I’m going to tag this under “Why Do I Do Things Like This To Myself?” Really. Because that’s the question I’m asking myself right now. It’s the question I’ve been asking myself since picking up Degrees of Subtlety again.
I could have changed my mind, but, no, I blithely went along, thinking, “It’s only one series of stories. It won’t get that difficult, and, besides, I have a whole list of names for Wizards!”
I was not taking into consideration my subconscious mind’s propensity for slamming me with new and varied characters, stories, and worldbuilding facts.
My . . . . uncertainty? Fear? Stark raving lunacy? Whatever it was, it began when I picked up DoS and restarted it. I did this without first seeking out the writing log for the original version. All I had was the original version of the story, and I thought, in my innocence, I wouldn’t have any problems simply lifting names for the various characters who were to appear from this.
I’d forgotten one extremely important fact about the original version of DoS. This fact? It was incomplete. One lesser, but equally important fact, was that I hadn’t given all the Wizards whom I expected to play roles names yet. So I blithely restarted the WIP, thinking I was all set with just the incomplete original story.
About the time I got to the third scene, which is the first from Sweetbriar’s POV, I realized my mistake. At this time, I made a frantic search, certain I recalled a vast list of names, including some already attached to various characters in the original version, on the back of the logsheet. I looked everywhere. Could not find it. Continued writing, ’cause the story had gripped me. Finally found the logsheet in a spot I hadn’t looked—a nesting stack of sorting trays—they nest or “spoon” together if you don’t stack them properly, which makes them nice for moving. Anyway, I found the logsheet, flipped it over, and . . . found a piddly list of names in the upper-left-hand corner. Maybe half a dozen or so. Certainly not enough to supply the number of characters who I could now successfully envision populating the microcosm of the Government-Funded Wizards’ School in Revustere.
I thought, “Okay, so it’s not here, but I clearly remember making a larger list than this.” So duly searched again a couple weeks later, during an energetic day in the middle of radiation treatments. No luck. Finished the search with a much-neatened desk and a serious case of the confoundeds, because I could not imagine where I’d put that page with the list of names. It had been at least a year and nine months since I’d last tried writing on the original version, and, at the time, though certainly inspired, my heart definitely hadn’t been in it, because what I had in it was definitely lacking in a lot of important ways.
I was not discouraged, though I had reached the point where I was beginning to wonder why I did this stuff to myself. I can be clever with my writing, and make sensible decisions regarding plot. Consistently coming up with names like Razorthorn, Arrowroot, Shadowshale, and Yellowcliff, however? Not quite so easy. I distinctly recall having asked for assistance with this naming convention before, with the original story, because I was enamored enough of it I hadn’t been able to convince myself to go without it, and of course I felt that way now. There are some things my subconscious, especially with regards to worldbuilding, will not give up on, and this was one such aspect, and I knew, though it seemed small, inconsequential, and thus something I should easily be able to change, my subconscious had an excellent plot- or worldbuilding-related reason for clinging to this naming convention.
So, there is a reason why I do these things to myself. I just don’t know the reason at first.
Having requested help previously, back in 2012, when I first conceived of this story, I knew it wouldn’t be an issue to ask it again. So I did. And this time received, like a shaft of light through clouds, something which could consistently help me. A link to a site which generates many things, from character names to, well, I can’t recall off the top of my head, but was certain to be a boon. I went there, ordered up some wild elf names, and . . . mixed and matched the components to create names which were at least halfway decent and sounded like the kinds of names male mages would pick for themselves, though none were as ominous as Razorthorn happened to be (and which I considered one of my more clever names in DoS; second would be the names of the twins Shadowshale and Nightstone—because I wanted names with similar components).
In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not much good with creating names for characters if they need to have specific components which have nothing to do with an alphabet I created. I do a little better on straight made-up names using the English alphabet, even if I don’t create a specific alphabet for them. The names of all my mundane characters on Hatu Napor are such names, and they come from me combining some words, mangling others, collecting obscure and/or foreign names from real-earth name lists and altering them enough to be fantasy names, and pulling them out of the air at need. With this type of naming, I’ve had years of practice, and I do even better if I have a firm alphabetical system to fit them into.
But names like Razorthorn, Yellowcliff, and Arrowroot? My mind freezes. And, worse, I decided the fairies had nature-oriented names.
This is why I ask myself now, “Why do I do these things to myself?”
But I can’t let these nature-oriented names go, because I now know the reason why Wizards take them. It is, for the Wizards, one of the very few things they have left of the Old Ways of fairy-gifted magic. And the fairies have nature-oriented names because they always have. When they were first created, the ones who created them – mortals with the gift of manipulating nature itself, who adopted nature-oriented names as part of a rite of passage into their full power – gave fairies nature-oriented names. So, even after fairies could reproduce on their own, they adopted on their own or were bestowed by other fairies nature-oriented names.
So, I’m stuck with this naming convention, but at the same time absolutely love it – because of the worldbuilding behind it. And the worldbuilding, my friends, makes all this struggle worthwhile.