Saturday, April 22, 2017

Back to Names

When thinking of what to post this month, I kept looking at last month’s post because… I don’t know. I really don’t know. I didn’t know what to write about and the only thing I knew I wasn’t going to write about was what I already wrote about. So I kept looking at and thinking about how I wrote about names last month because apparently I thought an old topic was going to help me think of a new topic. It was a completely pathetic circle that went something like this:

What should I write about?

I wrote about names last month so that rules out names.

Guess that means I should write about something other than names.

Not names, not names, not names.

What did I write about last time?

Oh, yeah. Names. I should write about something else.

But what should I write about?

Well, last month was names.

I already decided not to write about names so that isn’t helpful.

What should I write about this month?

Probably not the same topic as last time which was, of course, names.

I really need a new topic.

And then something happened that made me reconsider revisiting names. Someone asked me how to pronounce Samtry, a name from my Wisherton books.

I’ve never liked it when an author uses a name I don’t know how to pronounce. Let’s imagine someone is reading a book with a character named Tabeiallqp. How do you pronounce that? Is that a long a or a short a? Are there two vowel sounds in the middle? Where is the accent? Is the q or the p silent because something doesn’t seem right there? Whoever is reading this book is going to pause to consider questions like these every time the name appears. Every single time. Annoying.

Most readers will settle on a pronunciation in their heads at some point in the book, but by the end they’re still at least sort of thinking of Tabeiallqp as “that guy with the weird name.” That undermines some of the effort the author put into the characterization. Maybe Tabeiallqp was tough and sarcastic but a little sensitive when necessary. The reader will remember him as tough and sarcastic but a little sensitive when necessary and always irritating because of the constant tripping over his name. (In case you’re wondering, it’s Ta-BAIL-quip.)

But enough about Tabeiallqp.

I didn’t mean to give anyone a difficult name. Samtry’s name was given to me out loud before I saw it in print so I never considered that it might suggest alternate pronunciations. I posted an excerpt from Beyond Wisherton last month, and since I’m already on reruns it seemed like a good idea to post another excerpt. To clarify any confusion on pronunciation though, I’m offering this excerpt as audio. Here is chapter 1 of the second book, Back to Wisherton.