Patricia Burroughs: How a Name Defined a Character and a History


Once again, we welcome author Patricia Burroughs to Magical Words.  Patricia Burroughs loves pooks glassesdogs, books, movies, and football. A lifelong Anglophile, she treasures her frequent travels in the British Isles researching The Fury Triad, the epic fantasy that has taken over her life and heart. She is a Nicholl Fellow, a proud member of Book View Café, and a fifth-generation Texan. She and her high school sweetheart husband are living happily ever after in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.

I can’t remember how I chose the surname Fury. I liked it because sounded cool with Persephone, and had a power of its own. There was the issue of it being so closely aligned with a mythos of its own that I might be making a mistake to use it, but I loved the name and decided, done!

My idea for the Fury family was that they were part of the Norman invasion, aristocrats back to the year dot, so to speak. Persephone was a daughter of privilege, raised in luxury, a part of the magical Regency Society. I assumed that Fury was probably a French name, which supported the Norman invasion bit.

But research showed me that I was sadly mistaken. That instead of Norman, my Fury family would be… Irish?

Wait. How could my aristocratic family in the early 1800s be Irish?

If you’re not familiar with this aspect of history, the Irish were pretty much under British thumbs for centuries, were looked down on with great disdain. It was fairly unlikely that any Irish family would be living in England with a position of wealth and prestige unless—

Well, let this adage of the Magi in my books give you a hint:

In England it is said that the Furys have a gift of pleasing kings.

In Ireland ‘tis said, never trust a Fury.”

Enter: Bardán Fury.

Bardán Fury is my Fury family’s ancestor. He has been dead for centuries when my book starts. Why would he have characterization issues, and why would it matter to me writing a book about his descendants? Well, that’s what I got for choosing an Irish name, and his characterization did end up mattering.

A lot.

When Henry VIII made his move on Ireland, my Bardán was quick to side with power. By betting on the right side to win, he ended up in the English Court as bard and advisor, without Henry or anyone else ever the wiser that they had a magical person amongst their numbers. He even received a lovely manor house as a boon for his services. You can read more about that here, because that presented its own set of plot twists and rich historical irony.

But Bardán read the writing on the wall and saw that if Christian vs Christian could result in forced conversions, executions and even war, the Magi were in deep trouble if the Ordinary people ever figured out that magical people walked amongst them. He turned the silver tongued charms, political savvy and power of persuasion he’d honed in Henry’s court toward the Magi, and convinced them to withdraw from the Ordinary world completely and form their own society, their own world, right down to establishing (with Bardán’s careful guidance) their own king and court—the House of Pendragon. Of course there was no claim to a true connection between Arthur Pendragon and the first Magi king, but they didn’t let that stop them from usurping the name.

Thus, the idea that the Furys not only pleased kings, but were king-makers.

And again, being no fool, Bardán established the ideas and ideals of a new society, and left the politics and hard work of making it all happen to all the new Magi lords jockeying for favor. He took his own family, retired to his manor house with his music and his stories and a future unfettered by politics and world wide open for exploration.

But he also made certain that none forgot his role, his power, and his family’s importance

When they reached the fireplace, all other thoughts fell away.

The Fury marble, the warm, dark green of a forest glade touched by sunlight. The gift of Bardán Fury to King Constantine, it was a miracle of art and magic and skulduggery, an emblem of his support and a reminder for the ages that it was Bardán Fury who had made this king a king. Carved into its surface high on the wall was the handsome countenance of the king in all his splendour, but the mantle itself was supported by the exquisite nude carvings of an unnamed god and goddess, physically and symbolically supporting the king and his progeny.

All knew that the god, his tightly curling crown of hair and classically perfect body with strong shoulders and long-fingered hands carrying the weight above, was patterned after Bardán Fury himself, his eyes cast at the floor in all modesty.

Persephone stepped forward and laid her hand against his shoulder and gasped at the contact. It was warm, despite the fact that the fireplace itself was cold and empty. Her eyes closed, and she felt the marble beneath her palm throb in recognition. She reached deep for some inkling of that first Fury, some bit of magic to soothe her, to resonate, and felt nothing more, after that first quick pulse. Finally, regretfully, she let go and found Lord Greylund’s eyes upon her.

Fast forward two-and-a-half centuries and we find the Fury legend and reputation of king-makers is alive and well, as various factions begin circling in an effort to get close to the Furys, to form alliances by friendship, marriage or even abduction.

Suddenly, I had the beginning of a premise, the presence of a threat.

Just as Bardán Fury’s image supports the weight of the vast marble carving of the first magical king, his history and his character support the weight of the story I built.

All because I chose the name Fury.

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Persephone Fury is the Dark daughter, the one they hide.

England, 1811. Few are aware of a hidden magical England, a people not ruled by poor mad George, but the dying King Pellinore of the House of Pendragon.

The Furys are known for their music, their magic, and their historic role as kingmakers. When Fury ambitions demand a political marriage, Persephone is drugged and presented to Society–

Only to be abducted from the man she loves by the man she loathes.

But devious and ruthless, Persephone must defy ancient prophecy, embrace her Dark magic, and seize her own fate.

Be swept away into the first book of a dark fantasy series combining swashbuckling adventure, heart-pounding romance, and plot-twisting suspense.

