Tuesday, July 14, 2015

World-building: How to name your alien or fantasy world

Sorry for being so late with this post, again. Last week was kind of a bad one because I was having back problems and have been out of a car, so that slowed me down quite a bit. Also, some writer’s block may had added to it. Authors get writers’ block at different stages of their writing. Some get it at the rough draft stage, some in the revision stage. Some writers even get it outside of the draft itself, such as in the characterization and world-building stages and I’m one of those writers. Right now I’m working on a new short story and so I’m on the world-building part which is where I got the writer’s block on Saturday. It was when I was sketching out a world for an alien race in my story which is a kind of space opera-horror. So I’ll tell you how I got over that block in a little bit, but first a couple updates:


My Author Interview

If you haven’t seen it yet, my interview at HorrorAddicts.net is up. David Watson who’s on the Horror Addict’s staff interviewed me about my interest in horror and how I live “the horror life.” This second one is in light of Horror Addict’s new anthology, TheHorror Addicts’ Guide to Life, in which two of my articles were published in. So please check it out.

Photo Credit: HorrorAddicts.net

Last Week’s Post

I made a slight update to my post for last week. For those of you who had already read the post, you may had noticed that the text ran outside of the column, making it hard to read. I apologise for that. I missed that error completely because I was trying to make the photo of the concept sketch for the cover illustration for my upcoming book, The Hidden, large enough so the details could be seen. So I reduced the size which moved the text into the column.


A cover from the 1954 science fiction magazine "If" depicting astronauts climbing rocks on an alien planet.
Photo Credit: Kenneth Fagg/Wikimedia Commons

Well, back to developing the setting of my new sci fi-horror short. Particularly, I had been having problems naming one of the alien races’ planet. I tried thinking of a name based on the planet’s geography and the aliens’ overall institutions and customs. I looked to real-life myth first since I was thinking in terms of the race’s religious beliefs, in which being made up of warring city-states each state holds its own religion. But these aliens are imperialising, particularly when it comes to discovering new planets with rich resources (the ill rationale for just about all imperialism) . I didn’t want to reflect too much of our own world’s myths in the planet’s name so I turned to various languages. Unlike the world-building I did for my other story back in March, the world-building for this one involves naming a totally made up planet even though the setting is in our own Milky Way Galaxy. This is precisely how I came up with the planet’s name and how you can too for your alien or fantasy world . . .

1. Create a geography: Although this doesn’t necessarily have to be done first, this is how I did it and it helped me. I imagined what the planet’s terrain would be made up of. Since the story calls for a conquering race of aliens, I created a rocky, mountainous, relatively cold planet where mountains separate the societies and because the terrain is not very fertile, there is fierce competition between the societies.

 2. Create a language: Anthropology says that geography shapes a society’s culture and that goes for language too. So I needed to name my alien race’s planet, but in order to do that I needed to create a language for them. Because the race lives in an environment that has lead to harsh competition, their language system would be made up of hard sounds that are choppy and fast in tone. What cultures on our own planet have such hard-sounding language, all morals of the cultures aside? The Germanic cultures, and believe it or not, this includes our own English language (regardless of our ancestral cultures). 

So I took two words that represented the rocky, mountainous planet and those words were, as you might’ve guessed, “rock” and “mountain” and used Google’s translator tool to translate them into several Germanic languages. But unlike I did for my last story that I used the translator for, I didn’t simply translate the words. I combined different parts of the them to come up with a satisfying name that reflected the aliens’ language system. The translated words I came up with were the German word for rock which is “felsen”, the Finnish word for mountain which is “vouri” and the Norwegian one which is “fjell”. I tried several combinations of the above translated words until I came up with one that sounded harshest and most alien, and that was “Felvuric”. So, at least for now, I named my alien planet Felvuric. 

What emotions does “Felvuric” convey to you in its sounds? Does it convey fear, anger, aggression? For the fellow authors out there, what techniques have worked for you in naming the worlds in your stories? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

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