Updated: Mar 20, 2019
I have the baby name book sitting on my bookshelf here in Philly that my mother used in the early-to-mid-nineties each time she was pregnant. Us Fentons keep all of our things in very nice condition, so you can hardly tell the book is nearly thirty years old. I think I got it from her when I was around ten years old I keep this book not because I’m baby crazy, but because I am a little name crazy.
This will be a two-part blog post – because it got really freaking long
I honestly think if I ever one day become a father, the happiest moment of my life will be when I get to name another human being. At my current age (23 years, 6 months) and at my current marital status (single, with Tinder downloaded on my phone), I truly have no clue if I will or even if I want to one day enter parenthood – that would certainly be something for [insert name of hypothetical future spouse here] and I to figure out together. But I can tell you right now, naming a child would be something I would delight in doing and I know this of course, because I take so much joy in finding the perfect name for my characters.
While I’m not completely sure if I even want kids, I have a list of about five male names and five female names I’m not planning to use in a central/principal character in any of the stories I write with mine as the only name attached to the project – so I have this list of “names I really like that I could use for a child someday” that I am choosing to hold until [insert name of hypothetical future spouse here] and I decide we’re not having any more children (which that number still could very well be zero).
When I put myself in the shoes of “son or daughter of Peter Fenton” (or less specifically, the child of an author), I can would it could be rather frustrating if in your own house, your name immediately drew a comparison to a character they’ve written – good or bad. It’s maybe not the worst thing you could do to your kid. The worst thing you could probably do is take the name of your already-existing child and give it to the name of the protagonist in your series of child-rearing books wherein the protagonist is an idealized version of your very real and very impressionable human child which leads them to psychotically compare themselves to this character for the rest of their lives – I learned some wonderful parenting lessons when I read Gone Girl!
But anyway – if I am one day a father, even though I love each of these names, I will have to respectfully choose to probably not name any child of mine Caleb, Andrea, Jacqueline, Abigail, Ciera, Vivian, Kimmi (though Kimberly would probably still be fine – provided we call her Kim), Scott, Mitchell, Daisy, IdaLynn – since I have very specific (and very public) record of the image of what those names mean to me.
What I thought could be interesting for the back half of this blog post (and the full length of my next) would be to walk you through some of the names and inspirations I chose for characters and the process I went through for each of my three plays to date. We’ll do Knights today, and later on, I’ll cover Rose and See Amid.
I came up with (most of) these names literally a decade ago – but I will attempt to retroactively assign meaning to them and justify why they remain good and meaningful names. Knights of the Square Table itself is sort of a hodgepodgey conglomerate of Western European fantasy, incorporating watered-down elements of varying size of British, German, and French fantasy.
The Kingdom of Slekochovakia (and other locations)
To really sell that silliness of the kingdom and its surrounding areas, pretty much every place mentioned in the play is a twisted version of the name of a real-world country: Slekochovakia (unified from the Slek Republic and the Kingdom of Chovakia), Prance (and its capital city Farris), Gortupal, Just OK Britain. The only two names that weren’t necessarily on theme were Cape Emerald (which was a roundabout connection to Ivory Coast that I don’t think really counts) and Gentlemandia (which is a shout-out to my friends Scott Reed and Max Terman, who co-wrote a Wheaton College Men’s Glee Club legend of the fictional land of Gentlemandia)
Sir Caleb Galahad
In Arthurian legend, Sir Galahad was a Knight of the Round Table. Using this tried-and-true name deliberately invokes that he already has a name for himself – and doesn’t really belong in this weird place. His first name, Caleb, pays tribute to Caleb Comeaux, who was the first to portray Sir Galahad in Good Knight and Goodbye in 2010.
Lady Andrea Heron
I grew up with a pond in the backyard and every so often, a heron would fly in. The herons in my backyard were graceful and looked strong, carrying a similar presence to the royal messenger’s developing personality as I rewrote the play from my childhood. As a person with a private audience with the royal family at all times, I knew the royal messenger needed a title – so Lady Heron became her name. Her first name was changed to Andrea, paying homage to her 2010 role originator Andrea Hausman.