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19 comments to Patricia Burroughs: How a Name Defined a Character and a History

  • Another good example of how writers give themselves problems and then go about solving them.

  • To me, these things make writing more like an excavation than a creation, and it feels like magic–like discovering what already exists and is waiting for me, instead of making arbitrary choices.

  • momof3boysj

    Love how you picked the name. And the history of the family. Definitely have to be a plotter for writing this creatively!

    **I was glad to hear it wasn’t because you had a Plymouth Fury in the 70s–ours was green. Dad, driving alone, was oft mistook for being a “plain wrapper” police car in CB-talk.

  • I think it’s fascinating that a name choice sent you on such a quest! You may not know this, but part of my critical thesis for my MFA was on naming characters. The names we choose often create connotations for the reader that add meaning to the character’s personality. Dickens was a master at choosing interesting names for his characters, but you see clever choices elsewhere, too. Nabokov named his protagonist (a child molester) in Lolita “Humbert Humbert,” a name that sounds ludicrous and unassuming. It lulls the reader into accepting Humbert at the beginning before realizing that he’s evil. The name “Voldemort” comes from the French words, “Vol de Mort,” which means to “steal death.”

    The name “Persephone Fury,” seems like a perfect choice for your heroine!

  • I haven’t thought about CB-talk since… well, the 70s! Although I think the Fury was a bit of a muscle car, wasn’t it? Well, until they turned it into a station wagon!

  • momof3boysj

    No, it was too big for a muscle car or at least the style we had. The Charger, Challenger, etc… were some of the muscle cars. Some Darts were sporty. The Grand Fury was used by many police departments in the US. My dad worked for Chrysler, so we always had Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge vehicles.

  • momof3boysj

    Although, the car in the Stephen King book may have been a Fury.

  • Another Chrysler family!

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Thank you for sharing this cool story about the evolution of your world’s history. It’s things like this that make me feel much more creative when I’m working within a set of constraints. Trying to problem solve to make something work is just so much fun!

  • Constraints are when it gets fun. A blank page doesn’t scare me. A blank idea–anything goes–does. I need something to push against!

  • Razziecat

    Names are of the utmost importance to me. Without the right name, my characters don’t come alive. And the adventure of discovering what’s behind those names is one of the best parts of writing 😉

  • The names I choose don’t always have deep meanings, but certain aspects of them need to fit the world as I see it. I remember how astonished and delighted I was as a young girl to realize that my friends who were Methodist mostly had English surnames, my friends who were Presbyterian were largely of Scottish descent, and my Lutheran friends had German and Scandinavian names. That sounds obvious, but to me, in a boring white-bread section of Dallas, Texas, it was living history.

  • quillet

    Your story about the Fury name and how it led you to develop their history reminds me of something I read about Tolkien. If someone asked him about some aspect of his world or the invented names and languages, and if he didn’t know the answer, he wouldn’t say he needed to figure out an explanation or make something up. He’d say, “I’ll try to find out.”

  • I went through more or less the same thing with my latest revisions. Before starting the first draft, I named my hero the way I usually do – scrolled through BabyNames until I found something that fit. Flannery Hildebrand he became, Flann for short.
    Delving into the worldbuilding, I rooted my fictional people deep into Irish history, making them descendants of Irish commoners fleeing the Norman invasion in the early eleventh century. Then I stumbled across the problem of my hero’s last name – Hildebrand, a distinctly Scandinavian title. I loved the name and didn’t want to change it, so I started researching it more and discovered the Lay of Hildebrand, an epic poem chronicling the tragic battle between Germanic hero Hildebrand and his son, Hadubrand.
    Fast forward several centuries and I had invented Rafer Hildebrand, the descendant of a disgraced Hadubrand who (in my fiction) fled to Normandy after killing his father. Rafer was a Norman knight who joined the invasion of Ireland and so joined my fictional exodus of the Irish to the imaginary island of Arishea. In adding this Norman knight I lent a depth and richness to the history and a link between the Hildebrands and the other main family in the story, the Feoras family, which made the entire story feel a little deeper.

  • @jeanne, no, I had no idea there were classes designed solely around choosing character names. I think it would be fascinating and possibly daunting!

    I’ve often pondered Humbert Humbert and wondered about the intent behind it. Ludicrous, yes. Unassuming? I guess you’re right. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But the name (or pet name) Lolita is simply delicious.

  • @quillet, I didn’t know that about Tolkein! It gives me a wonderful little thrill to read it, though, because I will never begin to approach the detail and scholarship of that great man, but to know I share tiny creative habit is very cool.

  • @unicorn — what a fabulous story. And yes, doesn’t it make your entire world’s history richer and more textured? And possibly has a trickle-down impact on your hero. I love it.

  • “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

    As I grow as an author, I find myself delving deeper and deeper into names and meanings. It’s ironic how words and stories can sometimes be easier to pluck from our imagination than character names. Our characters come from us and are a part of our lives. Just like choosing our own children’s names, the names we give our literary creations have to be ‘just right’. Then, when you think you have it, facts or history affect fiction and send you on a wild goose chase to make your perfect creation work for your project. Great job on making it work, Patricia Burroughs – your creation couldn’t be better named!

  • I considered a pseudonym, have always wanted one, but could never come up with one I liked. Names can be so hard!