N’aming of F’antasy C’haracters

A robot seated behind a desk
Think I could get a robot to sit in for me at work? Then I could stay home and write.  Image from Clipart.com.

Grammar Girl hits on one of my periodic gripes about reading fantasies in Apostrophes in Science Fiction and Fantasy Names.  If I read a story, I should be able to figure out how the name is generally pronounced — even if my pronunciation is wrong — from reading.  Yet, I sometimes run into names that look like the author plucked random letters from a hat.  It’s made worse when apostrophes are used to excess to make the names look different.

I’m not someone who notices a lot of details, so if I’m noticing the names, they’re probably annoying an awful lot of people!

A while back, I was reading a book that had a good dose of both.  The author particularly liked apostrophes on common words.  I finally got fed up with these strange names and on my next story I plucked them out of a baby book.  Sent it off to a magazine, and the story was rejected — for the names!

Granted, the magazine editor was right, because my world building skills were, ahem, very lacking.  I’d just picked names I’d like and didn’t try to fit them in with a world.  I probably could’ve gotten away with it if I’d left the Russian name out!

8 thoughts on “N’aming of F’antasy C’haracters

  1. We completely agree with you, Linda. Authors try too hard to stand out, or be quirky just for the sake of being quirky and in the end lose readers. Mathair’s always had quite the flair for naming characters, but I’ve even come up with some real humdingers. We’ve had to curtail the ones that are really over the top, but try to keep our unique spin on names.


  2. Tom Elias

    I’ve used conventional/modern names as well. I feel trying to project popular names 100 or 400 years from now is ridiculous. I’ve yet to need A’lie’n T’ype names, but rest assured, I’ll leave the apostrophes for what they’re designed to do.


  3. I finally went with keeping my own languages (the names are pretty culturally fitting – I’m a serious worldbuilder), but taking the Hebrew approach to anglicization: spelling is however you want to get the pronunciation right. No joke. There IS no correct spelling, so it’s the same with my world Vardin. In English, spell it how it sounds.


  4. I’ve never liked the apostrophe tactic. There has to be reason for it to be there. Whenever I see a name containing one, my first question is if the apostrophe signifies a click consonant or an accent on one of the two letters surrounding it. Most often, when I actually hear the name pronounced, there’s neither of the two.


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