I think a lot about fantasy meta.
Maybe too much. I’m not sure.
Although I do know that, when sitting in a car with another writer recently, I dipped into my obnoxious fantasy meta-speak and almost completely killed the conversation. “Well, it’s the same way that we as humans write human-centric stories without realizing. And there’s no way to get around that. You could–” and this is the point when I realized my friend had tuned me out.
I mean, he probably didn’t, but I definitely felt self-conscious enough to stop in my tracks. Because I know that, if I don’t stop myself, I’ll just go on and on about the weird, completely throwaway observations I make about the genre. Thoughts that dangle precariously from the line between “interesting” and “almost meaningless.”
Still, I think about these things. So, I figured, why not share? Or at least vent, so that I’m not tempted to assault another friend with meta-speak.
Earth-Modern Words That We Can’t Use As Names
The fantasy meta loophole that always comes to mind first is the Earth-modern word that makes a great name . . . but can’t be used as such because of its Earth-modern denotations.
And, the example I always think of when this comes to mind . . . is “circus.”
“Circus” . . . would make a great name for a knight. Possibly a nobleman. Really, any character in a fantasy world analogous to medieval England.
At least . . . it would make a great name if it didn’t mean “a large public entertainment, typically presented in one or more very large tents or in an outdoor or indoor arena, featuring exhibitions of pageantry, feats of skill and daring, performing animals, etc., interspersed throughout with the slapstick antics of clowns.”
Clowns. “Circus” would make even the most open-minded reader think of clowns.
The real pain is that, even if there aren’t circuses in your fantasy world, it doesn’t matter. We, as humans of Earth, will still think of over-sized shoes and face paint. We probably always will, assuming that clowns persist in modern culture forever (worst-case scenario).
This means that, at best, a fantasy writer can only use a word like “circus” as a name for a fantasy character if they do so to send a clear message about that character. “Circus” (maybe altered to “Sercos”) would have to be an buffoon. His name would have to be a cheeky wink at the reader–a thing I would never do.
And that kind of sucks. Because “Sercos” would be a pretty sweet name.
So would “La’Treen.”
So would “Wan Millian.”
Just food for thought.
I’ll keep it short for tonight, so this doesn’t turn into a rant.
If you’re a regular, thank you for your continued support. Tomorrow, I’ll finish up with this week’s pair of Let’s Makes. I’m excited for it actually, because I get to talk about my least favorite fantasy creature of all time on this blog–again. Curious what it is? Well, you’ll have to tune in fo–spoilers: it’s lizardmen. I hate lizardmen. Sorry. Couldn’t contain it. You can tune in tomorrow to find out what these mindless vessels of disappointment have to do with the Let’s Make though. Hope to see you there!
If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.
Either way, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.
3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About: A Fantasy Loophole–Earth-Modern Words That’d Make Great Names, If Only We Could Use Them”
I often find myself making connections between seemingly random concepts and ideas that no one else understands. They stop listening so I stop sharing them. On the subject of naming so that the word reflects a deeper culture and therefore has the ring of authenticity, you are probably aware of Tolkien’s approach. Reading the collection of letters by Tolkien which reveals his painstaking world-building is a rewarding experience.
I’m actually not aware of Tolkien’s approach (which I’ll absolutely rectify with those letters). But, working with the Tolkien characters and names that I know, he’s never obvious or tasteless, which is the way to go.
I just wish “Circus” wouldn’t be immediately obvious and tasteless. There are workarounds, I’m sure, but I can never name a character “Circus” with that spelling. Sigh.
Anyway, you should share those random concepts and ideas, sir. Do you have a blog, Mr. Ridgerider?
Hi Louis. I’m sure there’s a niche for ‘Circus’ somewhere. My blog is at http://tomghadams.uk Cheers.