NANP: Name A Thousand Children

The final guest for Names: A New Perspective (July) is debut author and video game designer Jay Posey. His first novel Three, from Angry Robot, comes out tomorrow, and it is a novel I’ve been looking forward to ever since it was announced earlier this year. My desire to read the novel stems in a large part from the amazing cover by Steven Meyer-Rassow, which evokes a very strong Assassin’s Creed vibe for me. I’ve written a bit more about the cover on The Founding Fields, which you can read here. I’ll be reading the book hopefully soon, so expect a review in the not too distant future. In the meantime, here’s Jay talking about names and their importance and relevance.

ThreeSo You Want to Name a Thousand Children

by Jay Posey

The topic of names is one that’s been near and dear to my heart for pretty much my entire life.  I, you see, am a Junior.  Which is to say, I share a name with my father.  Except I don’t go by my legally given name, I go by a nickname, which has caused me no end of pain and suffering when dealing with entities such as a banks, airlines, and the government.  (It has, however, had the upside of helping me quickly identify telemarketers.  Don’t tell them that.)

As a Junior, I have at times wrestled with my own sense of identity, and have spent probably too much time wondering what it would be like to have my “own” name, and whether or not that would’ve had any effect on who I’ve become today.  When it came time for me to name my own children, I spent many long months wrestling with the idea that I might get it wrong, and thinking of all the terrible ways I might destroy my children’s lives by constantly calling them something that they were not.

Names have meaning, you know.  And what if I spent the first eighteen years of my kids’ lives calling them things like “Doctor” and “Architect” when what they really wanted was to be known as “Dancer” and “Park Ranger”?

As a writer, your characters are very much like your children, and finding their proper names can be just as daunting a task.  When it comes to fiction, names are very often our first clues into the type of people these characters are.  Sometimes they’re a shortcut.  You rarely see gritty, tough guy hero types named Cumberbundt.  How long can Luke Skywalker remain on a desert planet living as a moisture farmer?  And is there any doubt that Draco Malfoy might not be the nicest fellow in school?

But fictional names can also be used to subvert our expectations.  Maybe Cumberbundt is, in fact, the fiercest barbarian king in all the land.  And his companion Grimgrave Doomseeker the Ironheart is actually rather squishy and quite fond of cuddling.  In those cases, the names are still equally important, because they create an interesting tension between what the character is called and who the character is.

And beyond individual character names, when taken all together, the names of characters can tell us a great deal about the culture of the worlds they inhabit.  They provide insight into what a culture values and honors, or what a culture despises, and even how a culture makes use of language.  You don’t have to be a linguist to recognize that Glorfindel and Worf, son of Mogh, probably don’t hail from the same region.  The names give us hints about a character’s history.

Yet another consideration for fiction writers, from a purely mechanical sense, is how a name looks on the page.  In the real world, we quickly learn to associate names with faces and personalities, with how a person moves, and how they make us feel.  In that way, the name John might evoke very different reactions based on whether we’re talking about John Smith or John Jones.  On the page, however, recognizable names are critical to keeping readers in the dream-like state of total immersion, and it’s easy to confuse written names that look the same.  The instant a reader has to stop and wonder “Wait, is this talking about Ka’th’alyx or Kat’ha’lwn? ”, there’s trouble.

Taking all of these things into consideration can make selecting a character name a daunting task.  But there’s one excellent saving grace in it all.  The actions of a character (or a person, for that matter) can in turn come to define their very name.  R. A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’urden, for example, was hastily named during a phone call, at the time destined for obscurity as a sidekick.  And yet by the strength of his character, he’s become one of the most celebrated heroes of the Forgotten Realms.

All of this might sound funny coming from an author who named a character “Three”.  I know.  I was skeptical myself at first.  But as I got to know him, the name defined the character less, and the character more defined the name.  These days, I honestly can’t imagine him ever being called anything else.

*****

Jay Posey on Twitter, and Web.

The next guest on the blog is this year’s debut author M. L. Brennan (one more guest after him for this edition of NANP!) and his post will go up this coming Thursday on the 1st of August. You can check out the full schedule in the link up top.

This guest post is part of Jay’s blog tour and also a giveaway competition hosted by Tabitha at My Shelf Confessions.

Three-Blog-Tour-BannerEach stop on this Blog Tour of Three by Jay Posey has a unique question. Be sure to enter your answers into the giveaway by dropping by My Shelf Confessionsand enter your answers in the rafflecopter widget! You can answer as many or as few as you like as each answered question gets you an extra entry!

Here’s the questions for my stop: Question #11 – What does the book description claim there are no more of?”

The deadline for the giveaway is 12th August and up for grabs are two signed copies (available internationally) of Three, and if you are the winner and you prefer so, Jay can dedicate the books as well.

The Founding Fields will be hosting its own giveaway of the book as well, and that will go live later today. I’ll add in the link here once that is live. So you have a double chance to win a copy of the book!

Good luck!

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Posted on July 29, 2013, in Debut Authors Guest Series, Guest Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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