Results 1 to 8 of 8
December 28th, 2013, 02:46 PM #1
- Join Date
- Nov 2013
- Colorado USA
Making unique names of characters/peoples
Hello all! Opinions please on the following situation.
I'm working on early drafts of what I intend to be a larger story cycle. I've been developing meaningful names for characters/places/peoples that I carefully search out on the web to make sure they:
1. - Convey the intended meaning
2. - Are reasonably original
Recently, I found that a major name I had for a class of people in my story universe has already been established in a popular story cycle from several decades ago. Oh well, should have researched that better to begin with - scrap that name and start over!
Now, after much research, I believe I have original names for characters/subgroups of people in my developing universe - Is there any standard way to verify/lay claim to names while a story is in development? Possibly a Wikipedia entry noting a "story in development"?
I've read around the forum without finding anything specific, so how does everyone else approach this question?
December 28th, 2013, 09:27 PM #2
- Join Date
- Mar 2012
- Haikou, China
I don't think there's anything you can do, nor is there anything you should worry about doing. At this point, you can check to see if anything is trademarked. If so, change it. But to concern yourself with someone taking your names before the book has been published feels a little like putting the cart before the horse. In my opinion.
December 28th, 2013, 09:44 PM #3
The odds of anyone wanting to borrow your names are slim, if any at all. The odds of someone coming up with names that are similar to yours are reasonable, as you found out you had done yourself. And no one cares. You would naturally want to avoid names from very famous, bestselling series, although accidents happen. But that someone has used names in the history of SFFH similar or the same as yours is largely irrelevant to SFFH readers.
So you could copyright whatever text you have so far, if you like to have that added protection, but by and large you are worrying about a problem that doesn't happen and isn't particularly important in the field.
December 29th, 2013, 08:22 AM #4
- Join Date
- Nov 2013
- Colorado USA
Thanks for the perspective. I suspected some of your explanation would be true, as it seems reasonable. Universe Building in SFFH seems to present its own unique questions apart from other genres, “overlapping linguistics” being just one.
How many ways can you write about vampires/guy with sword/girl with bow/people in spaceships without sounding a bit “been done before”? I hope people keep trying, as I love the genre. I’ll just hope no one else happens to also call their delightful stubby dancing people “Munchkins”. If so, I’ll change it to “Stubkins” and forge on.
So, show due diligence, and don’t obviously plagiarize. One more Learned it in Kindergarten rule.
Thanks for your reply!
Last edited by Raymee; December 29th, 2013 at 08:31 AM. Reason: Adding smilie
December 29th, 2013, 09:00 AM #5
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- Northern California
- Blog Entries
I agree with KatG and jasoninchina, but I don't think your research into what has been used before is a total waste. I mean, you wouldn't want to write a superhero story about a man with the name Stark - at the moment - given that the Ironman franchise still seems to be going strong. However, that's just something you might want to consider right before you publish. And even then, last minute and all, you might decide not to worry about it, as I think most folks do. I certainly don't worry about it but that has more to do with the fact that I know no one will read my stories!
Good luck finishing your series.
December 29th, 2013, 03:00 PM #6
People do not look for things that are original. They look for things that interest them and originality has little to nothing to do with that. There are people who will avoid certain things that don't interest them, like dragons or vampires, but they then pursue other stories just as filled with things that aren't original. I have never encountered a person online or elsewhere who actually has any real interest in originality, although I've run into a lot who claim that this is very important to them and everybody else. And then their favorite works have no original elements whatsoever. So clearly, there is a disconnect in this. Originality has been touted as a virtue of deep importance in mostly fantasy fiction (a tiny bit in SF and horror.) And yet nobody actually gives a fig about it. And even if an author has worked diligently to come up with the most original set of elements he can possibly think of, his work will still be decried by many as just like a big name series they like and a blatant ripoff clearly. This is a normal process of humans looking at patterns and sometimes making false connections, and of your story not resonating for that person on its own.
