Saturday, May 30, 2009

What's in a Name?

Have you ever read a book where the name of the characters stuck in your head long after you finished the novel? Like hearing a song on the radio in the morning and then carrying it in your head all day long even when you try to forget it. Naming a character can be very important for making a lasting impression with readers.
I don't know about other authors, but I brood over characters names each time I start a new book. Especially in fantasy fiction, the name of a character should inspire an image of who and what that person is. For instance, if the name of a character is Morag, the reader isn't going to be expecting this person to be the hero of the tale. Morag, sometimes spelled Mhorag, is a monster in Scottish folklore.
In my fantasy series coming from Medallion Press, I've used many names from folklore and mythology for characters and beasts. Bayard is the war horse ridden by the male protagonist in The Chronicle of Futhark. In folklore tales of medieval France and Italy, Bayard is the name often given to Charlemagne's immortal horse. Bayard was faster than a normal horse and perhaps possessed of other magical abilities. Though the horse in my book isn't enchanted in any way, he is quite special.
A Gorgon is a monster for a variety of monsters from Greek mythology and perhaps with some Roman influence. I changed the name a little and endowed one of my monsters with the moniker of 'gordragon.' It's a rather enemy.
As a reader, do you assume certain images from a character's name? As a writer, do you spend long hours considering names for all the persons and creatures appearing in your works? Has a particularly clever name used in a literary work made a lasting impression?

1 comment:

Cate Masters said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who obsesses about names! If I can't hit upon a name that fits a character, it can bring the story to a halt. Names definitely evoke a certain image, in my mind at least.
Now Bayard sounds like a horse I'd love to read about! And I love mythology, too. Your series sounds intriguing.