I was asked by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre the other day if I knew of any old English or Irish female given names that meant ‘hero’. She asked me this question because she was looking to name a new character, whom I supposed she wished to embody heroic traits, but in actual fact was named for the Greek myth of Leander and Hero (see here). The husband of this new character’s full name is Oleander, which itself means ‘poisonous shrub’ and is rather befitting of his personality
Unlike parents naming their newborn child, writers have the advantage of knowing their characters inside out, thus can have a bit of fun when assigning names. It provides opportunities for clever foreshadowing, referencing other words or sharing an in-joke with those in the know.
Or, if you’re like me, you just pluck or steal names from all over the shop – friends, colleagues, other people’s characters, gravestones etc. – stick ’em on your character’s forehead like a post-it note and hope that nobody notices your crippling lack of imagination.
Such is the case with The Mayor. I struggled so much with naming these characters that I even had to ask K.F. Goodacre to name one for me (Jaspher, if you must know; there’s no way I could have come up with something that original on my own). When it came to naming my protagonist, Melora, I literally just named her after the woman who inspired her into existence: Melora Creager of Rasputina. Fortunately, when I spoke to Melora Creager about this, she was very excited by the prospect and didn’t mind that I’d essentially stolen her identity; the point is that there was no thought process when it came to giving Melora her name at all.
~ WARNING: Major spoilers for The Mayor to follow ~
The same was true of another one of my characters: Melora’s best friend and lover, Jonathan “Redcoat Jack” Carson. John was named after the pirate that inspired his storyline: Jonathan “Calico Jack” Rackham (are you seeing a pattern here? It’s actually quite embarrassing how little creativity I have). When I first started writing with John, I am not sure how or why, but it soon became apparent that he bloody loves apples, especially red apples. He steals them from fruit stalls, swipes them from the family fruit bowl and complains if he has to travel somewhere where he can’t get any.
I didn’t plan for it, it just happened, until it became an integral part of his character to the point that other characters also associate them with him. Whilst the love of the fruit was accidental, the colour I chose was not, as the red foreshadows the colour of the coat he becomes famous for wearing during his piratical exploits. Also, given John’s propensity for hedonism and the passion and love he and Melora share, I also deliberately take every opportunity I can to draw on the historic symbolism of apples and their association with seduction and temptation. After their first night together, for example, the last thing Melora remembers is Redcoat Jack scooping up an apple and taking a bite out of it as he leaves the room.
The point I am trying to make here is that, off the back of my conversation with K.F. Goodacre, I looked up the meaning of the name ‘Melora’. To my surprise and absolute delight, I discovered that it means…
Now there’s some accidental subconscious genius for you.
The man with the red apple pictured is John’s ‘faceclaim’: a young Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish.
The painting is The Golden Tree & Nine Peahens (1916) by Arthur Rackham.