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Author Topic: Character Names
Meredith
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I just realized something. In all three of my novel-length stories (counting The Shaman's Curse and it's sequel The Ignored Prophecy as one), I have a main character with a name that starts with V.

Vatar in The Shaman's Curse, Valeriah in Blood Will Tell, and the male MC in Dreamer's Rose gets an honorific Va' added to the front of his name towards the end of the book.

What is my thing about the letter V? I'm going to have to think about changing the honorific in Dreamer's Rose, just for variety.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited November 18, 2009).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Have you seen the tv series (or did you watch the original when it came out)?
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Robert Nowall
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V for Victory, too...
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BenM
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Hmmm... my last story's main character was named Victor.

It's a conspiracy!

Or, if anyone notices, you could just say that since there's a 1 in 17,576 chance of your three main characters starting with V... it's just coincidence!


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KayTi
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Most of my short stories feature a female lead with the first name starting with A. My two novels as well. This year's nano project features a female lead with a first name starting with B. Think maybe I'll move onto C by next year.

I just have a thing for A names. I named my daughter one, and love most others. <shrug> it's kind of silly, but once I noticed that I had been doing it, I decided to keep it up because there are plenty of A names I like. Anya, Annika, Amelia, Annie, Ali, ... forgetting some.


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Meredith
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quote:
Have you seen the tv series (or did you watch the original when it came out)?

I haven't been watching the new series. I actually have the original one on DVD


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arriki
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I almost always have a character (not necessarily the main character) named John.
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MAP
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quote:
just have a thing for A names. I named my daughter one, and love most others. <shrug> it's kind of silly, but once I noticed that I had been doing it, I decided to keep it up because there are plenty of A names I like. Anya, Annika, Amelia, Annie, Ali, ... forgetting some.

Me too. Both of my daughters have "A" names.


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Robert Nowall
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You can give your characters names with the same initials, but, for God's sake, never give your kids names with the same initials. My brothers and I tended to fight over things addressed to "R. Nowall"---I usually won because I was older---but the misidentifications persisted to this day. (My college diploma was held up because one of my brothers hadn't paid a college parking fine---we were all lumped under "R. Nowall.")
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Unwritten
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Cast my vote for A names. And J names. I'm constantly having to change minor characters names because they all start with those same 2 letters.
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Merlion-Emrys
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I tend to have certain patterns with my made-up names as well, although they often show up at the end. Suffixes like -ien and -ion show up a lot. Many of them tend to have a Celtic or Brythonic feel. I use A and J quite a bit too.

Then theres the convention in one of my fantasy worlds wherein mages have an additional name or title that relates to teir magic, though it doesn't always follow the same structure (Theres Stromael, the Stormcaller for instance, who you've already met, Meredith, but then theres Lightmaster Aronos as well.)


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Zero
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quote:
Or, if anyone notices, you could just say that since there's a 1 in 17,576 chance of your three main characters starting with V

Assuming all letters, like A and X, are equally probable. It's too bad you can't get a list of all names and then divide the V's from the others and run that probability to the power of three.

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tchernabyelo
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The general advice is that you're not supposed to have more than one character with the same starting letter, though I'm not totally convinced by that (particularly if you have more than a couple of dozen characters in the book...). But certainly you want major characters to be distinguishable in some way, and reduce confusion. I must admit I worry about my Chinese fantasy when it comes to book length, because the naming pattern is such that people may find it hard to keep who's who straight (I'll probably provide a dramatis personae to help). I certainly started losing track when I watched The Water Margin, those many years ago (though I can still remember who Lin Chung, Wu Sung, Sung Chiang, Shih Chin, Lu Ta, Li Kwei and of course Kao Chiu were, the others I might be a bit more vague about).

I did do a dramatis personae for the one novel I completed, let's see if I can dig it out...


