Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's In A Name?

Naming things is the single-hardest thing about writing, at least for me. That's not actually true - self-discipline to write is the single-hardest thing about writing. But naming things comes a close second.

I have spent hours staring at computer screens, trying to decide what to call a character or a place or an institution. And not just when I'm writing. Take the rousing game of Civ 4 I've been playing: after I've run through all the towns in which I've lived, places from fantasy books I like (Lord of the Rings followed by Game of Thrones followed by Ravenloft with Arrakis thrown in for good measure), what do I start naming my new settlements?

The thing is, I'm just not very good at it. I hate naming NPCs in my RPGs for the same reason. A name should be something significant. It should say something about the character or place that rewards the reader, or makes the character or place stick out in the reader's mind (what this has to do with naming cities in Civilization, which no one but me will ever see, I don't know.) There's a lot of pressure in a name. A name must deliver.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled puppet show.

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