Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tuesday Thoughts

So a confession:  a small part of why I prefer to write secondary world fantasy as opposed to contemporary fantasy is I struggle with names.  "Normal" names often don't have enough resonance for me to easily associate them with characters.  On the other hand, there is a limit to how "weird" the names in a story can get before it becomes comical or breaks disbelief in a different way.  (You can easily make a reader believe the world contains a hidden society of vampires, werewolves, magicians, etc, but characters with bizarre names?  That's just too fantastic.)

In roleplaying games, one of my favorite tactics has been to have the character go by a simple / normal nickname that comes from a more complicated / unusual name.  So Tate was Tatyana; Liv was Sullivan.  In Flow, Kit's actual first name is Enid - her nickname comes from her middle name.  Then, of course, there are the characters who have elaborate, overblown names because it suits their background or the plot.  In "Lip Service," the narrator complains about her mother deciding to name her Arcana.

I find males even harder to name than females - in any setting, but particularly in the contemporary world.  It always seems to me that, societally, parents are more willing to experiment with unusual and colorful names for girls.  And, of course, the girls have "stolen" many an interesting name from their male counterparts!

This reminds me of a story my former teacher tells about Welsh triple harp player Robin Huw Bowen (male).  When he arrived at the airport, she picked up his harp from security ... by claiming to be him.

For me, I think part of the issue is the more common a name is, the more likely it is that I know or have heard of (writer, actor, musician, etc) someone by that name.  Whether consciously or not, my brain has built associations between that name and that individual, and the name no longer free-floats in space to be used at will.

That said, there are always names I just gravitate towards.  I've always been a big fan of the name Vivian, and when I was little, I wanted desperately to be named Cynthia.  (I was a weird little kid.  Have I said that before?)  On the boys' side, for whatever reason, I've always liked plain ol' Jonathan - not Jon or John, but fully spelled out.

... and with that, I flee back into another world.

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