Sunday, 25 February 2007

3: Something about names!

I always enjoy creating names for characters and places in my books. That's especially so in the Thomas Trew series! They were inspired by all sorts of things..things I saw, things I read, things that just popped into my head!

The name of the dwarf Adverse Camber, for instance. That's from a roadworks sign! We were driving along near Cardiff in Wales a few years ago, and there were lots of roadworks. Every so often, you'd come across a sign which said 'Adverse Camber'--meaning that the road had a bit of a tilt to it that might make it hard to drive. When I saw that sign, I thought, that sounds like someone's name, actually. Someone unusual...someone who enjoys driving but maybe has trouble with his car: and hey, presto, there was Adverse Camber the dwarf and his unco-operative car, Metallicus, springing up in my head!

Another time, I saw a poster about herbs at an old house we were visiting. It was rather a nice poster, with coloured pictures and the names of all kinds of herbs. Two especially caught my attention: Angelica, because as a child I used to love it when Mum bought some to decorate cakes (it's a rather nice green crystallised root) ; and Eyebright, because, well, that was such a nice name. Ah-ha, I thought, 'Angelica Eyebright'! That sounds like some magic person's name--and so, there she was!

Some other names have come from myth and legend: for instance, Pan, in the second Thomas Trew book. The name of the wicked Uncouther General, Legion Morningstar, comes from the Bible, while the name of his city, Pandemonium, comes from Greek tradition. There are also names from Celtic stories, such as the name of the selkie girl, Roanna, in the fourth Thomas Trew book; and from Norse legend, like the Klints, in the third Thomas Trew book.
And from Shakespeare--like the name for the dwellers of the sky-country of the Hidden World: the Ariels.

And quite a few have come from one of my favourite source books: the wonderful Dictionary of Fairies, by Katharine Briggs. She was an English writer with a great interest in folklore, and she wrote lots of really useful books about the stories and legends of Britain. The Dictionary of Fairies, for instance, is full of amazing stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful and scary creatures, people, monsters and traditions. By 'fairies' she means all the many sorts of inhabitants of that world within the world, which I've called the Hidden World, but other people call things like 'Narnia' or 'Elfland' or 'Fairyland' or 'Beyond the Looking-Glass' or 'Wonderland' or 'Hogwarts!' In that 'fairy' world are ogres and giants and trolls and dragons and griffins and elves and well, just about everything magical and amazing, good, bad, and just plain mischievous!

A Dictionary of Fairies also is full to bursting with terrific names, taken from traditional stories. And that's where some of my characters' names have come from: for example, Pinch and Patch, Hinkypunk Hobthrust, Old Gal, the Green Man, Peg Powler, and others...

Still other names come directly into my head without any prompting. The name of the village where Thomas goes to live, for instance-Owlchurch--comes out of my feeling that a lot of English village churches, with their square Norman towers with tufts of stone at each corner, look rather, in the distance, like square owls' heads! 'Owlchurch', I thought, yes! The other common kind of village church is the sort that has a tall pointy spire--so, 'Aspire'--which was actually suggested to me by my husband. My first thought for Aspire's name was Needlechurch--nowhere near as good a name as Aspire--thank you, David!


flick said...

Hi Sophie,
(This is my third attempt to leave a comment!) Your new series looks fabulous, I love the covers. And I've so enjoyed reading about how Thomas Trew came into being: what inspired the story, how you come to match names to people and places, and how you and your illustrator seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to 'seeing' what your characters look like - fascinating! Good luck with your series, and I look forward to reading Thomas Trew's adventures in the Hidden World. flick.

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