1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    A World Without Names?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Killer300, Jan 13, 2012.

    What started as a, sort of, writing exercise turned into... something else. I've created a fantasy world where no one calls each other by name. Only their mother, Angels(not as self explanatory, in story), and the building they live in(story thing) know their name, know a person's name besides them.

    Now, would such a world collapse because without names, society would have problems functioning? Or are their ways around this, it just takes a radical re-design of society? Also, has someone done this before in writing? I want to know the last because I'm curious how it worked out actually.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I can see a world where no one knows each other's true name, because maybe that gives power over them or something. But it would be hard to convincingly write a world where no one has any name by which to identify other people, because it seems to me that even if no one knew each other's real name, they'd start giving nicknames or adopting monikers for themselves, etc. That would be such an obvious solution to any problem stemming from the lack of an identifying "name" for people that it would be hard to explain why a group of intelligent people wouldn't come up with it.
     
  3. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Well, so far, I've had them identify each other by either their relation to the other person(lover for example), or their race in some cases(Angel for another example). So they have identification, but not names in the traditional sense. Now, to differentiate between each other... haven't gotten there. So far, not enough characters on... screen if you will, at any given time for that to come up.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, ok. Yeah, I think you make that sort of system work just fine. It stands to reason that the society would develop some way to identify individuals, but it sounds like you're covering that so I don't see why it would't work. You might come up with some very interesting aspects of the society in this manner.
     
  5. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    My first thought is that the structure of society could become more rigid, as without names people's job or role might become their identity/moniker which would be difficult to change as you tried to progress in your life or career, and even a parent's occupation (or lack of) might stick to the next generation. Practically, forms of ID would have to rely heavily on photos and fingerprints etc over names, but obviously that's possible.


    I haven't read anything along these lines, but it's an interesting idea I think.
     
  6. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Well, this is a fantasy world, and one that doesn't have access to high forms of technology so that actually isn't so practical. Drawing is out because that actually has a function in this world so important that it's FAR too expensive to have people draw others usually(complicated, in story thing.)

    For the role part, yes, especially as since no one technically owns anything(religious reasons that partially come from world's magic) it causes a role to be... a little over defining.
     
  7. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a combination of what Steer and Pretty said would probably make most sense. In small towns it would make sense. The smith is called 'Smith.' The baker is called 'Baker.' In larger cities it might have to be more specific. One of the smiths in a big city might be called 'WestSmith' because he works on West Street.

    There has to be some form of identification. You can't go around calling everyone 'Hey, you!" That gets confusing and old very quickly.
     
  8. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah. Yes, I'll make sure there's a system of identification. For larger cities... I'm not sure. Perhaps it will be a combination of race and profession like, "Human Smith," or, "Demon Baker," however I'm not sure if there's enough variety in different species to get that to work.
     
  9. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Personally I'd advise against calling a character demon baker :p. While this does sound like an interesting piece of experimental fiction, it sounds like it would be hard to justify in universe. Every single society on earth has come up with names independently from all the other societies. Dolphins came up with names! You'll need a good reason for why these guys refuse to use their names. Perhaps you could go down the ent approach i.e a description of the person makes up their name. But then while that might sound call in a fantasy language it might not look as good in English.
     
  10. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    The reason they can't use names is religious ones that amount to something along the lines of, "Only your creator should know your true name." Additionally, titles like sir or ma'm are BANNED because of similar religious reasons. Because of this, everyone goes by their profession, their relation to each other, or sometimes their race.
     
  11. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Well I suppose that does make some sense, although in most real world cultures involving "true names" (though IRL they mostly refer to Gods.) people simply come up with another name to get by such a barrier. Is the purpose of the story purely to explore how such a society would develop or is that simply a quirky feature of the setting?
     
  12. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    The latter. Honestly, this setting got REALLY weird. It's a world that is, sort of, made by, and still in the process of being made, by artists like painters and sculptors. The latter started as a way to get around genetic magic that... turned into something else. Honestly, the name thing actually started as an experiment in it that turned into something else.

    Perhaps I should just give the characters names, as it probably isn't central enough to justify the hassle from the looks of things.
     
  13. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    That's how I'd base my decision if it were my book. Are there plot points were the reveal of a characters true name is important for example? And even then you could just get around it with a secondary name. Sure it's usually fine to give a created world little quirks that don't really add to the plot, but in this case it would require quite a lot of work it seems. On the other hand I feel a bit guilty for discouraging you from what sounds to be a novel and unique idea. The stuff about the artists on the other hand sounds pretty awesome. Good luck whatever decision you make.
     
  14. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Thanks. I may have to do a overhaul of this, as the first time it appears I just wrote whatever seemed to stick basically creativity wise. That... led to problems to say the least. This helped me a lot, to say the least.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Language would evolve to differentiate between individuals.

    The journaller, daughter of the stonecutter. The merchant, son of the merchant, grandson of the banker (etc). You can see why names might become an emergent phenomenon.

    In a partially telepathic society, an image of the person might be conveyed along with the functional noun. The lute-player <image of a redhead with a narrow, thoughtful face>.

    Also, a society may exist where only certain people have earned any label at all. The baron, or the merchant lord, other powerful persons, but commoners are not distinguished as individuals.

    There are social inferences you may be able to draw about societies with distortions like the absence of names. If you are going to introduce such anomalies, think aboiut the implications.
     
  16. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah, interesting points. Thanks.
     
  17. slippingbeauty
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    slippingbeauty Member

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    I think this would be a really awesome exercise to describe people in a believable way. Whenever you talk about them you need to describe them in order for us to know who you are talking about. This could actually turn into a quite cool story as well I think:p
     
  18. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    That would be great... if I had good description writing skills. Sadly, that still needs work, to say the least.
     
  19. naturemage
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    naturemage Active Member

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    That's an interesting concept, a world without names. I give you props for at least trying: its something that every agent is looking for, something new. If you could pull it off, get it published, I imagine it being a hit.
    Personally, without names, it is a bit difficult, especially for conversation. I would say, if you could use names for the story, but no one calls each other by name, then I could see it work very easily. If you are going to do the whole story without any names... you've set yourself up for a challenge.
     
  20. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Well, I might be able to make it work, and I actually am thinking of reasons for it to be the case, however the story would clearly end up being built around it, or at least heavily involving it.
     
  21. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting idea to make it a setting quirk! :) I tried using something like that in a story told from 1st perspective of a...well, a sociopath ;) basically, he deliberately chose not to use the names of people he meet - with the exception of a dog :p

    But it would be interesting to see if a fictional society might 'work' with something like that. I think that you need to have a very thin population to make it believable - so, no big cities, maybe small scattered communities, a neolithic society maybe. Inherited professions would also make a setting easier to understand - a baker's son is gonna be a baker, a potter is gona have a family of potters. Also, I feel most of the heroic individualism would be lost in such a society - if a man is never going to 'make a name of himself'. No point in getting yourself killed if no one's gonna sing songs about you! :cool:
     
  22. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Actually, that's quite ironic as the story does involve a heroine, but actually... okay, explosion of plot bunnies that will help the story a lot, so thanks.:p:)
     
  23. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I think it's a great concept! Maybe they are assigned numbers at birth and that is how they are identified.

    If you aren't going to name them than you shouldn't name other things either. Imagine all that would be in a downtown area that couldn't be called by its name. How would you identify stores? Maybe there aren't stores but more like an open market. Maybe everyone carries their belongings on a pack on their back and barters for themselves. Are they wanderers? Is there a class rank? Do they live under a dome? Are they prisoners?

    The world they live in has to match why they have no names.

    I hope you go with this, it sounds amazing!
     

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