Naming in a Created World: Brant’s Version.

A little while back Kathryn posted Naming in a Created World, in which she discussed the ways she has for coming up with names in her world. I found this article interesting in and of itself, but also because of the differences between her approach and mine.

I developed my story in fits and starts over a very long time. Sometimes years would go by with no actual writing taking place, just random ruminations. I am a spotty note taker, and I realized after a few years I was in danger of forgetting key elements of my story. What role did certain characters play? How did they fit into the plot? Who were they in opposition to? What was their story arc? What is this place? Why is it important? What does this doo-dad actually do?

I decided to address these issues in two ways: 1) The language used when I wrote scenes for the first time, and 2) The names I choose.

With regards to the names of characters, I tried to choose names that crystallized the character for me personally. I named one central character after Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting, forests and hills, child birth, virginity, fertility. A huntress carrying a bow and arrows. With the name Artemis I captured the image of my character and defined much of her personality.

Another character I named Morel Rihtwis. This is a joining of the medieval words for moral, right, and wise. Again, when I read the name I know this character instantly. There is no doubt about how I should write his scenes.

My biggest exception to this scheme for naming characters is my protagonist, Damon Roth. I named him because I like the sound of the name as it rolled off my tongue. It was only later that I discovered it derived from the Greek story of Damon and Pythias, a story symbolizing trust, loyalty, and true friendship. Damon as a name means constant one. I fell in love with the symbolism, at how well it dovetailed with my thoughts about the character. I began using the ideas to frame much of Damon’s character arc.

For me, names of people, places, and things became placeholders. Post-it notes within the story to remind me what I was thinking when I jotted down a quick thought. It is a technique which has served me well.

We Have a New Member

Magic City Writers has a new member. I haven’t asked her if I can use her name yet, so I will just refer to her as L.

She attended her first meeting yesterday. I think it went very well. Everyone got along, lots of good conversations, and I believe we are all on the same wavelength as to the purpose of the group.

L. is very interested in getting her work to publishable quality. We did a few writing exercises and I can state she has a nice, clear style; plenty of good ideas, and is capable of a clever turn of phrase. I look forward to chance to review her first submission.

I have invited L. to post here as well. We’ll see if she avails herself of the opportunity or not. In any event, on behalf of the Magic City Writer’s, I welcome L. to our small, quirky, group.

Avoiding the Infinite Edit

I am currently editing The Wizard’s Spells…, the first chapter of Gods Among Men, again. I have edited it many times before, but I think it is very close to being truly “finished”. Of course, I thought it was “finished” a while back.

I thought The Wizard’s Spells… was really good when I first submitted it to the writers group. Their comments made it clear the chapter wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. Someone reading that version for the first time would likely get bored during certain sections and skim pages at a time. I took the group’s comments to heart, focused on the weak or slow sections, and worked to make the chapter better.

I submitted The Wizard’s Spells… to the group again a couple of months ago. This time it was good, but not as good as it needs to be. Most of the problems were minor, mostly tightening sentences or reducing excessive descriptions. But the middle section was still mediocre at best. It was an info-dump. A long winded section that brought the momentum of the chapter to a slow crawl.

Again I took the group’s suggestions to heart. I reworked the middle third of the chapter almost from the ground up. It was easier than I thought. Substantially easier than the nightmare that was rewrite of chapter three, …Warns The Ruling Circle,….

The end result is a chapter that I believe is really, very, good. The Wizard’s Spells… has become a focused, well-paced, interesting introduction to a fantasy world and an epic story. Which is what I wanted all along.

Since the middle section required a major overhaul, I will likely submit the chapter one last time to the group. Just to make sure it is as improved as I think it is. I sure there will be more problems, and I will address them, but this should be the last time this chapter will be reviewed until I submit it to an agent or a publisher.

I say “last time” because I believe there are no more major problems with the chapter. It is possible to edit a chapter over and over and never “finish” it. I could reword sentences and rewrite the same scene over and over. Infinitely editing the same chapter, never moving on to the bigger story. At some point you have to draw a hard line and say, “Yes it could be better, but it is good enough as it is right now.”

