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Posts Tagged ‘names’

As a writer of speculative fiction, I have to be aware of the spelling and pronunciation of the places and people which are part of the imaginary worlds I build.

A long jumble of letters with a weird pronunciation might seem to be a good way to announce that my story is set in a fantastical world. Bizarre accents and hyphenated names might appear to be an easy way to signal to my readers that the characters aren’t human. But I don’t want to work that hard to figure out (and remember) crazy pronunciations, and neither do my readers.

So what’s a writer of science fiction and fantasy to do? I recommend selecting names that are easy to remember and pronounce – but ones which “fit” your world.

crist-dagger For example, in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, I used baby name books to select Nordic, Celtic, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. names for some of my characters. Other characters’ names are mixed-up combinations of the names of family members and friends. Each time I began moving the letters around to create a character’s or race’s name, I used the sound of the letter combinations to determine if the result felt like it belonged in Lifthrasir.

Lifthra-what? Lifthrasir (LEEF-thra-seer) is the name of the imaginary world of The Enchanted Dagger and the forthcoming Beyond the Sheercliffs. It is from Norse mythology, and according to Teresa Norman’s book, A World of Baby Names, it means: “She who holds fast to life, desiring life…[Lifthrasir] is considered to be the mother of humanity after all perished at Ragnarok.” Well, what better name for the world I’m creating in which the good folk must fight for their lives, their children’s lives, and control of their world?

An example of my letter-scramble technique, would be Grindee, a particular kind of goblin. A dear friend’s nickname is Dee. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and I thought she’d grin during parts of the book. So why not name a goblin for her and her sense of humor?

Another example: a minor character in The Enchanted Dagger is named Mobree Dug. Mo is the nickname of another friend, and the first 4 letters of her last name are “bree.” Dug is the phonetic spelling of a brother-in-law’s name.

As for the title character, Beck – I have a sister and sister-in-law both named Becky. Plus, the name of the instructor who taught my Writing the Novel graduate course was Mr. Becker. In addition, Beck (again according to Norman’s book) is a Scandinavian name which is the “Transferred use of the surname meaning ‘dweller near the brook.'” In The Enchanted DaggerBeck comes from a seaside town, and water plays an important part in his interaction with magic.

The names of other family members and friends became a warrior race – the Janepar, a race close to nature – the D’Anlo, the wisewomen – the Alywyn Sisterhood, the Wenbo River, the towns of Raystev and Larmik, the country – Dobran, even the gravediggers Nate and Stu, and I could go on and on. (Though I won’t, since by now, you’re quite bored).

But you’ll notice, Grindee, Beck, Lifthrasir and the rest aren’t too difficult to read or pronounce. Believe me when I say your readers will appreciate the effort when you make names easy to pronounce and remember even if you world is far, far away or long, long ago or even beyond our galaxy.

To take a look at The Enchanted Skean, visit https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489363491&sr=8-1

For a totally different take on Pronunciation, here’s the link to writer friend Andrew McDonough’s take on the subject: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/2017/03/12/pronunciation

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Thanks to Trisha Wooldridge, a fellow member of Broad Unvierse (women who write science fiction, fantasy, and horror), I read this interesting post on whether the same manuscript written by a male versus a female would be considered more seriously. I offer my readers the link, and wonder if this experience is “typical” or a fluke.

I hope this author’s experiences were just a fluke, and the world of agents and publishers is as even-handed as I try to be when editing an anthology.

For your consideration: Homme de Plume What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under A Male Name.

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There’s more than meets the eye (and ear) in names. When naming their children (or pets) people often look through baby-naming books or on-line listings of names for their meanings. Some writers use those same naming guides, some pick the names for their characters and places based on sound, and some select names based on the images those names conjure up when read.

In the work of JRR Tolkien, we know that characters named Samwise, Merry, and Pippin will be likable. And when we hear Grima Wormtongue or Sauron the Great, Eye of the Dark Tower we expect evil. Who wouldn’t like to visit such pleasant sounding venues as Rivendell and The Shire? But when we hear the names Mirkwood and Mount Doom, we expect them to be dangerous places.

I sometimes use those baby-naming books for characters and places. The meanings and country (or people) where the name originated are important. I also use names from various myths and legends. Archaic words from a thesaurus or an old dictionary are another fabulous source for original sounding names. One of my favorite ways of gathering names is to jot down unusually named roads, towns, points of interest, etc. as I travel.

For my upcoming high fantasy Young Adult novel, Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir, in addition to my usual name sources, I combined bits and pieces of the names of family members and friends. For example, Stacy and Jason became Stason (one of the Hunters), John and Karen became the Joren Canyon, Wendy and Bob became the Wenbo River, and another Hunter was named Kelto (from Kelly and Tom). I even re-arranged the letters of some family members’ names to come up with places. Example: Timothy became the Mothyti River. And, one of my favorites, a type of goblin that runs in packs whose description might make my friend Denise (Dee) laugh – became the Grindee.

I’m not sure readers care where the names of characters and places come from. I suspect the source of naming is less important than creating believable, breathing, three-dimensional characters and places that can be almost seen, heard, smelled, and touched. But writers have their quirks – and meaningful naming is mine!

Today’s Tolkien trivia is based on names. 1- What was the creature Gollum’s original name? Yes, that’s an easy one. Here’s something a bit more challenging. 2- What was author JRR Tolkien’s full name? Tolkien buffs got that quickly, too. So, let’s try a more challenging question. 3- What are the names of Bilbo Baggins’ parents?

Answers to Tolkien trivia:

1- Smeagol.

2- John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. As a child, he went by his 1st middle name, Ronald.

3- If you look at the Baggins of Hobbiton family chart in Appendix C – Family Trees of The Lord of the Rings, you’ll see Bilbo’s parents were Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took. [The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994, p. 1074].

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