NANP: The Sound of Names
Posted by Abhinav Jain
Today I welcome debut author Laure Eve and her novel Fearsome Dreamer to Names: A New Perspective and ask her to share her thoughts on the importance of names in (her) fiction. A fellow cake and Haagen Dasz fanatic, she launched Fearsome Dreamer through Hot Key Books last month and even as all the praise rolls in, she is already hard at work on the sequel, coming next year. As a recent convert to urban fantasy, Fearsome Dreamer promises to be a really fun read and in anticipation of reading the book, I invited Laure to the blog and hope you enjoy her guest post as much as I did. Definitely one of the more fun guest posts I’ve had the pleasure of featuring here.
by Laure Eve
Ah, names. As poor old Daniel Day Lewis declaims in The Crucible: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
In conclusion: names are well important.
I tend to have fun with my character names. Not all of them mean something obvious, but all of them give a particular feel or clue to someone. The thing I love about names is how the sound and the flow of them can help flesh out the character, rather than anything more direct.
If you look at the main characters of Fearsome Dreamer, there are a few layers going on.
Rue is a hedgewitch-in-training, born and bred in a small countryside village. She is a natural thing, moving with the rhythms of her surroundings, as all country witches do, so it made sense to give her a natural sounding name. Rue, the plant for which she is named, has obvious connotations to regret, which is apt for her. It makes it sound like she makes rash mistakes and only afterward repents of them, when she realises the full consequences.
Rue also happens to be a character in William Horwood’s novel Duncton Wood, which was a favourite of my younger self. You might start to realise how much I homage other favourite books as we continue to…
Frith’s full name is De Forde Say Frith (in Fearsome Dreamer, familiar names come last and family names are spoken first). The De Forde is an allusion to Frith’s French aristocratic background, a background he isn’t ecstatic about throwing around. He has a singular distaste for people in positions of authority or power who have no right to it other than the fact of tradition or wealth.
Frith, additionally, is the name of the rabbit god in Watership Down. I’ve always loved the sound of it.
White has actually changed his name from the one given to him by his parents – such is the importance he places on names. His original name is Jacob Yun, which gives us an insight into his mixed Chinese ethnicity. But in his attempts to overthrow the trappings of his former life, he now goes by the single name of White, in his words “a purer, simpler name”. It’s a name that, in its simplicity, may hint at how different he is to everyone else.
He is a dichotomy. He fights constantly between wanting to stand out and wanting to blend in. To take the clue on his opposed and divided nature even further, his long hair and eyes are actually jet black.
Fern, or Fernie as Rue calls her, is Rue’s hedgewitch mistress and again, her name makes us think of natural things. Her family name is Penhallow, an illusion to her Cornish origins (by ‘Tre’ ‘Pol’ and ‘Pen’, shall ye know all Cornish men, as the saying goes).
Hallow makes me think of something that is held up, revered, respected, ‘hallowed’ – and respected she certainly is by those who know her. Hallow also makes me think of the ‘other’, something over and above the everyday of the real world – not even so far as a spiritual sense, but as much as it makes you wonder whether she has something else to her.
Names are an organic connection process for me, and often mean several things at once. The homage to other characters is a bit of an easter egg – fun if you work it out, but means little if you don’t (apart from to tell you about books that I love!). Many writers have probably said a character doesn’t come together until they get the right name. This is absolutely true. If you’re reading this and you’re a writer – your characters will find theirs. It may take months, or it may be the first thing you know about them. But it’ll come. Don’t think that it’s always a lightning bolt moment, either – some characters grow into the names you give them, until you couldn’t possibly imagine them as anything else.
Here are some of my favourite examples of authors who made names important:
Mervyn Peake liked the sound of names. Most of Gormenghast’s wonderful cast of characters have the most incredible names, more to do with sound and shape than a direct meaning, which I absolutely ascribe to. Titus Groan, Prunesquallor, Steerpike – each name is a ridiculously rich cocktail.
Oscar Wilde knew the fun of names. The character Ernest from The Importance of Being Earnest is one of his best loved puns – a character who spends the play farcically lying to his one true love.
Roald Dahl took his names quite literally. Each one told you all you needed to know about a character in a snap. I think Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remains my favourite. The sibilance and the roundness of the sounds in his name make me think of a wobblingly, droopingly fat boy. Perfect!
Terry Pratchett has a rompingly good time with names. Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler remains my favourite, just because his doppelgangers pop up all over the Discworld with various hilariously rendered versions of his name (Disembowel-Meself-Honourably Dibhala, May-I-Never-Achieve-Enlightenment Dhiblang). But the naming brilliance throughout each book is endless. Moist Von Lipwig. Magrat Garlick. Jonathan Teatime (“it’s pronounced te-AH tim-EH.”). They don’t have to mean anything specific, but they just… sound right.
The next guest on the blog is Kenny Soward, and his post will be going up this coming Thursday on the 28th. A full schedule is available here.
Posted on November 25, 2013, in Debut Authors Guest Series, Guest Posts and tagged 2013 Debuts, Debut Authors, Debut Authors Guest Series, Fantasy, Fearsome Dreamer, Guest Posts, Hot Key Books, Laure Eve, Meaning of Names, Names, Names A New Perspective, Regency Fantasy, Urban Fantasy. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.