Value Of A Name
A few weeks ago I discovered the value of the domain names for my two blogs. Downjotter, despite being my neglected child, actually has a higher value than my other site, www.ten-thirtyministries.com. My first thought was that it had to be some kind of mistake. Ten-Thirty has a lot more posts and many more daily visitors, so why is it valued so low? The reasons vary, but it all comes down to the domain name itself.
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, names are important. Names identify. In some cases, they are proper name, i.e. Milton Berle or Chicago. At other times, they might be nicknames such as “Uncle Miltie” or “The Windy City”. Surnames, at one time, were used to identify a person’s occupation, lineage, or even appearance. John Smith could have been John the blacksmith or the silversmith. The surname “Williamson” would have meant “the son of William”. My own surname, Ball, was even used at one time to indicate a possible ancestor was bald. Regardless of if it is the proper name, the nickname, or even just the surname, names deserve your full attention.
When writing non-fiction, you have to be certain the names you use are accurate. If you are writing about Thomas Edison and give his middle name as “Allen” instead of “Alva”, your credibility suffers. With all of the information available at the touch of a button today, there aren’t many reasons to make such mistakes. I know from experience, however, that mistakes are possible. In certain instances, you may encounter more than one person with the same name; if you do, continue the research. Eventually, you will find the person you are looking for.
In fiction, it is equally important to get the right name. “But, it’s fiction; can’t I make up the names?” Yes, but only to a certain point. There are strongly worded suggestions you need to follow. If you are writing a story set in China before the arrival of Marco Polo, Larry the barber shouldn’t be there. Unless you are writing a time travel story, keep Larry out of China. Also, if you are writing a story set in a country not your own, make sure you get the names right. Chinese names are different from Korean names, Korean names are different from Japanese names, and so forth. One of my favorite name-related sites is www.20000-names.com (don’t leave me yet, but definitely check it out).
Another suggestion is, if you are writing fantasy or science fiction, make the names you use pronounceable. If you can’t pronounce it, nobody else will be able to, either…and that can turn a reader off. If you simply must give a character such a name, then let another character provide a nickname and use that.
When naming places—from villages to planets—keep them pronounceable as well. In fantasy, some villages, towns, and cities take their names from prominent geographical markers. For example, Waterdeep, a major city in the Dungeons and Dragons setting, Forgotten Realms, takes its name from the deep water harbor the city was built around. Another option is to determine a real world equivalent (i.e Germanic, Latin, Chinese, etc) for the region or country and look at its city names. The same thing goes for countries. Combine German words to name your Germanic equivalent nation—Ernteheim, or Harvest Home, for example.
Regardless of what you are naming—person, place, race, etc—put some thought into it. Make it pronounceable, make it logical, and it might just turn out to be believable.
Just thought I would jot this down.