posted on May 10, 2013 by Deanna Raybourn

The Name Game

aspearofsummergrassNaming characters is one of the most enjoyable—and challenging—aspects of writing. In the case of the main characters in A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, one was perfectly simple and straightforward while the other was just as much trouble as you’d expect her to be…

J. Ryder White is the hero of the book, and his name was designed to be a tip of the hat to H. Rider Haggard, the creator of the adventure novel as a genre. It is almost impossible to overstate Haggard’s influence on the writers who came later—Rice Burroughs, Conan Doyle, even Elizabeth Peters! Hundreds of writers cite him as a favorite, and even if you think you don’t know him, you probably do. Remember Allan Quatermain? He was a Haggard creation as was She of the novel of the same name. All the great adventure films of the 1950s seem to hark back to his tales of dashing explorers and daring exploits. The books are fun escapism, and it was a nod to all that Haggard did to create the classic character of the Great White Hunter to name Ryder after him. And White was a much more direct and slightly tongue-in-cheek reference to that same type. Ryder is outwardly the typical Great White Hunter, but he is secretly sentimental and a quiet believer in conservancy, so the name is intentionally ironic. J. stands for Julian to give him a whiff of refinement, and the spelling of Ryder was chosen after pro cyclist Ryder Hesjedal—a Canadian just like my character and riding in the Tour de France which I happened to be watching while I was brainstorming.

farinthewildsBut if Ryder was easy to name with lots of inside jokes, Delilah was nothing but pain. First, I called her Diana. It was a common name for society beauties in the 1920s and ‘30s. But it didn’t fit. Like a shoe that is slightly too small, it felt constraining for her. Diana is a grown-up, polite name, and Delilah isn’t always either of those. Then I tried Daphne which was better—it had an insouciantly flapper quality—but it wasn’t quite right. And then I hit on Delilah which I knew instantly was perfect. Biblical but unholy, it hit on the contradictions in her character. Originally her surname was Dalgliesh—possibly to be spelled Dawlish to avoid confusing readers. But as soon as I decided on Delilah, I had to change Dawlish. It was just far too similar to Delilah Dawson, the lovely and hilarious writer of steampunk bludbunnies. So Dawlish was out and Drummond was in. I liked the idea of her being alliterative, of having something poetic about the meter of her name and the solid respectability of Drummond was a perfect foil to the flirtatious wink of Delilah as a first name.

Deanna Raybourn

Deanna Raybourn

A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a double major in English and history and an emphasis on Shakespearean studies. She taught high school English for three years in San Antonio before leaving education to pursue a career as a novelist. Deanna makes her home in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and daughter and is hard at work on her next novel.

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