NANP: The Name Game

Joining me today on Names: A New Perspective is Amanda Carlson, author of the fantastic urban fantasy debut from last year, Full Blooded (Review), the first in her Jessica McClain series. As another novel with a rather contemporary setting, at first it might appear that there can’t be much to talk about in this post relative to the idea behind the series, but Amanda does a good job of showing that is not so. The basics still apply, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she progresses on that front in the upcoming sequel Hot Blooded (due April). Here’s what she has to say.

Full BloodedThe Name Game

by Amanda Carlson

Names are so important in a story. A name does a lot of things right from the start. It can define a character and at the same time trigger something inside of us at the very beginning. It can also set the tone of your story.

Take the names: Mary and Damien. Mary brings to mind someone wholesome and sweet, while Damien evokes a darker nature (mostly thanks to the Omen movies). Does that mean that Mary can’t be evil or Damien can’t be the hero? Absolutely not! Sometimes the plot twist is the best part. But when your readers begin the story, the name makes them feel at home with the hero or animosity toward the villain.

When I read epic fantasy, I expect my characters names to mirror the story, so Ellora and Tyrion are to be expected. Old time names like James and Edward are fine, but Madison and Jaden are not. If those were thrown in, it would be like an actor’s super whitened teeth in a movie like King Arthur (and, yes, Keira Knightley had some blindingly white chompers in that movie, which totally ripped me out of the mood). Names have a mood too and readers can be left wanting if the name doesn’t ring true (Renesmee, can you hear me?).

Some authors in urban fantasy mix it up. I can appreciate that. It gives reader interest, and the story some originality, but I tend to like my names straight up.

I chose Jessica for my heroine’s name because it felt strong and fair. McClain, her surname, depicts her Scottish lineage. For her father I chose a Scottish name. Callum sounded capable and his second in command, James, who has Irish roots, also sounded strong.

Her twin brother, Tyler and his best friend, Danny, needed playful, yet dominant names. With Tyler it was a name association to a Tyler I knew who was tall, muscular and blond (though they have nothing in common except for that).

Nick, Jessica’s best friend, needed a stable name. I felt it fit him to a T. Jessica’s love interest, Rourke, needed something both masculine and original. Colin Rourke burst into my mind fully formed, like most of my characters, names and all. For those of you who read J.D. Robb, I had NO idea she had a hero named Roarke. I guess Nora had the same idea. How do you have a hero’s name be original, but at the same time doesn’t sound too clichéd?

It’s tougher than you think! It’s a slippery slope having the hero’s name sound too over the top or what I like to deem tried-too-hard.

I had fun with the other names. Marcy is Jessica’s saucy secretary and Aunt Tally, Tallulah Talbot, is the most powerful witch in the world. I took a few names out of history, because it’s fun to add in some real history. Selene is the actual name of a Lunar Goddess and Eudoxia was the real name of one of Ivan the Terrible daughters. I gave Eudoxia, the vampire Queen, Russian roots to match and I wove the story around her father.

Names set the tone, they define characters and they can make or break a mood. They can be iconic, like Harry Potter and they can be irritating like Borat. But no matter what, they spark that something from the very beginning. It would be hard to think of a hero named Walter Farkle as strong and sexy. But what an author can do with a name—that’s the art of storytelling.


Amanda Carlson on Twitter, Facebook, and Web.

The next guest is Christian Dunn, senior editor for Black Library as well as an author who has done several pieces of short fiction for Warhammer under the name C Z Dunn. You can find the full schedule in the link up top. I’m currently in the process of getting more authors for the series, so keep an eye on that post!

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Debut Authors Guest Series, Guest Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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