the significance that developed behind her name is so right and perfect it’s like my subconscious knew all along!

In the end, though, I just had fun with some of the other names in The Elites. For instance, you’ll spot an interesting duo in chapter 15 whose names I’m sure many of you will recognise! Hint – I’ll never be able to look at some of the items in my medicine cabinet the same way ever again …

You can follow Natasha on Twitter @girlinthelens or her website.