Tag Archive | literature

Fantasy Literature: Are We Running Out of Names?

I recently published a vampire/fantasy novel entitled “Drasmyr” (see publications, if interested).  One of the characters in the novel, admittedly a minor one, is a female sorceress named Jacindra. A week or two ago, I stumbled across a blog where the writer was talking about her own character named Jacinda. They differ by a single letter. Is it just coincidence? Or are we, as fantasy writers, running out of original names?

 

What’s in a name? A few letters, a vowel or two? It is common practice for characters in fantasy literature to have unusual names; with few exceptions, they are not names one would find in the real world. Gralk, for example, is a perfectly good fantasy name… to me it conjures up images of a hideous orc, or troll character. Bob the Swordsman, though? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be caught dead writing a story about Bob the Swordsman and Joe the Wizard. They just don’t have that fantastical allure. Simean, though. That could work. Often I’ll take a common real world name (in this case, Simon) and alter it by a letter or two to create a new fantasy name. Then there is the technique of mashing letters together, sprinkling a few vowels here and there, and Whallah! A new name.

 

But there are only twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, plus an apostrophe and a dash. If you figure names range from four letters to twelve letters in length, that gives you an exceptionally large pool of combinations to work with, but it is finite. And some of them, just would not work: who’s going to use the name Xmlytekc? And if you look at the number of writers there are, that number is constantly growing. The indie book publishing site Smashwords serves the needs of some 20,000 plus writers. And there are plenty of others spread throughout the Internet. I don’t know how many of these are fantasy writers, let’s just say 1000. All those writers need names for their characters. Redundancy of names across writers is inevitable. And so we run into situations like Jacindra and Jacinda above. I wrote the rough draft of my vampire novel in 1995. I gave the head vampire the name of Lucian. I thought it was a cool name for a vampire character. But, lo and behold, a few years later the movie Underworld comes out. The head werewolf’s name is Lucian. Well, I’m not changing my head vampire’s name. So, too bad.

 

Perhaps, one would argue that this isn’t really important. Names are just names. It doesn’t matter who names which character what first. There is room for redundancy. But is that true? Do you expect anyone to give the name “Frodo” to a character in any other book than the Lord of the Rings? A really good book with a cool name or two, will stake a claim on that name for perpetuity. There will never again be another “Frodo” or “Aragorn.” Names are, in a way, a commodity, almost in a way analogous to land. With so many writers, there is a mad rush for cool character names. Who will get there first?

Ebooks: Boon or Doom

I got a droid razor this past Christmas. It came with a kindle app. I read my first ebook on it this past January. Overall, I found the experience quite positive. The small screen made the text manageable so you weren’t constantly twisting your head to read across a giant computer monitor–which is the biggest difficulty with reading anything on-line. There is less back light too, so there is less strain on the eyes. It’s easy to look up the definition of words you don’t know by just tapping the screen. Flipping through pages is easy too, just flick your finger–there’s no wrestling to separate two thin sheets that cling together, or anything like that; although, the first few times I used it, I sometimes flicked when I wanted to tap, or vice versa. I also had difficulty downloading an ebook from a site I encountered on my desktop. But after a few false starts, I figured that out too. Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I was expecting a host of problems which never materialized, from eyestrain to who knows what. Obviously, ebooks are here to stay.

 

Still, I have several issues and concerns. I am an author who has recently published a vampire book, so realize I am coming at the issue from that angle. I have a vested financial interest in how things play out.

 

There is a preponderance of free ebooks available on the Internet, now, and I’m not sure that is good thing. Granted, it can be used as a marketing technique to get exposure for your writing, but it takes around a year (give or take) to write a single book. All that effort is then encapsulated in a document that, when in digital form, can be downloaded and copied in an instant. In the beginning, there was an attempt to keep copying books to a minimum with a special license that granted only a single copy per consumer. But apparently that too, is changing. Think about debunked myths 3 and 4 (on the linked to page). These two issues feedback on each other. If your book is free and you are releasing it only to get exposure, those two factors (ebooks can now be shared, and they can be checked out of a library) are great. Opportunities for exposure are increased many times. However, if you are expecting to make a monetary reward, or, god-forbid, support yourself with your writing, you may only be doing long-term damage to yourself (and to other authors). You don’t want your book to be copied for free and distributed easily by a library when you are supposed to be making money off of sales. The two stages of the author (beginner and established) are in direct opposition here. The beginners are flooding the market with free ebooks which have a vested interest in being self-replicating. The established authors are simply trying to survive by making sales, so they have a vested interest in maximizing cost for every copy. Who will win? I don’t like it, but I suspect the beginning authors are going to drive the established authors out of business (with, perhaps, a few exceptions). To further support my point, consider the following: the bulk of book consumers can read well, but do not constitute literary professionals. They can’t tell the difference between mass market literature and classic literature (or at least, not to the degree a literary professional can). As a result, there is a large group of readers who will have very little reason to “purchase” anything but a free ebook ever again. And who can blame them? If by reading, at no cost, the “Adventures of the Newbie Writer,” they get 90% of the enjoyment they would get from reading Mark Twain or his modern equivalent for $6… why buy Mark Twain?

 

Time will tell, if the ebook is a boon or curse to authors, but, historically, technology has a tendency to “obsoletize” certain professions, so I am anxious for the future of authors everywhere.

 

Now, having written all that, I’m debating if I want to be a complete hypocrite and set up a coupon to give my ebook away for free… In the meantime, the Grim Reaper is lurking over my shoulder (or is it the Scythe-Bearer?).

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