Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dreaming up character names: Susie Five Eagles for The Elemental Odyssey

The following post has some minor spoilers for The Elemental Odyssey. If you want the full unspoiled reading experience, please go read the novel first. Then come back to read this post.

The names that I dreamed up for the four kids in my novel were carefully selected. Each is related to one of the four elements in some way, giving readers a (sometimes obscure) hint about what the kid would encounter in the story. I'll talk about J├╝rgen Schmidt, Kyle Morgan, and Veeksha Das later. In this post, I’ll talk about how I came up with the name Susie Five Eagles.

I’ve played role-playing games for decades. I started with the Dungeons and Dragons blue book, moved on to subsequent versions of D&D, Star Frontiers, Twilight 2000, Traveler, Harn, Gamma World, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Deadlands (my favorite), and more.

At one point my gaming group* was playing d20 Modern in a paranormal investigation campaign. Think X-Files but with a lot more shooting. I created a character named Johnny Five Eagles – a tough, Native American petty criminal trying to survive the mean streets of Seattle. I think the name Five Eagles was a reflection of Ten Bears from The Outlaw Josie Wales (one of my favorite movies).

Anyway, I really loved the name Johnny Five Eagles**. Alas, that d20 Modern campaign did not last very long, but the name has always been in the back of my head.

Fast forward a few years. I’m working on the concept for The Elemental Odyssey. Deciding on plotlines and characters and such. I knew I wanted Johnny Five Eagles in there. But, I also knew I wanted two young boys and two young girls to be the main protagonists. Turns out that plot leaned toward the two boys being German and American.

So, I had to make one of the girls a Five Eagles. I played around with a lot of first names, but finally settled on Susie. I think it has the same pleasing sound as Johnny Five Eagles.

Obviously, Five Eagles is a name related to the element of Sky (my version of the Air element). I wanted her first name to relate to Sky as well. But I chose and fell in love with Susie before I could determine if it had any relation to sky or air. Turns out it was a bit of a stretch to find such a connection. Susan is of Hebrew origin and it means lily. In florigraphy, the practice of using flowers to send coded messages, the white lily can mean “it’s heavenly to be with you” and the yellow lily can mean “I’m walking on air”. Both of these fit with my sky element. Whew!  

I had the name and now I needed the character. Each of the four kids in the novel is twelve years old, and three of them are vacationing at Mt. Rushmore. I figured one of them should live nearby, so Susie’s home is the Lakota Sioux reservation where she lives with her parents. She’s very curious, competitive, and loves the outdoors. She’s hiked all the trails in the Black Hills and is the bravest of the kids in the story. She’s not as well-read as Veeksha, nor as well-travelled as Jurgen. She has, however, invented her own hiking food: the Susie Snack!

Susie Five Eagles was the first and easiest name that I came up with for the kids. The others were a bit harder, and I’ll talk about them in future posts.

*By the way, my gaming group makes a cameo appearance in The Elemental Odyssey as soldiers.

**And I still had to use Johnny Five Eagles. He’s the first character introduced in the story, Susie’s brother and a park ranger at Mt. Rushmore who has an unfortunate encounter with one of the aliens.


  1. Cool! Susie is probably my favorite character so far - about 70% through as of now - so this background is welcome. And I'm glad you were able to connect it, but I'll be honest: no way I connected her name with her elemental.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. tony, wow, that's some fast reading.

    Yeah, most folks probably won't connect the kid name with the element. Five Eagles was the easiest to match up. The others are far more obscure.