The Repercussions a Character Name Change Caused

I hold tight to the belief that problems are opportunities, like recognizing there was a wrongness to Riparia’s character in Book 1, Trust in the Forgotten. Yet, I couldn’t identify it because, on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with the book.

Then, I remembered a seemingly insignificant event that occurred and the reason struck me. The book’s protagonist is still, too often, Ergain Cursa instead of Riparia Dellbane.


Yup. I failed to compensate when I changed her name.

A name change did all that?

The short answer is, yes. The longer answer, which is this post, is about the reason for the name change I’d resisted for a year. It’s even possible the change went awry because I was ill the year before the change was made. Oh, and before you mourn Ergain, she isn’t dead. Not exactly.

Okay, buckle-up because I have a tale to tell…

How I Got There

Ergain Cursa was born in my first series, The Other Side of the Aperture (2000-02). The 650K monster was awful, but I’ve stolen ideas from it over the years. One of those good ideas was a side character.

Kovenlore Chronicles Series

Diagram: CA Hawthorne

Ergain Cursa.

She was slated to die early in the first book, but intrigued me, so I gave her a thread of her own.

After a grain silo’s worth of life stuff, I returned to writing in 2012 (before my blog). What to write? I resurrected a favorite character from Aperture.

Thus, Ergain Cursa returned as the main character in Where Light Devours.

*Remember that title! Sometimes our subconscious leads us.

The problem was I’d resurrected an old, creaky plot. Still, I wouldn’t let it go. In mid 2014 I won a first chapter critique. It was hammered, and justifiably so.

Ergain begins this exchange with an innkeeper:

“The Keepers seem to have trouble coming from every direction as of late.”

“Nels said he suspected treachery…”

Her attention returned to him. “What?”

Belden shrugged, the agitation in his voice continuing to moderate. “He said nothing more except that he’d have you take a message to Becker, but now he’s gone and I’m at a loss to understand his suspicions.”

“As am I, but something is amiss. I’ve sensed it for months now. All’s been quiet in the north for years.” Her eyes moved about as if searching for answers dangling in the air. “Perhaps the unseen have not come searching for Keepers, but instead come to collect them?”

He muttered, “I’m not certain I understand?”

Emerging from her mental distractions, she looked up at the tall man, her gaze intense. “It’s best if we talk of this no more. If they’ve not yet visited here that’s a good sign. Nevertheless, it’s wise to be as cautious as you’ve obviously been.” She stepped closer and placed a calming hand on his forearm, though she refrained from any further demonstrations of her gift. “Others are awaiting my arrival elsewhere or I’d await Barrik’s return. As is usual he’s unreliable.”

My response to the critique was a funk. Later that year, I was urged to try NaNoWriMo. I did, but wouldn’t touch Ontyre fantasy. In the end, though, my funk ended.

In a BIG way.

Through 2015 I dedicated myself to learning craft, mastering Deep 3rd POV, and overhauling my Ontyre worldbuilding. My medieval fantasy was modernized. I drafted Trust in the Forgotten in April 2016 and, yet again, brought Ergain back. I was sufficiently satisfied to turn it into a series.

That November I drafted the sequel, A River in Each Hand, while extremely sick (remember this too). My health returned in 2017 and I drafted Book 3, Exhuming Truths.

That was when everything changed.


Books 2&3 took the story in an unexpected direction, uncovering aspects of Ergain’s past unanticipated in Book 1. The problem appeared in Book2, but I was ill and didn’t want to lose her. The third book made a change inevitable.

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

Spoiler! I can’t divulge the reason. Let’s just say there’s a naming convention involved.

In January 2018 I made the change.

Now, I’m conducting my revision map edits of Books 6&7. Suddenly, Riparia’s inconsistent characterization and voice jump out at me. At first I was baffled — until I remembered the name change.

The other tweaks that went along with the new name truly made Ergain and Riparia different characters.

Oddly, the issue isn’t as pronounced in Books 2&3. My illness (remember that?) when drafting Book 2 forced a rewrite in 2018 and Riparia stepped in. Meanwhile, Riparia doesn’t appear in the prequel until near the end.

Ergain’s Fate

In a way, Ergain and I were together for 18 years, which contributed to resisting the change. She’d become the wrong character for the series, which wasn’t her fault. I mourned her, trying to tell myself Riparia is Ergain with a new name. It didn’t work because it wasn’t true. So, Ergain died.

Except, she didn’t.

While drafting this post I had an epiphany that led me down a path with a twist at its end. I hadn’t recognized her when she was right in front of me.

Ergain became Tharlise Martavien in Stealing Light (a Pannulus novel and the first Thornwillow book). I almost cried when I realized. Too, remember Where Light Devours? Yes, “light” is in both titles, though the plots are unrelated. Both characters even have auburn hair.

Oh, but it gets stranger. Though I didn’t draft the finished version of Stealing Light until 2019, I’d tried to made the story work as a novella in January 2018 — the same month I switched from Ergain to Riparia.

Soon, I’ll finish these revision map edits and return to Book 1 where I’ll know I have to think like Riparia and not Ergain (or Tharlise). That’s okay. I know she lives on.


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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