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Monday, May 21, 2012

Character names--potential often left unexplored

Merlin, Voldemort, Frodo, Captain Nemo, Lancelot, Aslan... when you hear these names they immediately draw you into other worlds. They are distinct in their application to stories we know and love.

There is a trend with some editors at publishing houses that seems to ignore the power of original character names; names that have been invented by the author. In Christian fantasy there is little encouragement to be creative with names. I was pushed a few times to change several of my characters' names in The Sword of the Dragon series, but I think it is essential to creating a story world that people are drawn to and will live on as a classic.

When readers are finished with the third book in my series The Sword of the Dragon, I think they will not be able to hear the names of Specter, Oganna, Cromlin, and Valorian without their minds racing back to The Sword of the Dragon series.

Q: What character names have the power to pull you back to a favorite book or series?


Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,
SOO glad I found your blog; you've given me inspiration on how to merge my faith with my blogging. I appreciate it! :)

Character names are key, in my opinion, and I pay a great deal of attention to it in my reading and in my clients' manuscripts, as well. For me, whenever I hear Aragorn, Gandalf, or Saruman, I'm instantly back in Middle-Earth. My all-time favorite fantasy series. :)
Also, TV-wise, whenever someone mentions Teel'c, I get mental pictures of Stargate SG-1 and get all goose-bumpy. :)

Great question. What are some of your favorites?

Scott Appleton said...

Hi Veronika,
I'm pleased you enjoy my articles! Faith in fiction makes the work stand out in a very generalized and swamped market. I know that with my own novels, using my Christian faith as the backbone for good storytelling ensures that the consequences to every action are consistent and apparent. Gray areas are weak in fiction.
BTW I am a big fan of SG-1 and SG Atlantis.
Some of my favorite examples of good character names are: Spock, Voldemort, and Lancelot, among others.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

They pushed you to change names? To make them easier to pronounce or what?

If one is to create a world, he must create a history. And history shapes languages.

Sometimes simple names work...take Dickens, a master of choosing names. But that's not usually the case in fantasy.

I, personally, love your names, Scott haha. Voldemort is a great example as well...the one good name from that series (Dumbledore...really? haha).

Other good names....Gandalf, Aragorn. But...Tolkien, as a linguist, had an advantage haha

Maximus (Gladiator), Azkaban (places count!), ::coughs:: Alvar, Hethra ::coughs::

One can never spend too much time naming characters. Crafting new names is often as exciting as new characters.


Anonymous said...

Good point, Scott. I think faith (particularly a rooted faith like Christianity ;) ) gives the story solid ground to stand on, particularly in this current world of no absolutes. Lots of our fiction has become muddled and "gray" with no standards or absolutes to make the theme and story solid. Christians have a solid foundation, the hope, love, and peace of Christ, which, if infused into our stories somehow at least helps to bolster the theme and strength of the story.
Great ideas. I'm looking forward to reading your series. :) Thanks again for living your faith so openly and inspiring me to look for ways to merge faith and fiction. :)


"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." -Proverbs 16:24

In a world where morality is forsaken and Christ neglected, wholesome books are uncommon. The themes of my writing are love, self-sacrifice, and honor.

I see my generation turning from God to the gods of this world. I see homes torn apart in the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Children are murdered by the millions every year . . . without ever seeing the world outside their mothers' wombs. Through fiction I strive to encourage those who are willing, to stand against these things and be heroes and heroines; chivalrous, gentle, full of righteous indignation, and the fear and love of their Creator.