Angelaki Kalimankou Narrator, barmaid in the Black Bear, Polevitsa; former soldier in Enverís first rebellion
Enver Jovanke Exiled Prince of Stara Gradejska, claimant to the throne of Vlakhia
Julietta Jovanke Enverís wife
Giolaban Tsezar of Vlakhia, called (by some) the Tyrant
Yvane Kosomila Tsigani fortune-teller, old friend of Angelaki

Bletzie Samovadja Ban of Sveti Stefan, supporter of Giolaban
Filip Koronyev Ban of ?, general in Enverís army
Rupkina Banovic Bana of Veliko Tarnat
Donaslaw Ban of ?
Zubraw Borocevska Commander in Enverís army
Draha Uldenkou Former Ban of Radomir, executed after the Enverís first rebellion
Janos Pansokje Owner of the Black Bear, a tavern in Polevitsa
Anatoli Panoskje Janosís elder son
Tibor Panoskje Janosís younger son, soldier in Enverís army
Martika Barmaid at the Black Bear
Aleksa Villager in Polevitsa
Petar Villager in Polevitsa
Vestjen Villager in Polevitsa
Georgieva Villager in Polevitsa
Dejan Captain in Radomir militia
Pavel Soldier in Radomir militia
Jertzy Villager in Polevitsa
Stoian Villager in Polevitsa
Vasili Soldier in Radomir militia
Ferents Soldier in Enverís army
Dimer Soldier in Enverís army
Istvan Soldier in Enverís army
Mariela Soldier in Enverís army
Doike Soldier in Enverís army
Mihaly Soldier in Enverís army
Nikola Pamic Soldier in Enverís army
Kalinka Messetschinko Owner of Begvadís tavern, Sveti Simeo
Petar Soldier in Enverís army
Karoly Soldier in Enverís army
Martyen Soldier in Enverís army
Yvan (Little Vannie) Soldier in Enverís army
Yvan (Big Yvan) Soldier in Enverís army
Mir Captain in Enverís army
Goran Commander in Enverís army
Mladen Ban of ?
Savo Soldier in Enverís army
Jovili Matsurenka Ban of Blavinje, supporter of Giolaban
Stefan Dusvara Ban of Radomir
Karoly Divicenko Farmerís son, soldier in Enverís army
Waldje Commander of Giolabanís navy
Gavor Morosovic General in Enverís army, formerly in Giolabanís service
Mihaly Prince of Sveta Marya
Mannheim Mercenary captain, leader of the Red Eagles, a company in Giolabanís service in Enverís first rebellion
Avoletto Mercenary captain in Giolabanís service

I don't even think that's a full list, I can immediately think of two who aren't on there (Ukas, a miller, and Surghey, a captain), so clearly I must review it at some point! But anyway; lots of named characters, but the main ones should all be thoroughly distinct. Be interested in any comments...


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MrsBrown
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My female characters' names often end in "a" as in Ida, Gwena, Narwa, Ilsa, ...
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extrinsic
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Index to U.S. Census Bureau name frequency, all last names, female first names, and male first names, mid '90s.

http://www.census.gov/genealogy/names/names_files.html


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Dark Warrior
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quote:
Many of them tend to have a Celtic or Brythonic feel

With my own name, Donavan, being Celtic (Dark Warrior) I tend to use Celtic names for characters too, from any name meaning, or Celtic mythology websites.

Being ex-Navy, I tend to use names of previous USS naval vessels for my spacecraft names; Houston, Roosevelt, Escape, and match them up to the function of the spacecraft...staying away from the USS Enterprise of course...and as someone recently pointed out with Houston (Houston, we have a problem...) I will probably throw that one away too.


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rstegman
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It is real good to come up with naming conventions.

Some people would be named for land features, others for their jobs, some for plants and animals common nicknames. If you have many races, you might have
Oak, the elf, handed his pack to Wolf, the gnome, so he could set it with the rest of the luggage they would not take into battle. Riverbridge the dwarf bent over, stretching his legs while Porter, the human sharpened his blade. The blorgen caravan snaked up the trail to the ambush the team had set up.

I tend to have my made up female names being soft while my male made up names as being harder.

Coming up with naming conventions really helps a lot for characters. It would be part of your world creation process.

Edited to replace early morning drivel

[This message has been edited by rstegman (edited November 11, 2009).]


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arriki
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I have two methods for alien names.

One is to write out something terse describing the character and fiddle with that. For example- "I rule" morphed into Irulian. I liked it so much I named my first born daughter that. She loves it.

The other method is similar. I have oodles of weird dictionaries (Farsi to Latin dictionary, anyone?), some left to me by my father, a linguist and expert himself on names.

I pick a language and use only that one for morphing names for a race so that there is some "feel" of similarity to the names by the repetition of letters. For example - Ennismahi, Aggaharn, and Hensitaryo-gnihe are all lysiscan names.


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Meredith
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I just started playing with the novella I'm thinking of expanding into a novel. Darned if there isn't an important secondary character named Varana. Another V. Pretty soon, I'm just going to decide to make it a signature quirk--always a character name starting with V.
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philocinemas
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"Voilŗ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."

