Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's In a Name? by Meg Whitlock

A big Salon welcome to today's guest, author Meg Whitlock! Follow the links at the end of her post on naming characters to pick up a copy of her new urban fantasy novel, The Dark Man's Son.

What’s in a Name?

Juliet proposed that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I wonder if it would. I spend literally hours choosing names for characters in my books, and every name, no matter how minor the character, means something. Names are especially important in speculative fiction, and there are various reasons why.

If you’re writing fantasy that involves world-building, characters’ names can set the tone for the entire book. Are the names in a language exclusive to your world, like Elvish in Lord of the Rings? Or are you doing more of an odd-spelling-and-character-traits trick like George RR Martin in A Song of Ice and Fire?

If you’re writing urban or contemporary fantasy, the names you choose can be equally important. Think of Sookie Stackhouse. It’s an unusual name, but not exotic, and it evokes the Deep South setting of Charlaine Harris’ books.

The Dark Man’s Son is a little unusual in that the heroine goes by several names within the course of the book. She’s eons old, and she’s adopted various names throughout the ages. The book is told partially through flashbacks to former eras, and in those time periods she’s called something else. Even in the present she’s called Alex by one character, Helene by another, and Heidr by yet another. So why the heck would I try so hard to confuse the hell out of my readers?

I’m not trying to confuse anyone. Really, I’m not. But it’s logical. If you’d existed since almost the beginning of time, would you have the same name the whole of your life? Probably not. She does have a name name, an original name, but it’s in a language that mortals can’t hear without their heads exploding. That would be messy and inconvenient. I also don’t know what it is or how to spell it.

Our hero, Jason, is named after his grandfather, Jameson O’Connor. His last name is Latimer, as he was adopted by his stepfather at a young age. So. In his name you have tradition and mystery. He was named after a man his mother hasn’t had contact with in almost thirty years—her father, Jason’s grandfather—and a man he isn’t technically related to. Who is Jason, really? That question, of course, is the main one of the book…and I don’t just mean his father’s identity.

The Dark Man of the title has quite a few names, too. He introduces himself to Jason as Luke, but since there’s another Luc in the book—and a Lucifer—I used that just as a sly wink to Alex and moved on. Throughout this book he’s called Cassius, a name he picked up in ancient Rome, but he reels off about half a dozen other names the first time he and Jason meet.

In the sequel to The Dark Man’s Son I’ll have to choose another name for Cassius. Chunks of it take place before Rome was anything more than a barbarian settlement on the Tiber. I’ve been doing research into names for him—that’s what inspired this article, in fact—and I’ve found a whole host of names for demons and angels and various and sundry others that I hadn’t even thought of before. New characters are being created inspired solely by names.

Oh, let’s talk about the demons for a minute. First there’s Lucifer. He’s not technically a demon, but he’s in charge of them. He’s also called the Morning Star and the Devil. And then there’s Satan, who’s not the same creature as Lucifer. He’s also not the Devil, though that bit is perhaps open for debate.

One thing I have to remind myself, dear readers: this is my world with my mythology. I choose the names. I choose the identities that go with them. As Cassius tells Jason at their first meeting, “So many years, so many names. We’re bound to overlap sometimes.” I suppose it can be confusing to anyone not inside my head, but here’s the thing: I do it for a reason. Names matter. Maybe the rose would smell as sweet, but I still think it would be different somehow, and not necessarily in a good way.

If it helps I provide a cheat sheet in the back. ;)

The Dark Man’s Son
By Meg Whitlock
Guardian Chronicles #1

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Blurb/Book Description:

She claimed the muggers were demons, but of course Jason didn’t believe her. At first.

When a mysterious woman appears in a dirty alley to rescue Jason Latimer from a pair of muggers, he tries to write her off as a garden variety lunatic. But he can’t shake the memory of her intense green eyes that seemed to flash gold, or the glowing sword she’d worn on her hip.

She calls herself Alex (no last name) like she’d made it up on the spot, and she offers Jason her protection. From what, she can’t or won’t say. He refuses, and that night he dreams of a dark man with the same offer. His black eyes flash blood and garnet, and he smells of burning things. Jason refuses him, too.

A chance meeting brings Alex and Jason together again, and she tells him of the Guardians: two immortal beings created near the beginning of time with the express purpose of fighting for mortal-kind’s soul. She is Light, and the man from Jason’s dream is Dark. Jason must choose, because Lucifer, for reasons purely his own, has unleashed the armies of Hell to hunt Jason down.

But there are things about Jason that not even he knows, and he’ll face hard truths and bitter choices as he struggles to find his place in a world redefined. Will he rise to the challenge, or, when the time comes, will he falter?

From Renaissance Florence to the French Revolution, from World War II to the modern streets of New Orleans, The Dark Man’s Son is a riveting journey filled with unforgettable characters, wry humor, dark twists, and a touch of romance.

Author Bio:
Meg Whitlock has been writing nearly all her life, and she’s glad she finally got over her laziness and wrote the book she’s been dreaming about for years. She graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with a BA in Comparative Arts with an Art History specialization and an Ancient History minor…which is a mouthful no matter how you say it. She has four cats (including an invisible one), a car named Babar, and a vivid imagination.

In 2001 her one-act play, “The Shoebox,” was produced by Catawba College in Salisbury, NC and presented at the American College Theatre Festival. She was honored by Art:21 and the Mint Museum of Art for her essay “Kara Walker: Using Stereotypes to Provoke Thought,” and she’s won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction writing.



Gavirz said...

Names are very hard to choose because they also have a correlation with memory. If your high school was named Susie, you will always equate that name (at least in part) with Susie's personality

Meg said...

I just wanted to stop by and say thanks for having me today! Love your site. :D

widdershins said...

Hi Meg. I decided to buy your book just on the strength of this review. I'm looking forward to reading it.
I love stories that span epochs!

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