The Importance of Being Imogen Poots

Do any of you know who Imogen Poots is? She is a ravishing, doe-eyed gazelle of a British actress known mostly for being gorgeous and appearing in the movie 28 Weeks Later. Here she is:

She got me thinking or rather her name did. I just cant imagine an American actress with a name like that. She has to be European. It sounds like the name of an elderly tabby cat with a flatulence issue.

I believe Imogen is an old-fashioned form of Jane, but Jane would have been too boring for our girl Imogen.
Its the sort of name that wouldnt work if one was only passably attractive and it would be much, much worse if one was homely. I would think that only a truly beautiful girl could ever carry off a name like Imogen Poots and luckily she is. Beautiful, I mean.
I’m a fan of names which stick in your head.
Before my children were born (in hippy town Woodstock, NY) my husband (Mr. Parris) and I told our respective parents that we intended to call our son-to-be, Paris Texas Parris and our daughter-to-be, Ooh La la Gay Parris.
But then they were born and we settled on slightly old-fashioned but cool names.

I spend a lot of time thinking about my character names. With my first book, I was inspired by weird but with subsequent books I’ve veered towards unique but not overtly hard to pronounce.
In Ashes,Ashes my heroine is Lucy Holloway. I like how it slips off the tongue. And it’s no nonsense and Lucy is absolutely one of my favorite names. My daughter is a Lucy.
Sometimes the names just come to me, perfect, and with them comes the character, defined and clear. On my daily hike I pass a cemetery. Actually it’s right next to the elementary school where my son goes. He can look out his classroom window onto rows and rows of tombstones, stone angels and memorial slabs. Another reason I love this town so much. It has all those characteristics that seem almost booky in their oddness.
In fact the original school was built on Gallow’s Hill where of course they used to hang criminals. But that building sadly burned down. I imagine that all the teachers had to do to keep order was point meaningfully out the window.
Anyway, cemeteries are a great place to find good names and far more satisfactory than flipping through the phone book.

Ive blogged before about the names Feltus and Ovalton being an honored and respected tradition on both sides of my husbands family ancestry. They are fabulous names though not ones you would want to saddle a child with and as soon as I heard them I knew I had to write story about a boy who didnt have it easy and had issues and on top of everything else had to go through life answering to those names, and not just one of them but both.

I mean, Treggiari- hello, I understood how an unusual name makes things that much harder on a kid.

At the time I thought I was being very clever as well because there were no childrens books out with anti-heroes much less heroes who were born to be picked on. There were no Artemis Fowls or Lemony Snickets or Agrippa Hazelboms- I just made that last one up- and I figured that maybe Feltus Ovalton would be so unusual that it would be easier for readers to remember because they sure werent going to remember my name, much less know how to pronounce it. I must have been eight before I could even spell it.

So I thought they could just saunter up to the bookstore counter and say, That new book. Not the Harry Potter, the other boy, Fungus something or other, and the clerk would beam broadly and pull a Feltus from the nice orderly stack of shiny books right next to the cash register. (In my daydreams I am championed by those who work in independent retail since until recently I was one of that tribe of voracious reader cum hand-seller.)

It’s strange how the name of a truly memorable character can add to the whole mythology of that character. An interesting name just rounds things off. Look at Katniss Everdeen. Wonderful character, wonderful name. A little odd but not completely out of the realm of possibility. It informed me as a reader that I was about to enter a familiar but unfamiliar world where people were called Katniss and Gale and Peeta- names which pop.

So my question is- does it hurt or help to be an Imogen Poots? Do casting agents remember Imogen because she sticks in their heads? Oh right, ugly name, beautiful girl, they muse, reading through lengthy lists of teenage ingenues or should she have changed it to something more ordinary like Jane Parks? Or— and this just occurred to me, maybe her name was Jane Parks and she changed it. That would be true genius!

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6 Responses to The Importance of Being Imogen Poots

  1. Anonymous says:

    Do I remember a Bathsheba Everdene in Thomas Hardy?

    Poots is reminiscent of the immortal Pooter (Diary of a Nobody. I must look it up in the phone book.

  2. Donna Hosie says:

    I've never heard of Imogen Poots.

    The master of stand-out names is J.K. Rowling. Fantasy allows a writer to be uber creative when naming characters. Myths, legends, fables, fairy stories are all at your disposal. It makes the process of character forming very enjoyable for the writer, and hopefully memorable for the reader.

  3. Jo Treggiari says:

    True! JK Rowling is fantastic with names. It is definitely one of the funnest aspects of writing and particularly, as Donna pointed out, in fantasy. Love Luna and Xenophilius Lovegood in particular.
    I not only had Feltus Ovalton but also all the PoodleRats (Saldemere Og et al) and the fearsome Kehezzalubbapipipi.

  4. But don't forget the classic British fantasy writer Joan Aiken. Her heroine Dido Twite is one of the most memorable ever. Aiken had a real genius for idiosyncratic humour. I remember one of her short stories which involved a flying bicycle and an apple tree which would phone up in the middle of the night (you'd pick up the receiver and hear the wind sighing in the branches.) People in Aiken's books live in places called Dogkennel Cottages, or Loose Chippings, or Cold Shoulder Road.

    I think you ought to write about Agrippa Hazelboms, though, Jo.

  5. Jo Treggiari says:

    Yes, Joan Aiken! Obviously her place names influenced JK Rowling as well.Little Whinging!

  6. Jill Kemerer says:

    In the movie biz, a unique name can only help you. But in a novel, it has to fit the character, don't you think? My heroines tend to be ordinary gals, and Imogen Poots would SO not work for them!

    This was fun to think about. THanks!