- V for Vendetta


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annepin
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This is a really cool web site about names to play around with:

babynamewizard.com

(be sure to check out the name mapper and the name voyager)

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited November 11, 2009).]


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Robert Nowall
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I remember---and this was years ago, so don't ask me to remember when and where I saw it---a writeup where somebody was trying to deduce George Lucas's middle name from the names and patterns used in "Star Wars." ("Walton," if memory serves me right.)
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Meredith
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quote:
I remember---and this was years ago, so don't ask me to remember when and where I saw it---a writeup where somebody was trying to deduce George Lucas's middle name from the names and patterns used in "Star Wars."

Won't work. My middle name is very short. And there's no V anywhere in my name or the names of any of my immediate family. In fact, off hand, I can't think of anyone in my extended family that has a name with a V in it, let alone one that starts with V.


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RillSoji
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I keep a word doc with each letter of the alphabet on it's own line. When I choose a character name, I write it next to it's first letter. I use it to catch myself if I'm using too many 'A' names or 'V' names.

As for coming up with names..well...I tend to stick to boring names and use a last name or a title to describe their profession, attributes or what they're famous for. Calia Strongarm, Aaron Peacemaker, Thomas Farseer, Maria Goldenhair, Sarah Mender...ect. I only get more creative with names when I'm looking for a name that means something. A name that is different and therefore important. I google 'English to ??? translator'. I plug in whatever language I think would be appropriate for the character. Once I find a translator I just start searching words that would describe my character.

I used this method to come up with a name for a sword with a soul in my WIP. I used this English to Latin translator: http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookdown.pl

To find the meanings I was looking for I had to think about the story behind the sword. The sword was the embodiment of a dead paladin. He asked that his soul be preserved in the sword so that he could protect and watch over his posterity. Time passed, bad guys got a hold of the sword and twisted it/him. So I typed in 'fallen' into the translator and found: ancile -is n. [a sacred shield , supposed to have fallen from heaven].

Then I typed in 'sword' and found: ensis -is m. [sword].

So there was the name I needed....Ancilensis. To me it means a sword that was once a protector that has fallen. In this case, I didn't think tweaking was needed after I mashed the two words together. In other cases I do tweak a little.


Edit: Late night speeling and gud gramerz >.<

[This message has been edited by RillSoji (edited November 12, 2009).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
I remember---and this was years ago, so don't ask me to remember when and where I saw it---a writeup where somebody was trying to deduce George Lucas's middle name from the names and patterns used in "Star Wars." ("Walton," if memory serves me right.)

Robert, I wrote up something like that for a SW fan publication called LANDSPEEDER. I may have mentioned it a few other places as well. The middle name for Lucas that I guessed in my article was William, so I was pretty pleased at how close I was to his real middle name, Walton.


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babooher
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I think I read somewhere that many people tend to come up with J names more than any other. After reading that, I've tried to stay away from the letter.

On another note, I tend to like real words for names in my fantasy writing. Some names I've played with are Quick, Finder, Story, and Latch. Sometimes the names fit the people (Quick is easily angered and fast on the draw, Story lies a lot, etc) but other times I just liked the sound (as in Latch or Slew).

And don't get me started on Super Hero fiction names.


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Robert Nowall
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quote:
Robert, I wrote up something like that for a SW fan publication called LANDSPEEDER. I may have mentioned it a few other places as well. The middle name for Lucas that I guessed in my article was William, so I was pretty pleased at how close I was to his real middle name, Walton.

Yup, wherever I got it, it had to have originated with Kathleen, though I'm sure I didn't see it in "Landspeeder."

(How can I be sure? I remembered, but didn't mention, Kathleen's guess at "William.")


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Crystal Stevens
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And let's not forget the SUPERMAN series: Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor. Seems like Superman's creator had a real thing with the letter "L".
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Zero
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I always thought Sauron and Saruman broke this cardinal rule.
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ScardeyDog
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I didn't read LOTR growing up, so when the movie came out I found Sauron and Sauromon confusingly similar. (The names, not the characters).

Annepin - thanks for the website link, it's very cool


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Robert Nowall
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I always figured Lois Lane came first, then Lana Lang was given that name because it had the same initials.

As for Sauron and Saruman, part of the depth of Tolkien is his use of multiple created languages. The names came out of that. (Also both characters, along with most of the others, had multiple names in different languages. Saruman was called Curunir, the White Hand, and Sharkey, and maybe others I can't recall.)


