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Sunday, February 26, 2012

And the warbling, multi-colored flying thing is a...

I must apologize to my visitors who have been led to believe that there would be significant entries at The Stream regarding the craft of writing. In my defense, this aptly-named blog is a reflection of where my head is at any given time - and - in no small amount driven by the time available to reflect (in writing) on what is rattling around in there.

Well, this one's for you!

            I bet ten people would have ten different names for this...

My thoughtline today has to do with naming conventions in a novel.

Can we assume that everyone in a novel has the same educational background? Naturally, the answer is, "That depends."

In the genre of fantasy when we, as authors, bring two separate civilizations together, there must - almost by default - be a continuing confusion and/or misunderstanding over the naming of even the most simple things. For example, as I watched the robins scamper around my backyard this morning, I thought about what I would call these orangy, red-breasted birds if I had not been to school and learned that 'robin' was indeed their name. Or if I did not have access to the Internet or books that presented our collective knowledge about them (and other bird species).

Likewise the blue jay, cardinal, sparrow, pigeon, woodpecker, and others that periodically show up in our neighborhood environment.

I'm writing a novel that brings together a generally Euro-medieval civilization with one based on our own native American culture, albeit from several hundred years ago. It is highly likely - concerning these two civilizations, separated historically by impassable geologic barriers and only brought together through the influence of a singular character - that Atrius and Raven (my two protagonists) would have completely different words for nearly everything.

So how do I overcome this obvious linguistic barrier? Should I let the omnipotent voice allow me to overlook this inconvenient truth? After all if (as in my world) one God created all things, is it not possible that all His peoples would call the things of His creation by the same name? Or perhaps I should just sprinkle in a few examples of correction/education as Atrius, whose land will play host during the majority of the first book, points out what his names are for various things.

This in turn will be the case for Raven as the second novel will pass through her land, albeit briefly, before both protagonists travel to yet a third culture where there will most certainly be different terminology. 

I should pause to note that in the first drafts of these novels, everyone does speak the same language. Differentiation is illustrated in some cases by syntax, and in others by cultural reference; but my thought at this stage is that coming up with three completely different languages would be impossible, with the only other choice being to (through some clever omnipotent touch) allow foreigners to understand each other's language as geographic barriers are breached.  

Do I look at this issue in a two-dimensional light? Or do I weave it into the narrative as another point of discussion for Raven who, after tiring of Atrius' (potential for) constant correction in the first book, will use it as a petard on which to hoist his ego as Atrius finds himself struggling to find a lexical anchor in the second book?

It is a small but nontheless key point of order that I am struggling to put together a solution for.

Ideas? Opinions? Advice?


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