Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fashions In Names—Yes, Even in Fantasy Fiction

Have you ever noticed that there can be fashions in names for Fantasy characters, just as there are in real life?

Take “Ash” as in Aislinn/Aisling/Ashleen for example. It’s a real name, but in the mid-Noughts it ‘suddenly’ made a strong showing in Fantasy novels, particularly those with a YA flavour.

For example, Katie MacAllister’s Guardian series, published between 2004 – 2007, features protagonist Aisling Grey. In 2007, Ash — short for Aislinn — was the lead character in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, while in 2009 Malinda Lo’s Ash (a retelling of Cinderella) had another Aisling as the main character.

Almost simultaneously, Patricia McKillip brought out The Bell At Sealey Head (2008), which featured an Aislinn House as its (arguably) central location. Yet here’s where this gets really fun: one of the occupants of Aislinn House, and a main character in the book, was called Ysabo.

The previous year, 2007, Guy Gavriel Kay had published his standalone novel, Ysabel, with a main character of the same name — while Melina Marchetta’s first foray into Fantasy, the novel titled Finnikin of the Rock, had a main character called Isaboe. Noticing a trend, anyone?

Of course, all are variants of “Isabel” — so I must not omit Bella, short for Isabella, of the Twilight saga (2005 – 2008) fame.
Last but not least, I have to mention “Kat” — with Katsa in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (2008), and Katniss in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (also 2008).

I’m sure there are many more you can point to — and I'd love for you to share them in the comments — but I thought these were sufficient to illustrate how there really can be fashions in Fantasy names at certain points in time, just as there are in everyday life.


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) was published this year. 

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we



Kim Falconer said...

Great post, Helen!

There are so many Kats! I'm thinking Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series with the protagonist Cat Crawfield, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series and even LJ Smith's Katerina ...

Much to think about, when naming a character. How do you approach it?

Helen Lowe said...

"An Abundance of Katherines" in fact! ;-)

There is a lot to think about when naming a character--and the name has to be 'just right' or writing the character won't flow for me.

So I definitely think about personality, but also 'allusions' to personality and role through the name, such as "Mal" being a root word meaning "dark" in terms of "Malian" in the WALL series.

How about you, Kim?