Drew Karpyshyn On Character Names And Evoking the Mythical


Readers may recall yesterday’s post about naming conventions in science fiction in fantasy. I had reached out to several writers of my acquaintance in hope that they’d have a moment to talk about their own processes when it came to naming characters. I was overwhelmed with the responses, and even after posting over a dozen yesterday, I’ve still got a few more to run. With that in mind, I beg your indulgence as I once again turn to the topic of fantasy names with this response from Drew Karpyshyn, the author of Children of Fire.

Drew Karpyshyn:

Names are tricky. There’s a long-standing tradition in science fiction and fantasy to have unusual and complicated names that are difficult to pronounce and almost impossible to spell, but I prefer to keep my names simple. My novels have numerous characters, so tongue twister names will only make it harder for readers to keep track of who is who. In addition to being simple, I often use names that are representative of the character. For example, in my fantasy novel Children of Fire, Vaaler – the heir to the Danaan throne – is expected to be brave, strong and valorous. Keegan, a young boy who could be a potential savior of the mortal world, has the word “key” embedded in his name, and Rexol – Keegan’s wizard mentor – draws on Rex/King to reflect his pride and egotism. This may seem a bit too obvious for some, but I think the overt symbolism helps establish the feel of a character and gives readers something to hold on to until they become more familiar with them.

Another trick I use is to steal names from mythology and other classic sources that will evoke certain feelings or associations in the reader. The young girl who suffers gruesome visions of the future in Children of Fire is named Cassandra after the cursed prophet from Greek mythology. Similarly, by giving many members of the fanatically religious Order “Biblical” sounding names – like Ezra, Nazir and Yasmin – I get readers thinking about the harsh “eye for an eye” belief system often associated with the Old Testament. By drawing upon this shared cultural heritage of many of my readers, I’m able to evoke emotions and moods with a simple name that I can then build on or subvert, depending on how the story goes.

Want to know more about Children of Fire?

Drew Karpyshyn has made his mark with imaginative, action-packed work on several acclaimed videogames, including Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, as well as in a succession of New York Times bestselling tie-in novels. Now Karpyshyn introduces a brilliantly innovative epic fantasy of perilous quests, tormented heroes, and darkest sorcery—a thrilling adventure that vaults him into the company of such authors as Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett.

Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.