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tchernabyelo
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As far as I am aware, the Superman comics' use of "LL" for people important to Clark Kent/Superman (no-one mentioned Lori Lemaris, the mermaid, yet! c'mon, people!!) triggered a whole slew of alliterative names - Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Peter Parker, Wyatt Wingfoot, Scott Summers, and doubtless thousands I can't remember off the top of my head.
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micmcd
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Another thing about the alliterative naming issue in comics; I read an article that referenced an old interview with Stan Lee - he made the names plain, simple, and alliterative on purpose because it was easy to remember. The Hulk's name actually changed once because of this - Bruce Banner was the original, but it was later taken charge of by someone who hated alliterative names and he became Robert Banner. To keep up the cannon, at some point later it was declared that his real name was Robert Bruce Banner.

I forget where I read this... a link off something someplace sometime. Hopefully not a link already posted in this thread. Though that would be hilarious, and I get 'meta' points for preemptively making fun of myself.


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Robert Nowall
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"Clark Kent" is alliterative in sound.
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Merlion-Emrys
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Also Sauron and Saruman were in fact similar characters. Saruman was essentially Sauron Junior, just as Sauron was a lesser version of Melkor-Morgoth. Sauron and Saruman were both once Maiar of Aule who went buzzonkers, and even outside of the Silmarillion in LOTR alone Saruman's imitation of Sauron is clear.

But yeah its mostly the language thing that causes that. His character names arent, in the typical sense, just invented out of nothing. They come from the entire fabric of his fully crafted fictional languages.


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Zero
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Fully-crafted or not, it causes some confusion for some people.
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Merlion-Emrys
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Yeah. Well theres no getting away from that, and I'd much rather have the names fit into the extremely finely wrought highly realistic background of the world than have them not just to avoid the chance of confusing some a little.

Most people I know are completely confused by everything in LOTR anyway to be honest. Most "regular" people, non genre fans that is.


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Zero
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That's strange. I'm no Tolkien guru, I thought the books were a decent read, generally. But I didn't see much to be confused about. Maybe some of the subtleties of the culture or world might be missed, I'm sure I missed a lot of that. But the story is extremely simple and straightforward.

Get from point A to Point B in order to save the world from an incredibly evil power who, like most fantasy villains, is evil for no apparent reason. Other than the typical "lust for power".


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Merlion-Emrys
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In my experience most "lay" people get confused by the names, places, and cultures. They generally can't tell which bad guys are which or even which good guys are which and for whatever reason even though as you say the basic goal is reasonbly straightforward, the other confusions seem to prevent a lot of people from "getting it" as a whole. In my experience.

At one point during the ROTK movie my partner's mother asked, refering to Gandalf "He's the good king, right?"


quote:
Get from point A to Point B in order to save the world from an incredibly evil power who, like most fantasy villains, is evil for no apparent reason. Other than the typical "lust for power".


That seems like a very good, very apparent reason for being evil to me. And its typical mostly because in the end, most evil boils down to a lust for power and/or total selfishness. Now I know a lot of people insist no one sees themselves as a villain, but I personally don't buy it. First off, some basically do...I don't think Ted Bundy really tried to justify his acts even to himself. He may have tried to blame pornography or whatever but he fully realized he was commiting heinous acts. And even those who do try to "justify" their actions...it doesn't mean they don't realize they are evil. It just means they are trying to justify it or make themselves feel better about it. (this is putting aside genuinely ambigious figures, like say Magneto who isn't really an evil person even if he does morally unacceptable things. He actually does have some valid reasons for them, not just excuses.)



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tchernabyelo
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Most criminals tend to blame the victim of the crime and don't feel they have done anything terribly wrong. I personally knew someone, years ago, who admitted to carrying out a rape, and then said "well, skinny-dipping with me when I was drunk was pretty stupid of her". He honestly believed that it was the fault of the victim - that HE couldn't be expected to control himself because of HER actions, because of the alcohol he'd consmed and which she knew he'd consumed - ANYTHING to absolve himself of responsibility, so although he had done something he acknowledged (grudgingly) was wrong, HE did not have to take any responsibility - and therefore feel any guilt - from it.

Now I accept that's empirical evidence, always of limited value, but I've seen that defence used by rapists (and wife-beaters) many a time. Serial rapists and murders MAY be different (I don't, thankfully, know any of them), but it's commonly a convience to put certain types of criminal in a separate box and pretend they are nothing like the rest of us, when reality tends to indicate they are just like us, but pulled further in particular behavioural directions.