There is no perfect sentence, no perfect way to tell a scene. To try and achieve perfection is a fool’s errand. A proper goal is to achieve a great moment. A turn of phrase that sticks in the reader’s mind, an image that burns itself into their memory. An acceptable result is to not bore the reader, to keep them from deciding your story is not worth reading.

I may, just may, have a great moment or two in The Wizard’s Spells…. The major accomplishment, however, is that I have come very close to removing all the clutter that might drive readers away.

Naming in a Created World

I have this great world all planned in my head, and have written a great deal of it down. The only problem is that they all have strangely Earthen names, like Sarah, Robert, Jeff. I want the names to be as unique to the story and the world as they are to the character, and run-of-the-mill names just won’t do. So I try my hand at creating names from scratch. Problem is, I am not a linguist, and names that look cool typed aren’t always easy to pronounce. How memorable can the characters be if their names are unpronounceable? Cases in point: Cedrixaz, Inzinnene, and Borieatla (real names from the current story I am working on, I’m afraid).

I have found a few ways to deal with this. The first is to look to the baby naming books, a standby for any writer that doesn’t write non-fiction. I can find one or two names for a hard to fit character that are real names, but are unusual or exotic enough to be worth keeping. Two of my secondary characters were renamed like this: Cirsara was renamed Cashil (which means spy), and the unnamed brother has now become Derien (a city in Georgia).

Another way to deal with the unpronounceable is to make them semi-unusual. Take a name that is easy to pronounce, and simply add a suffix or prefix to it. That way, if the reader (or even characters in the story) don’t want to use their whole name, they can still pronounce it. You can sometimes even get away with just adding an extra letter, usually a vowel, to the name to make it sound more other-worldly. Three of my characters have this feature: Diagna (Diana with a G), Saramants (Sara with –mants), and Verahadraad (Vera with –hadraad).

If the character is actually foreign to your world, it is okay to leave that hard to pronounce name attached, as many on the world may also have a problem with it. Again, two of my characters are from off-world originally, and therefore have names strange to the planet. However, they also have more common sounding names that people use everyday. Vico and Starimin were transplanted to this world when theirs collided with its moon. On their world, their names not only were hard to spell, but elongated the older they got. Starimin’s full name is Starimin Cedrixaz-en’toupo-degritions-en’for-delawn’sha’ysee. Her father Vico’s name is even longer, and he almost never gets to use it.

As for the naming of a place, I relied on two sources that were full of names to pull from. Many of the place names on the surface of my world were pulled from Biblical place names. Examples are Bethel Bara and En-Hakkore. In the watery underworld of my planet, most of the place names were pulled from scientific names of whales and dolphins, like Physeter (former genus for sperm whale) and Novaeangliae (specific epithet for humpback whale). Cool names, and I already have a list available to choose from.

Realistically, you can pull names from anywhere. I even read a book once where the character’s names were license plates, like Z3435R. If you can pull that off, more power to you. Me, I will continue to use what I know to fill in the gaps of what I want to know, all while making sure that future readers won’t get stuck on something silly like pronunciation.

Grammar: The Bane of My Existence

Grammar and I have a hate-hate relationship.

I have long wanted to understand grammar, I know people who understand grammar, and I have had various grammar rules explained to me over and over and over again.

It sounds like gibberish. Not Lewis Carroll gibberish, which I understand. More like its a game someone with short-term memory problems is making up while they are playing.

I consider myself fairly clever. I did well in school and have two bachelor degrees and a masters degree to show for it. I almost minored in literature! I have excelled at hard, complicated, subjects. I work as a computer programmer and regularly deal with complicated issues that I alone seem able to untangle.

So why is grammar so freakin‘ hard to understand?

I write by the sound of the sentence, the rhythm of the words. There is a beat to language which I cannot express but do hear. That is enough for me to find the path to tell my stories. But eventually, inevitably, someone says something like, “I like your ideas, but you need to work on your grammar.”