1. 26of26
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    26of26 New Member

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    Foreign names in alternate world setting?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by 26of26, Feb 13, 2013.

    I'm trying to write a story taking place in a very mild fantasy world, and it has different cultures that vaguely echo the ones Earth has (so definitely not complete equivalents). Problem is, I've been stuck on a question about character names that's been bugging me for a while: Is it odd to use distinctly foreign names after establishing that it's not taking place on Earth? I can't immediately recall any story with similar settings where this occurs, so I couldn't help wondering.

    But for the sake of getting the point across, let's say that events are primarily taking place in Fictional Country A. Miss Thompson, born and raised in FCA, has a friend who moved there from Fictional Country B. The friend's surname is Suzuki. Does it seem off? Not so much?

    I can further clarify the question if necessary, but opinions on this would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    No, it is not too odd. Though you should avoid using easily recognizable names anyone can trace to a certain culture. Names like Thompson are not exclusive to a culture or geographical area as their origin goes back thousands of years (Thompson is son of Thomp or something and even ancient Greeks used this kind of names). Suzuki on the other hand is a name exclusive to the ones following the Shinto religious system (Suzu is a bell hanging over the Shinto shrines that people ring once when they pray) so it is exclusive to Japan and may alienate some of your readers.
     
  3. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    ignore. oops
     
  4. 26of26
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    26of26 New Member

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    Noted, and thank you for the advice.

    Out of curiosity, would the above no longer be the case if the story-world's countries/cultures were much more directly based off of Earth's? (Say if in the previous example, Country B is immediately recognizable as an analog of Japan?)
     
  5. Pyraeus
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    Pyraeus Member

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    I suppose if it was an analog of Japan then it would fit. As long as each of the people from the different countries has a name that fits their culture then it would be okay. Also, make sure that there is an equal distribution of usual and unusual names (Aerith and Amanda, Dante and William etc.)
    It could be really of putting if you had a group of people - maybe even in the same village! - who's names vary between the aforementioned common and unusual. Try to get a consecutive mix so that the characters don't stick out like sore thumbs.

    And try to avoid the formula of:
    Main Characters = Exotic/made up names (Dante, Zenithar)
    Secondary Characters = Common names (Alex, Rachel)
     
  6. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    And avoid names that are long and difficult to pronounce. It's a bit frustrating to have a protagonist whose name is a mouthful.

    Nameology is quite complicated, often common names nowadays have roots and meanings in languages that are either no longer spoken, or dead entirely. I mostly write fantasy, so when I create cultures I root their names in an old real world culture. This gives a group of characters your world a sort of phonetic unity. But that said you still need to research the culture and check that the names you choose, especially surnames, don't denote something does not exist in the world you are creating. It is a different story entirely if you have created a language for your world.

    This is just how I work, not saying it's a good method, because I do not have the skills to develop a language from scratch.
     

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