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tchernabyelo
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quote:
Get from point A to Point B in order to save the world from an incredibly evil power who, like most fantasy villains, is evil for no apparent reason. Other than the typical "lust for power".

In myth, motivation is not an issue. Myth utilises archetypes, and Sauron is evil because the myth demands someone personifies evil (in LOTR, we do not - and do not need - to see his fall; we can infer it, if we wsh, from the parallelism of Saruman).

Most of the post-Tolkein fantasy novelists were not writing myth, they were writing fiction. In fiction, motivations are much more important if the fiction is to be coherent. They may, of course, have been attempting to write myth, but I can't think of successful examples. Terry Brooks' early work is probably the best post-Tolkein example of what I'm talking about here (the obvious mash-up of Tolkein - the Ohmsfords as hobbits and Allanon as Gandalf - with Star Wars - Panamon Creel as Han Solo).


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Robert Nowall
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On the above---and we're all a bit off-topic from discussing character names now---I read something recently that talked about how many criminals talk of their crimes as if they were just bystanders to it all, outside themselves. A lot of murderers use a phrase like "the knife went in," or "the gun went off," rather than "I put the knife in" or "I fired the gun." As if the knife or gun were somehow alive and malicious in itself. Some of the commentaries link this to the abolition of personal responsibility.

(I'm not sure that Sauron himself would have said he was evil incarnate---there's a late essay on the subject by Tolkien in one of the History of Middle Earth volumes. Appparently, Tolkien came to see Sauron as a figure who wanted to run his own show and rule his domain without interference from the outside. Tolkien compared him to his former master Morgoth (of the Silmarillion stories), who would tear down what others raised up and destroy all---Sauron was not that kind of evil. (Whether Tolkien thought that while writing about Sauron in "LOTR," I can't be sure.))


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Zero
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I guess by that definition then my opinion is that "fiction" is absolutely superior to "myth" which seems to be the neanderthal of the two organisms.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And you are entitled to your very own opinion, Zero.

Isn't that wonderful?


Edited to add:


[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited November 18, 2009).]


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Robert Nowall
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There's a certain problem some (English-speaking) people have relating to strange names---they've learned to read (English) as if each word were an ideogram, and a strange name (or odd word) leaves them confused and puzzled and unhappy. (Those who can sound things out have a better time with the written word.) It's not just being confused by names / places / cultures...
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Good point, Robert. I think when I was taught to read mumbledy-mumble years ago, they used what was called the "see-say" method, which was like teaching readers that words are ideograms. That didn't bother me, because I have a good visual memory, but it was such a problem with enough people that teaching methods for reading moved to the "sounding-it-out" approach, and so far as I know, that's still how they do it.

So, how many people here learned to read by memorizing the words (ideograms), and how many learned by sounding out the words?


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Robert Nowall
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I can't say, at this late stage, just how I learned to read...but I know I could read what they handed me when I started kindergarten. Near as I can tell, in me, it's the sounds first and then the meaning. (This can lead me astray...for instance, Tolkien's Elvish words had a pronounciation scheme that has some similarity with English, but not entirely. I have to keep reminding myself that "Celeborn" is pronounced with a hard "c," not a "soft" c...)
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posulliv
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I learned to sound-it-out for English.

If by ideograms you mean that when I see the set of lines and curves that spell out 'cat' I imagine a cat and for 'catalog' I imagine a cat and a log and associate that with the concept catalog, then no, I'm not one of those people. I don't even see the image of a Sears catalog, or a card catalog (dating myself). That said, certain words aren't at all what I imagined when I had to look them up, so I must have some preconceived ideas associated with words that I don't know. I suppose the same must apply to unfamiliar character names as well.

[This message has been edited by posulliv (edited November 21, 2009).]


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babooher
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I believe what you guys are discussing is called whole-word vs phonetic reading. Phonetic reading is sounding it out, and whole-word is the see-say method.
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satate
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Whole language versus phonics, it's debated a lot in education circles and can be a touchy issue. I find the best approach is a combination of the two. I was taught whole word in kindergarten and phonics in first grade. When I see a word I don't know I sound it out but have good comprehension.

Whole language focuses more on comphrension and the entire reading experience while phonics focuses on the mechanics of reading and tends to be more structured.
My sister was taught just phonics and could read but struggled her whole life with understanding and comprehension.


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