NANP: Making The Characters Fit
Posted by Abhinav Jain
The final guest on the blog for this edition of Names: A New Perspective is author Bryony Pearce. Her second novel, The Weight of Souls, is coming out tomorrow in the US/CAN from Strange Chemistry and has already seen a UK release on the 1st of this month. The book is coming out when Strange Chemistry will soon be celebrating its first full year and it is definitely an exciting time for their various books. I’ve been interested in The Weight of Souls for quite a while now. I love the premise, I love the cover, and as I said in my cover round-up post from yesterday, Strange Chemistry has been putting out some great fiction since their launch, and this book looks set to continue that excellent trend. Today, here’s Bryony talking about the names in her book and what their relevance to the narrative is.
by Bryony Pearce
When the subject of this post was mentioned I was excited to do it. Character names are something that I consider hugely important and I spend an awful lot of time choosing the correct ones. When I am planning a story I visit baby naming websites, look through mythology texts and visit the library all to find the best names for my characters.
Here is a screen grab of the sheet I am using in my current WIP.
I always want the names of the characters in my books to ‘fit’ them. You know how sometimes a name just seems to go with a particular characteristic. You couldn’t imagine an old lady called Chardonnay, an uncool Logan or an ugly Tyra for example. More than that, I want names to reveal things about the character or what is going to happen to them.
For example in my last novel, Angel’s Fury, the love interest is called Seth Alexander, which means ‘appointed defender of man’. Seth is the good guy and steps up to help Cassie destroy the evil angel and ultimately defend mankind.
Basically if you are interested enough, you could look up the meaning of the names I use for the main characters in my books and find out where the story is going to go. Of course it isn’t quite as simple as just that because my brain is a little convoluted, but I am going to take you through the names in The Weight of Souls and why I chose them; then perhaps you will see how it all works for me and perhaps be interested enough to read the whole story.
Oh Fa is the Chinese ancestor of my main character, Taylor. The curse laid on the family by Anubis is a direct result of Oh Fa’s participation in the desecration of the tomb of Nefertiti. Traditionally Chinese names have the surname first. Oh is therefore the family name and Fa his given name.
Fa in Chinese means ‘law, method or way’ or alternatively ‘setting off’ depending on where you look. I love the fact that both meanings have relevance for this character. ‘Setting off’ relates to the curse that begins with (or is ‘set off’ by) Fa. ‘Law’ relates to the fact that the curse involves working with Anubis (the lord of death who judges souls), to get justice for the murdered.
I liked the name Oh because it represents a circle and the curse effects generation after generation until Taylor comes full circle, ending up back in Nefertiti’s tomb herself.
The final thing that I loved about the name Oh Fa, which clinched it for me, was the fact that in English he would be called Fa Oh, or rather ‘Pharoah’. This links back beautifully to the Egyptian nature of the curse and also highlights the fact that he ends up with Nefertiti’s treasure thereby enabling his cursed ancestors to at least live in financial security.
Emma is Taylor’s mother, long dead by the time we meet Taylor.
All Fa’s ancestors have kept the name Oh, so that they can keep track of the curse and Emma is no different. However she has an English given name, reflecting the fact that her branch of the family are Londoners.
What is lovely about the name Emma, which in English means ‘all containing, universal’ (as a mother often is to her child) is that it is the name of a wrathful Chinese god.
The Chinese Yama spread to Japan where he became known as Emma. He is said to judge the dead (just like Anubis, the progenitor of the curse) and is shown holding a brush and book.
In her life Emma was not conflicted like her daughter; she valued the curse and liked her role as an avenging angel. She believed that she was doing great good by sending killers to Anubis for judgement and throughout the story, Emma’s presence in Taylor’s life is represented by the appearance of a book The Tale of Oh Fa which she read over and over again to her daughter once the curse struck.
Gabe is Taylor’s father. He took the name Oh when he married Emma, accepting her family tradition.
Gabriel means ‘God is my might’. I see him too as an avenging angel, but he is fighting the curse and therefore Anubis with all he has.
Also, Gabriel is my son’s middle name and I could not resist using it in my novel (see I can be superficial).
Taylor is my main character. Her name means, simply, tailor (a sort of dressmaker if you like). The reason I chose this name was twofold. Partly I loved the slight ambiguity of it. It has an androgynous sort of strength and therefore fit the character. I could not imagine a ‘Taylor’ being weak, girly, or even unattractive. The second reason is that I wanted her name to give a sense of her destiny, which is to break the circle (the eternal seeming curse). So she is the tailor, the cutter, of the circle represented by her surname. She will break her family curse.
Justin is closely connected to Taylor throughout her history. His first day at school is the first day she sees ghosts. He makes her life a misery, directing the bullies towards her; then he dies forcing her to avenge his death and ultimately causing her to fall for him.
The name Justin means ‘righteous, just or fair’ in other words, he is the seeker of justice in the story, but his name also connects him to Anubis and Yama, who deal in justice themselves.
The surname Hargreaves is simply locational (one who comes from Hare Grove) but the family motto is ‘by fortitude and prudence’: Justin is strong, determined. In the end he does the right thing.
Although Justin makes Taylor’s life miserable, Tamsin is Taylor real nemesis and her opposite in every way. She is popular with teachers and students, gets good grades, is white, blonde, heavily made up, has a model figure and is a total bitch.
But her name means ‘Twin’. Why?
Although Tamsin appears to be Taylor’s opposite, she is in fact the Yin to her Yang and they are not as different as they first appear.
Tamsin is Justin’s girlfriend at the start of the story, she has a fake US accent and we often seen her play-acted dramatics. Rarely do we see Tamsin do anything ‘real’. She is all about the front, about keeping up appearances and this is also Taylor’s problem. She is losing her friends because she cannot tell them the truth. She hides her real self, just as Tamsin does and it will lose her everything, just as it does for Tamsin.
James is dangerous, a really nasty piece of work. Once Justin is killed James takes over his girlfriend and the gang. His name means ‘supplanter or usurper’.
Hannah is Taylor’s best friend, her name means ‘grace, favour’. She is kind and sweet and provides the light and humour in Taylor’s life.
Pete was once Taylor’s best friend. His name means ‘rock’ and he was her rock until he left, sick of her falsity.
His name links him to Gabriel and Hannah (Christian connotations) but he is also closely connected to Justin’s gang via the other member, Harley.
His name means ‘heap of rocks’. Harley is hard, a member of the gang that makes Taylor’s life difficult, but he lacks the conviction of a ‘rock’. He is less stable (a heap). He could be a nice guy, if given the chance. He never gets the chance.
So there you have it, the naming conventions in The Weight of Souls. I hope this interested you a little, because it interested me a lot.
By the way, my own name means ‘strong’ and is the name of a flower. I named my son Riley (valiant) Gabriel (god is my might) Bryson (Bry’s son get it?), I named my daughter Maisie (pearl) Rose (because mine is the name of a flower too) Guinevere (I am a huge Arthurian literature fan!).
I love names.
Posted on August 5, 2013, in Debut Authors Guest Series, Guest Posts and tagged Bryony Pearce, Dark Fantasy, Debut Authors Guest, Fantasy, Guest Posts, Names, Names A New Perspective, Strange Chemistry, The meaning of Names, The Weight of Souls, Young Adult. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.