Thursday, January 2, 2014

Doyle and the Crazy Basil

One of the hardest things for a fantasy writer is language, especially if the world of their story is completely different from Earth. J. R. R. Tolkien created many languages for his books in Middle Earth, the most well known to be the language of the elves. While I would not be so bold to try and claim how much effort that took him, from my own experience, I would guess a lot. A world is easy to think of and create, it's the details that can be impossibly hard to figure out.

Names can be be particularly troublesome, especially if, like me, you've worked on your world for a long time and the names have kind of dried up. There are a few ways I've found that can help with that.

Ask somebody:
Don't be afraid to grab a friend by the shoulder and say, "Hey, I need a name for a character like this..." I've gotten some of my best names from asking the people close to me. Don't worry about rejecting suggestions, either. Just because someone says a name, doesn't mean you have to use it. Listen for the name that feels right for the character you're trying to identify.

Look online:
There are hundreds of websites dedicated to names; baby names, story names, name generators for games. Take your pick. The best websites are those that draw names from multiple eras and cultures. But even if the list shows mostly modern names and your world is not modern at all, scanning through it can spark an idea. You may find a name that you can use a variant of, or a name that, while modern, actually works for your character.

Use an existing archetype:
Translators can be extremely useful tools for coming up with random words. Basing your language off of one that already exists is one of the best ways to do it. The laws of language are already there, and it takes very little tweaking to make the words your own. Just be careful of languages that other people have created, such as Tolkien. True world languages can't be copywritten, but anything that has been made by another creative mind like yours can be.

Well all else fails, take a random word or words, swap the letters around a bit, and string them together again. A simple game with spotted tiles can become an evil overlord bent on world destruction, and a little crazy basil can become a super powerful instrument of war. The possibilities are endless with this method. Just stay true to the tone you want. No matter how outlandish something sounds, if it fits, it fits.

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