Oct 30 2011

Evolution Of A Fantasy Name

Posted by Mathias in Fantasy, Projects, The Writing Process

When I write, I don’t like to get hung up on petty things.  Like names, for example.

Names are everywhere in a fantasy story and names are, ultimately an important part of the story.  Unless you are writing some sort of comedic fantasy, it is hard to take a take a sorcerer named Tim seriously.  This is why just such a name for just such a character is used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

But while names are indeed important, they are not something that cannot change. And they are one of the easiest things to change in a story.  We’re not talking about some underlying piece of fundamental physics governing the fantasy world in question where deciding to change it half way through a 400 page novel would require massive amounts of rewriting.  We are talking about a name.

In one of my projects which are in development, I had a particular city that when I first named it as Reisen just never felt right.  Every time I said it, it grated on my mind.  Reisen?  I hated it. But it was a minor part of the story. In fact, it was only mentioned once in the whole story!  But because I had drawn the map of my fantasy world and Reisen was on that map, every time I looked at the map for something else I saw that damned named staring back at me.          

But I left it be for the longest time. Eventually I started revisiting it off and on when I just could not get past some point in the story and needed time to think. It was a good exercise in distraction that often gave me enough time to think about other parts of the story while not actually working on them.

Reisen, became Riguard, which I initially liked but came to hate because it sounded like antiperspirant. So Riguard then morphed into Risenguard then into Rothguard. I then changed it to Stonewatch, which remained for a week before I realized that sounded just too goofily fantasy.  It then became Hoguard.  Then it became Highstone, and then that turned into Vyzgyth.

Vyzgyth was simply the result of me pounding on random keys on the computer to come up with something, anything, to call this blasted city.  It was so out of place compared to the other names found in the story that I quickly remained this insignificant little town Gateway. Which, I actually kept for a while.

Later on Gateway became Paladron and then Pal Adron. Finally, I changed it to Pal Toval and it has remained that way ever since.

Then there was the lead female character in another one of my projects. When I had to put her name down for the first time in the story I literally drew a blank. I called her HeroineX. But the third time that I had to write that placeholder forced me to come up with something other than that. I called her Tissa.

In the course of five pages of rough draft, Tissa became Taasa which became Salene which became Karene which became Kelana which became Anagale which begat Tavia which gave birth to Tyana and finally, as of right now, came out as Tyrana.

What I did not do however is stop writing because I could not come up with the name on the spot. Just like I did not stop writing because of that seemingly meaningless little city in my other story. I kept writing. I let the story dictate where the name went and tried out anything that came into my mind.

Some writers get bogged down in the minutia of their work. Getting held up on something as simple as what to name a character when you have all these other ideas waiting to rush out onto paper can lead ultimately to frustration. Frustration leads to worse things, like giving up on a story.

Don’t do that. The small stuff will come and it is rare that we become so wedded to a name that it will never, ever, have the opportunity to change.

 

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