Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Workshop: Names

Thanks for your patience, everyone. I'm enjoying looking through your work and getting ideas to talk about. I thought I'd start tonight by discussing names, since it's important, but somewhat independent from a lot of other worldbuilding issues. I'm going to try to be in gear on the workshop at this point and say something every day. We'll see how I go - I am traveling to L.A. this weekend for the Nebulas, and I'll try to post about that as well. Let's just say I'll be busy.

So onto names. Some of you have lots of names for people and things, and some have only a few. What I'm looking for is consistency in the sound and feel of the names - if there are to be exceptions, they must have a reason behind them. Here are my thoughts on each piece.

Jeanne: Wrai, Sharista (people), Shelton (place)
Wrai and Sharista feel a bit different from one another, but both are non-English enough that they work just fine. Shelton feels like quite a contrast to this, though - almost too English. The created names establish me as being in a non-Earth setting, but I find myself working hard to counteract a feeling of English-village that I get from the name Shelton. I'll go more into the setting and technology in a forthcoming post.

David: Jasmine Knight, Little Black Riding Hood, Captain Obvious the Masked Wrestler, Cannon Cop, Alaric, Cybergirl (individuals), SoundPod(object), Lingerie Valkyries (band), VoidWatch (group), the Veil
The names Jasmine Knight, Little Black Riding Hood, and Lingerie Valkyries set us in a world that must bear relation to current Earth. Cybergirl makes me think we're probably in some kind of future setting. I get little idea of what the Veil might be (do you the concept of Veils, David? :) ), but I'll ask more about that later. They all fit fine together provided that my assumptions are correct.

Catreona: Cindy, Keith (people), Strlinkmr (aliens), Strlinkmrlad (place)
You've got two types of names, one for humans, and one for aliens (though we don't see any alien individuals). That makes it totally fine for the two to be distinct in their sound systems. Cindy and Keith sound a little too modern-day-Earth to me. Isn't this a far future scenario on a distant planet? I remember you mentioning the Strlinkmr during one of the past workshops, and saying something about how their language was hard to pronounce. Based on these two examples, I'd say they have strange spelling but the language doesn't seem unpronounceable. There are earth languages which use spellings like this where liquids (r, l) take on a syllable value.

Colin: Lanuz, Allen (people)
I found the name Allen normal enough to surprise me when I read your piece. Now, it's possible that Lanuz's home world has different types of names from the world in which he finds himself after the warlock's intervention. I don't think Allen is too totally Earth-normal for a fantasy setting, necessarily, but I don't have much to go on since I have only two examples.

Khajidu: Xodull, Maltur, Tsumw, Tipsy, Zhebvu (individuals), tsu (animal), Orlêzh (place)
There are a lot of names in your piece - maybe more than you need. The ones that work best together sound-wise in my view are Xodull, Maltur, and Orlêzh. Zhebvu could fit into this system, though the "bv" is a surprise. Zhebvu and tsu might work together because of the consonant combinations. Tsumw was hardest for me to pronounce and reconcile with the others. There's also one last issue here: the name Tipsy is what I'd call a translated name - i.e. a name that is a word describing someone/something in English rather than a name that fits into any local language system. You might just want to leave the animal nameless, unless it becomes a critical character later in the story.

I welcome any thoughts you might have. I'll try to take on general setting and technology issues tomorrow.