Thinking out loud: THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES

ba-cover-tiny(First things first: this should post to the Luther Siler Facebook page, a change I’ve been meaning to make for a long time; posts have been showing up on my real-name page instead.  We’ll see if engagement drops; it’ll be interesting to see.)

Okay.  So.  I’m trying to name some characters, and I’d like to hear some suggestions from those of you who have read THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES ($2.99 cheap!) or even those of you who haven’t, if you’re able to form an opinion just based on what you see here.  I need to name some characters, and I’m not sure at the moment what direction to go.  They’re literally named NEEDANAME and ALSONEEDANAME in the manuscript right now.

Some background information: I use traditional high-fantasy races as stand-ins for “aliens” in this book; the two main characters are a gnome and a halfogre.  Let most of the stereotypes take over, although I’ve twisted a few of the races in ways that please me.

GNOMES:  Gnomes have, for lack of a better phrase, standard fantasy names, such as Brazel, Rhundi, Darsi, and Gorrim.  Only female gnomes have surnames; Rhundi’s is Tavh’re’muil, and I haven’t decided if most gnomic surnames are as flowery as that.  Males technically have their wives’ (or mothers, if unmarried) surnames, but Brazel would never refer to himself as Brazel Tavh’re’muil.  It’s not done.

OGRES:  Also standard fantasy names, although I’m trying to make them shorter and a bit more guttural-sounding.  The one named ogre so far is Grond.  No surnames.

HUMANS:  All humans have personal and surnames, which work much as they do in the Western world, although they can be more fantasy-style or more mundane, much in the same way that the main character in Dune was named Paul Atreides.  So, theoretically I could have a human character named Bill or Steve or Jim.  Or, uh, Angela.  Who is technically an Iklis sniper’s longbow, but she has a human name.

GOBLINS:  Goblins do not share their personal names with outsiders, only their surnames.  If there are multiple members of that clan around they tend to number themselves; Rhundi talks to a goblin named “Twelfth Corvix” in one of the stories because she has a number of goblins of that clan working for her.

DWARVES:  Dwarven females and high-ranking dwarven males (generally, only the children of incredibly high-ranking dwarven females, such as clan leaders) have what I’m thinking of as “story names,” such as Shocks-the-Mountains, Smashes-the-Stars, Majesty-of-Nature or Glow-of-Twilight.  I’ve only used three-word dwarven names so far but there’s no reason they can’t be longer than that.  Dwarven males have three-letter names and they or may not be pronounceable.

TROLLS:  Trolls are kinda complicated.  They’re shapeshifters, and their name is dependent on their current shape.  So is their personality, to some extent, although it’s important to realize that they’re all one being– just a complicated one.  The “base” name for a troll is generally tripartite, such as Sirrys ban Irtuus bon Alaamac.  Calling a troll by name depends on which shape you’re looking at; the troll I refer to here is generally known as Irtuus-bon, but his shortest, most childish and petulant form is addressed as Sirrys.

ELVES:  Here’s the problem.  Elves are kinda a spoiler, although they’re a spoiler that gets spoiled within about the first fifty pages of BA 8 and I’m not sure that the way elves work is really all that terribly important as far as spoilers go.  I cannot decide how to name my elves.

Actually, let’s do this:  If you want to make just a random suggestion on how to name elves, go ahead and put one in comments right now, but you probably don’t want to read anything anybody else has to say.  I’m putting the rest of the post under a jump in case anyone really wants to avoid spoilers for BA 8.  It’s not a huge deal, I promise:

So.  Elves.  Elves are almost entirely genderless, meaning that I can’t use traditional pronouns with them; elves are referred to as xe (he/she) or xir (him/her) whenever they show up.  So their names cannot immediately scan as being of either gender, which is tricky enough as is.  There are gendered elves out there (Lady Remember is a female, and while she’s not actually an elf, some people think she might be, and that wouldn’t work if all elves were ungendered) but they are very rare and having an identifiable gender may actually be considered a birth defect.

What I’m kicking around right now, though, is having Remember be an elvish-style name. In other words, and to pick some names that I’m not actually going to use, elvish names could be verbs or nouns or qualities, much like the way people are named Patience or Prudence or Charity now.  Trouble is, while I think Remember is a great name for a character (I actually had the name before I figured out anything else about her, and you may remember that in the first draft of “Remember,” she was a man) there aren’t necessarily a whole bunch of other verbs out there that I want to use.  I’m not gonna have a character named Walking, y’know?  And I don’t know that I have a lot of other examples that I like.

(Actually, now that I say that, I’ve been abusing white people for only naming their kids after verbs or jobs– Parker, Tanner, Baker, Walker, etc– for a couple of years now; I’m not committed to this setup at all, because I don’t want elves to scan as culturally white Americans, and that might be what happens if I go with it unless I’m really careful about the names I choose.)

Anyway.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to make ’em.

(It occurs to me that two of the most well-known Star Wars characters are named Solo and Skywalker, and that the main villain’s name means Father.  So maybe this isn’t as crazy as I thought.)

10 thoughts on “Thinking out loud: THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES

  1. As much as I’d like to help, I suck at naming anything. My mother in law had to name our son because we couldn’t agree on anything and my dogs are norman and elvis… I’m not one to give name advice LOL i do like your elaborate naming system though. The thought involved in fascinating : )

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  2. Just off the top of my head… “Parker, Tanner, Baker, Walker” are all nouns referring to people who do whatever; “Remember” is a verb (to follow the pattern of the others, she’d have to be named “Rememberer”). So I think you could use verbs as names and avoid your elves seeming like culturally white Americans. “Travel” instead of “Traveler,” for example, or “Sing” instead of “Singer.” I’m just picking examples at random (and no, that’s not meant as a subtle joke about character names), but I hope you get the idea.

    I REALLY like that you aren’t going the route of giving your elves pseudo-Tolkienian names as so many authors do. (Drives me nuts how some people seem to think it’s a -requirement- to give elves such names. shakes head)

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  3. pjsandchocolate

    1) the Academy of Saint Gabriel has a seriously complete list of historical medieval names found in many cultures on the Eurasian continent, as well as some Arabic lists. And they are always adding more. Yes – Gandalf was a real person, “big-tits” was an accepted descriptive byname, and Asenath was still being used up to about 100 years ago (which dates back originally to old Egypt, I believe).

    2) Sometimes looking at a regular word or name backwards and moving/replacing a few letters in my head gets me thinking “oooooooo….that sounds snazzy.”

    3) Foreign languages. You’re the uber smart-guy with multiple degrees – if you like “Remember,” what’s the Latin word for it? Find that and replace a couple of vowels or something.

    Those things sometimes work for me. And other times don’t. Hope it helps.

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    1. 1) oh my god that site will come in SO HANDY THANK YOU.

      2) true, but it’s not a theme.

      3) I gotta be real careful with Latin, because aliens. That said, right now one of the elves might be named Asper, because “Asperity” scans too female for me.

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  4. Digging the dwarf naming system (see what I did there?). You could make one dwarven character seem more special/evil by having a four part story-name, or even a two part one.
    Agree with pjsandchocolate that foreign languages could be a great way to go. That Academy of St Gabrielle site looks insanely useful, cheers!

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