Some things to keep in mind:
Stephanie Meyers' Twilight contained a fairly original aspect to vampirism in her romance series -- her vampires can move freely in daylight, but avoid bright sun mostly because their bodies and skin are crystalline and the skin glitters like diamond in light. (Presumably, this causes them also to avoid bright artificial lighting.) This was not entirely original -- the concept of supernatural beings as crystalline and rock statues, etc., vampires being immobile like stone and so forth. But it was an unusual approach. And yet, many people hate that idea and find it sappy. They want vampires that are ghoulish, ruthless monsters -- horror over romance, which is fine, but isn't original at all. So originality clearly is not the operating parameter there.
George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series contains within it not one original element. And yet it is a highly lauded, awarded and high selling series that has also been made into a highly successful television show. (Nor is there anything particularly unusual about most of the nomenclature that Martin uses.)
One of the oldest types of mythological characters we have in early fiction is the broody, anti-hero warrior. And yet the broody, anti-hero warrior is routinely touted in fantasy fiction as a highly original and "risky" choice, despite books with broody, anti-hero warriors being regularly very successful and sometimes award winning. The argument goes that in the past history of "genre" fantasy, the broody, anti-hero warrior was rare (conveniently forgetting many iconic characters such as Conan.) The argument is concentrated on the 1970's and early 1980's, a time believed to be swamped with Tolkien clones that had non-grey heroes. If you look at actual 1970's fantasy, however, including D&D tie-in novels such as Forgotten Realms, broody anti-hero warriors were standard issue.
When contemporary fantasy produced several bestsellers in the early oughts, and an expansion of that area in the category market, many people declared it to be a new sub-category that was more original. This wipes out the history of contemporary fantasy from the 1950's-1990's and before, including a number of iconic titles. The "new" category was given a "new" name eventually of "urban fantasy," a term first used for contemporary fantasy in the 1980's.
So "originality" is a bit of a shell game. The focus on originality in fantasy fiction developed in the 1980's and was directly the result of the limited success of D&D and other game tie-in novels. The fear was that these sorts of "formula" stories with writers for hire would take over the new fantasy category market and wipe out the demand for "original" fiction. Instead, it simply brought more readers into the market and carried fantasy through the Great Paperback Depression of the 1990's. The success of the gaming industry during that time plus the reliance on mass market paperbacks for most titles in the category market led to many claims that fantasy was just soft violence porn for teenage boys and young men who couldn't handle the real world. This was not an accurate assessment of the fantasy reading audience, much of which consisted of females, but it was one that stuck and stung. Oddly enough, in secondary pre-industrial world fantasy, the one bearing the brunt of criticism, this led to a move away for a brief period in the early 1990's from straight adventure tales that seemed too game-like to massive war epics, which actually more resembled the violence porn critique in structure and also was where games were headed themselves.
I'm not at all against fantasy authors trying to broaden the palette beyond Celtic-Germanic pre-industry in secondary world fantasy. But there's a lot more talking the talk than walking the walk on originality in the field, a lot of overlooking books that actually do some interesting stuff thematically, structurally, etc., and walking the walk is not necessarily a deeply needed goal of fantasy fiction.
December 30th, 2013, 11:11 AM #7
Sources of names
(I agree with the quotes above. Don't worry about duplication -- although it would be tacky to name your hero Harry Potter).
Although the characters of our stories are unlikely to be citizens of Rome, Greece, an ancient Nordic realm or a Celtic kingdom, these languages are a treasure trove of names. Think of "Darth Vader" (dark father), or "Draco Malfoy" (dragon bad-faith).
Language is both an art of precise meaning and an art of subliminal meaning. The second of these is our ally when constructing names.
December 31st, 2013, 02:29 PM #8
- Join Date
- Nov 2013
- Colorado USA
Thanks again, KatG & all
Now that you point it out, even though I read every corner of the genre, I tend to return to stories with similar themes as well and will want to read a slightly different take on it from a new-to-me writer - doesn't make it “unoriginal”. Look at the endless cop/lawyer shows, for instance. (and yes, joking about Munchkins)
The perception of people who have been thinking/experiencing writing SFFH longer that myself is valuable, thanks again for the responses.