How much do authors invest in the backstory of their secondary characters? In an earlier post, I discussed the conventions and process of naming characters within the fantasy genre. The Legends of Karac Tor revolves around a series of adventures by four brothers in the Hidden Lands of Karac Tor. Like any story of this sort, there are many supporting characters, but I want to focus on one I’m particularly fond of. Since my tale is infused with Celtic lore, we need to go back…way back. In Celtic myth, Cerridwen was a goddess known for a special, magical brew which she stirred “one year and a day” to produce the coveted Three Drops of Inspiration. These were later stolen by young Taliesan, the legendary bard of old, who some assert to be the basis of the character Merlin. By virtue of this association, Cerridwen became known as the muse who brought inspiration to poets, musicians and writers. In fact, Welsh bards were known as Cerddorion (shortened by some to Credo)—children of Cerridwen.
Okay, pause. If you know my background at all, you know my stories weave in highly personal elements. However, like Cerridwen’s cauldron, others have inspired me, too. Writers like Tolkien and Lewis are obvious, but also a writer named Lloyd Alexander. Reading these (and many other) authors was highly formative to my young imagination, my view of the world, even certain aspects of my personality. How does one say thanks to an author for the influence of their writings? I decided, like Hansel and Gretel, to drop bread crumbs along the way, sprinkling homages of my reading past across my series to honor the “bards” who had come before me.
Thus was born a character named Cruedwyn Creed. Creudwyn does double duty as both homage and mythic link, via Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. In it, there is a brilliantly funny character named Fflewdurr Flamm. The stylistic synergy between Cruedwyn and Fflewdurr is intentional—a tip of the hat for those who notice. Imitation and flattery, right? Primarily, though, Creudwyn is meant as a direct connection to Cerridwen and her offspring, the Credos. Thus the name. But it goes further still. Cruedwyn is an impulsive, humorous, boastful bard. He’s loyal, witty and excellent with a sword. He’s good, fun and seriously flawed. In short, he’s is that special type of character that, love or hate the rest of the story, you can’t help but like him. Writing scenes with Creudwyn are rarely difficult. As an author, he’s a “drop of inspiration” to me. So, in homage to F. Flamm and as connection to the Celtic mythos, his name fits. His role fits. And that helps gets my juices flowing.
Even so, Creudwyn’s not a cardboard cutout. Though he’s one of the “good guys,” as the series unfolds, the irony of “Creed’s” name also helps to frame the limitations of personal goodness. Maybe more than any other character, it will be Cruedwyn Creed who clarifies what’s really at stake in the epic, unfolding history of Karac Tor. (To tell you any more would spoil part of the fun of Books 3 and 4).