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  1. vinniram

    vinniram Member

    Jan 12, 2010
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    Proper Nouns in a fictional world

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by vinniram, Jan 14, 2010.

    Hi. I'm trying to flesh out an imaginary world I'm developing, and there's a lot of proper nouns that I need to create for this world, in the world's own language. I'm drawing a lot of inspiration for the world from Edo period Japan, and thus far the names I've been creating sound Japanese (i.e. use the Japanese syllabary).

    However, I started thinking why not just use historical Japanese words for concepts which correlate to the concepts in my world? Like, instead of making a word up for a local feudal lord, why not just use the word daimyo, and use the word han for a fiefdom, et cetera.

    Do you think doing so will detract from the fictionality of the story? I'm worried it may be "cheating". Of course, my world also differs significantly from Edo period Japan, it is NOT a historical fiction. I suppose I could always write the story using the Japanese words, and then maybe at a later date change them if that's a better idea.

    Any ideas, suggestions would be appreciated.
  2. Cacaw

    Cacaw Member

    Dec 3, 2009
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    Usually, when you write about a fictional world, it's assumed that things like characters' dialogue and names derived from non-proper nouns are translated from that world's language (for instance, Middle Earth's "common tongue" is represented as English). By this logic, it might not make sense to invent a word for something like "daimyo", because the pattern would dictate that you should translate it into English. If the fictional position is similar enough to feudal Japan that "daimyo" would be a more accurate translation than something like "lord", then go ahead. If either translation would work, you might be better off using the English equivalent, and using means other than just names to convey the setting. Up to you, really.
  3. DragonGrim

    DragonGrim Contributing Member

    Oct 3, 2008
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    If you’re trying to recreate a Japanese like civilization in a fantasy setting, go ahead.
  4. Rei

    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

    Aug 2, 2008
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    These things are all about personal preference. Do it how you want to. The only people who notice the things you're worrying about will be the few who do know that much about Japanese history. Besides, a lot of people use the English terminology for this kind of thing is a setting similar to medieval Europe even though it isn't historical.
  5. NaCl

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Apr 30, 2008
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    Remember one thing, most of your prospective readers do not speak Japanese or know much about Japanese culture. If you claim a Shinta Monk left a legendary troop of Midoru Fighters defending the Great Aikuti Temple, the reader will simply accept the "facts" and only look for relevance within the story. Obviously, I made up those Japanese sounding proper names. It doesn't matter if you use fabricated names or real Japanese transliterations. The critical issue is to provide the reader sufficient clues as to the meaning of words like "mura" (city), "sensei" (teacher), "horyo" (war-prisoner), "shuujin" (inmate-prisoner), "senshi" (warrior), and "hangyakusha" (traitor). Avoid offering direct translations...try to build reader understanding through dialog or consequence of action. For example, when a warrior in your story kneels and bows before a man sitting on a slave carried throne gilded with jemstones, it's pretty easy for the reader to get the picture, that the guy being called by a certain Japanese title is either nobility or a warlord. You don't need to explain the title.

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