Princess Jacqueline is intended to be a pastiche of the classic Disney Princess (by contrast, Lady Heron is more like a modern Disney Princess) – with a little bit of Super Mario’s Princess Peach thrown in as well. I wanted her to have a regal name that would ring like a House of Mouse Princess – and Jacqueline has a similar cadence to Jasmine (who you could call the headstrong beauty of Agrabah). Additionally, the name “Jacqueline” is quite French, adding to the “Western European stew” theme of character names.
This is the only other name I use from Arthurian legend, and I chose it for similar reasons to Sir Galahad: with that name, Merlin has definitely made a name for himself… though his conquests are quite different from Sir Galahad’s.
This is one where I do remember specifically why I chose Carlton 10 years ago: I chose this name distinctly because of Timothy Omundson and his role on Psych, Detective Carlton Lassiter. Carlton is also derivative of the name Charlemagne, which is a name most notably carried by a Roman emperor. I could so easily see Omundson slipping into the role of King Carlton – and I was proven right in 2015 when Timothy Omundson played the role of King Richard in Galavant, which I consider a companion piece to Knights
Victoria is the name of the British Queen in the 1800’s, or the “Victorian era”, if you will. So that name by itself was a pretty natural addition to the Western European fantasy stew. Victoria’s preoccupation with cake and saying “let them eat cake” is, obviously, a reference to Marie Antoinette and the thing she probably never said – but it also ties in with Ashley Williams’ recurring role on How I Met Your Mother. Her name is Victoria and she makes cake, that’s about where the similarities end.
Sir Marcus Krause
Here’s the first German name on the list. Krause is an ironic shout-out to my childhood friend, Sarah Krause (as you can see, the cadence of ‘Sarah Krause’ and ‘Sir Krause’ is practically identical). Sarah Krause is certainly in contention for the genuinely nicest human being I’ve ever met, and Sir Krause is… well, not. While never mentioned in the play itself, his first name is Marcus in homage to his 2010 role originator, Marcus Huertas.
Sir Jeffrey Traber
This was a role that did not exist in the original draft of Good Knight and Goodbye but was instead created in 2014. I was a freshman at Wheaton College living in – wait for it – Traber Hall. It bothered me that Sir Galahad didn’t have any real friends (as Merlin betrays him in every previous draft – and spoiler, it’s still the same as published). One distinct memory I have from Traber is all the time the other guys were talking about girls they liked – and so, in the play, Traber becomes a sounding board for Sir Galahad’s feelings for Lady Heron. Jeffrey became his first name in honor of a Traber dorm friend, Jeff Burge.
The Sirens – Circe, Parvati, Amanda
Those of you who know your Greek mythology will recognize Circe as the name of a sea witch and one of the wives of Odysseus in The Odyssey (which is a story that originates the idea of Sirens). But this grouping of three names is also significant. In Good Knight and Goodbye, Sir Galahad’s quest is slightly different and much goofier. His first two tasks in the quest are basically to appear on medieval versions of American Idol and Survivor (with caricatures of Randy/Paula/Simon and Jeff Probst and notable castaways from Survivor appearing in the play). One of the first decisions I made in rewriting Knights was to make the quest go together more so I did away with the reality TV competitions – but I wanted to pay homage to the origins of this play somehow.
Parvati and Amanda were two of the Survivor castaways whose names I used in Good Knight and in the actual show, Survivor, Parvati and Amanda and a woman named Cirie led an alliance of women called the Black Widow brigade – systematically eliminating the men one by one until they became the Final 3 on the island by themselves. By changing one letter in those names, we have our three sirens on the island: Circe, Parvati, Amanda.
Honestly, there is much less to unpack with the rest of the names in Knights, so here’s a rapid-fire coverage of the rest:
Leslie Godzillabride: She’s a wedding planner, hence Godzillabride. Leslie just seemed like a name that went with it.
Lord Diehm: German name, Diehm is my Mom’s maiden name. Seemed like a good name for a military commander.
Lady Soberick: Homage to my childhood friend, Alex Soberick.
Sir Hummel: Homage to my childhood friend, Zac Hummel.
Chef Torte: Torte is German for cake.
So that’s Part 1 of the Character Names blog post. Stay tuned for Part 2 when I do essentially the same thing with The Thousand-Year Rose and See Amid the Winter Snow.