A Dollop of Drama with Alice Fernbank

I’m so excited! No it’s not just the elections. Speaking of which, did you cast your vote yet?

adollopofgheeAlice Fernbank and I have been working on a new drama project based on  A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom ever since I visited Cranford Park Academy where the kids were keen to dramatize it.


I met Alice in a masterclass with storyteller extraordinaire Jan Blake. Alice and I hit it off rightaway and though we told markedly different stories, we liked each others style. Our easy collaboration abodyofwordscame to life when we had to mimic a scene without talking and we had a hilarious time doing it. And Jan called me Born to be a Clown! Really? Me?


One thing led to another, we talked, we discussed, we dreamt and then we got another one of our masterclass friends Greg McCormick involved too.

A Dollop of Drama was born for real –  A workshop to bring to life the characters and stories in the book A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom (Walker Books, UK). The story makes speaking, reading, talking and of course interpreting of written language so much fun. I love Veera and Suku and their irreverent sense of humour and my readers always have told me they want to have similar adventures.

drum2There you go – now you can. We planned the workshop for  KS2 where we could bring the book into the schools, teach children how to create and bring a character to life, read and speak dialogue and match it with their body language too.



Greg then kindly offered to take pictures of us playing the part. We dressed up as Veera and Suku and the people of Himtuk, we made costumes, we made paper swords, we enacted scenes, we fell on the floor in a heap laughing at our own antics – while Greg was patiently setting up the lighting and camera angles.

DSC_6418 compOn this 7th day of May in the year 2015, we launched the workshops.

You can now bring us into your schools to work with your KS2 children. Imagine children getting fired up to read a book so they could play a part in the drama workshop, imagine them reading and talking dialogue and interpreting the words into action and body language. Every English and Drama teacher’s dream come true. But then literacy is always more than just English, isn’t it? Reading prescription to election manifestos, literacy in primary schools is literacy for life.

Interested? Want to know more? Check out the details here and get in touch.

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Choosing character names

I mostly can’t start a story if I can’t get the name right. Even if I am going to change it later. The voice of the story for me is too dependent on the name. I listened to a very successful author who said, if my flow is good, I will give the character a name like ABC and continue writing.

But I can’t do that. I have to find the first name at least – especially if it is picture books. If I am writing a longer piece – then I need the last name too. Because I didn’t grow up in England, I have to research English names a lot. I can’t assume a name would be used in a specific part of the world.

However when choosing a name, these are my considerations:

a)    The name should be memorable, but should not sound artificial.

b)   The name should provide the opportunity for nicknames, shortening and even taunts. If I want to put the character through misery, the name should lend itself to it.

c)    The name should sound like the person. This is the hardest to find. I like to match thin characters with last names like Beany and bullies with names that can be made fun of like Bottomley.

d)   The name should not be too much of a caricature. I want the writing to show humour and the name to add to it. For example, if I think a character is too smooth, I wouldn’t call him Roger Smoothie, but Cal Butter or something.

e)    Unless there is a purpose, I prefer character names to be of maximum two to three syllables.

f)     If there are other ways to link the names to the story and plot, I’d pick those names. For example, historic precedence, a name in the buried treasure etc. Then names that are too modern like Madison won’t work if I want the name to be linked to something that happened 100s of years ago.

g)    I try and pick characters with different starting alphabets – especially for the main protagonist and his friend or the antagonist. I don’t want to keep reading Ben and Bob all the way through the book. It does get confusing especially for younger kids to separate them out.

h)   I borrow variations of names from people I know. I do that to birthdays and other quirks too.

i)     I also worry about pronunciation, not just for my readers. I have to be able to read the book aloud and if I can pronounce it, then I would not be able to talk about these characters.

Sometimes I do make the mistake of choosing or making up a name that is hard to say aloud, because I am just writing the first draft. Then when I start revising and start reading it in my head and aloud, I realize the mistake and go back and change the names.

Although I spend a lot of time looking at names, I don’t spend enough time writing their character study. Somehow I want the story to evolve and fill in those gaps. I know that will involve a lot of editing, but that’s an area I struggle. I can describe characters and use motifs to showcase their characteristics. But I cannot do a character chart that many novelists do. That part of my brain is squashed under a big blob of reluctance.

Here are some wonderful links I found when you are researching names.

Name Finder




Names with history




Some of the name choices for my books:


In “Where is Gola’s Home?”, I had to choose an Indian name that might suit the lead character, a yak. In the same story, I have a vulture which is called Muri.

adollopofgheeIn “A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom”, I chose Veera – meaning Brave for the prince and Suku for the prince’s friend, which is a short form of Sukumar – translating to a nice person or boy.

How do you choose character names? Do you have other links to share? Leave a note in the comments box.