Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rule of Ka'a (Thumb)?

A friend of mine recently reminded me of the Fiction Rule of Thumb as explained my the Gods of Wisdom (a.k.a xkcd).

As sarcastic as the cartoon seems I can't deny it has something of a point. Though, I must admit, in my mind, there's a steeper curve. Because, it seems to me, there must come a point when you've made up so many words, what you're doing is no longer recognizable as writing in English.

This leads me to my quandary. A friend of mine (as yet un-Named, to this blog at any rate -- working on that) pointed out while looking at my MS for Cordamant's Heir that many names I use, while actual names from the planet Earth and probably familiar to some people, are not common in the Hemisphere in which I live and will be trying to publish. What this means, it turns out, is that they generate the same functional confusion on the part of the reader that a made up word would. I can't deny, that puts me dangerously far along the Number of Words Made Up scale.

This puts my in a difficult spot. I've done what I can to keep characters from having names that I think sound too alike, but I also don't want to sacrifice this aspect of the book and end up giving them all names like Rebbecca, Gil, and Peter. It would feel like I was deleting some of the color from the story. Then again, I don't want to confuse the heck out of or utterly lose the reader.

How do you feel about using non-Standard names for characters? Are they different from made up names in your mind? How do you feel about these as readers? Are they hard to keep track of.


  1. I think names - and other words - are ok as long as they are pronouncable and have a nice ring to them.

    Although if you use made-up words, I think they need to be obvious in the context or somehow explained. For example, if you use Xsylaph as an animal, use it in a sentence that makes this immediately clear to the reader. Like, the xsylaph's saddle was obviously made of dragon leather. No doubt it only got blemish free apples and their wheat is hand-picked by virgins on full moon nights.

    Or along those lines. I totally just made that up.

  2. Tessa -- Nice example. :) I haven't made up any nouns that aren't place names yet. I'm just going to keep in touch with my betas to make sure the names don't have a hard time keeping track.