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Lookin’ For Clues

Allow me to begin by saying this post will likely piss a few people off.  I’m not saying that to be mean; I’m merely stating a fact.  Then again, writers are always going to piss someone off–it’s the nature of the game.  You tell a story, said story is read, and someone take umbrage with what was conveyed.  I only say, in that instance, take it up with Stephen Fry.

That said, onward.

I spend a lot of time on the Internet.  I would say, “Way too much,” but then I don’t have much of a life, so I need to hang out somewhere, and the corner drug store no longer exists.  So I see a lot of people in different areas of the virtual world.

I also hang out with a lot of writers.  That’s because I’m in the process of becoming a writer–or, I should say, I am in the process of becoming a writer who is not only publishing, but being paid to do so.  I hang out with other writers for the chance to network, to be able to find out what’s happening in the publishing world, to get a few tips here and there, to make myself a better person at this craft.

Now, I will also say I can be a pain in the ass.  I can be snappy (not bitey; that’s a velociraptor), and I’m sort of a lazy git.  That last I admit to freely.  If there’s something I don’t want to do, I’ll put it off until tomorrow, and then tomorrow again, and again . . . and keep doing this until I have Harold Hill knocking on my front door wanting to know what the hell is going on.

But there is one thing that absolutely drives me nuts, and I can’t help myself about this, because it’s the way I roll.  Let me set the scene:

I’m in a “room” on line, hanging out.  I’m doing something: maybe writing, maybe looking something up, maybe playing a game.  And then someone types the following:  “Hey, I’m writing a (place genre here) story, and I need a name.  Help me out.”  Or, a variation of that:  “I’m writing a (place genre here) story, and I need the name of a town.  Who’s got one?”  And the best, one that I saw the other day, “I need the name of a town.  Who’s got one?  Has to be the name for a town that’s not too big, and not too small.”  Being the smart ass that I am, I was sorely tempted to type, “How about ‘Goldilocks’?”

There is something that come to mind when this happens.  Harlan Ellison, writing a piece that eventually ended up in his collection, The Other Glass Teat, described the frustration he went through concerning a script he created for a TV show, and how it finally came out.  Needless to say, he was not a happy man.  One of his biggest peeves had to do with some of the actors finding it difficult to read some of their lines as written.  Or, as he said, “They’ll say, ‘I can’t read that line’.  You’re an actor, goddammit!  You’re paid to read lines.  Find a way!”

We are writers.  We are purveyors of words.  We make them dance for us, and to our tune, and if they get out of step we show them how to do it right.  It’s all about our imagination, and how it is present to others.

So, Dear Writers, how is it when you come up with great ideas that end up becoming even–we hope–greater stories, why you no can come up with simple names?

Particularly when it’s so easy to find them?

If you are reading this–which, I hope, there are a few–that means you are on this bit of technology known as the “Internet”.  And that also means you have access to something called “Google”.  Now, being an old fart, I can remember when, if I needed to look something up, I hopped in the car and headed off to the library.  I did that when I started my novel Transporting.  I needed information on stars in the Hyades Star Cluster, and then I needed to know how to calculate orbits for planets that might be able to hold life.  I spent weeks looking this stuff up, because once I discovered the things I needed to calculate orbits, I had to figure out how to do the math.

These days, when I need to do that, I bring up my solar system modeling software, and a couple of sites I have bookmarked on my browser, and I’m ready to make magic.

When I want to find a name, I start hitting baby name sites; Baby Center is one I love to use because it offers other suggestions for names similar to the one you’re looking at, but there are tons of sites out there.  You can even look for names based upon region: like if you need an Hindi name, or an Italian name, or . . . you get the point.  It’s there all there, and by typing in something, you find it like that–more or less.

And for towns . . . well, now, I almost always use Google Maps to find things.  Then again, I typed in “town name generator” and came up with this in like two seconds.  And this about five seconds after that.

“But, Ray,” you say, “I’m writing a fantasy, and those won’t work for me!”  I understand, and feel your pain.  So I have three little characters that will change your life.  You ready?


See, gamers, in particular D&D gamers, have been coming up with fantasy town names since the 1970’s.  And gamers are just like writers, in that they get stuck for names at times.  That means there are, again, tons of fantasy name generators out there, waiting for people to find the name of the next village that’s going to be burnt to the ground by some angry, misunderstood dragon.

But if you don’t need “tons”, how about this one?  Not only do you get towns, over to the left . . . yeah, fantasy names.  Have at it, my friends.  And remember: if gamers had discovered a particular genre–and they have, trust me–they’ve created internet generators to make their lives a little easier.

And if you’re doing something that’s a little more science fictiony–do I really need to say it?

We are creators of worlds, that is what we do.  I don’t mind helping people out; in fact, I enjoy it.  I also enjoy getting help in return.  And I think it’s important to maintain that network we have, so we can help each other grow, and become better, and work towards the goal we all have of seeing our words read by many others.

But, please:  when you do a general shout out about needing a name for a bronze dragon with a drinking problem that lives in the land of Holltin and is very fond of raspberries, I’ll just say, “Puddintain”, because, hell, it’s just as good as any other.

What’s that you say?  You don’t like that name for your dragon?

That’s too bad.  It’d be really nice if there was an easier way to come up with dragon names . . .

19 thoughts on “Lookin’ For Clues

  1. Yep, I know *exactly* what you mean… that same post generated a conversation (between a friend and I) that followed the stance you take in your post, about how it wasn’t that difficult to make up a name if you’re a writer… and if you’re feeling lazy, there are plenty of tools on the internet. Plus, it can be annoying for other writers to suggest a specific name because they then can’t go and use it themselves later on… hence the attempt to give that writer some general notions of place etymology rather than just a name.

    • I’m like you: I’m of the thought that if I give up a name, then it’s no longer mine and I might not be able to use it myself. Sort of like Keith Moon telling Jimmy Page, “You’re going to go over like a Led Zeppelin”. Though Moon was probably drunk at the time, and didn’t remember saying it.

      All those examples I pulled up–found them in like a minute after doing the Google. And these days, you can even find out how those towns might fair if spoken in a different language, which adds even more depth to your writing . . .

  2. I hate it when people try to get you to do their work for them. I have found a wonderful website with tons of demon names from the bible. I go there when I need a name for a new baddie in my latest book.

    • I agree. Long ago I found Encyclopedia Mythica, and if I need to do some research in that area, it’s right there. Same with names and such. I’ll give help in as much to point someone in the right direction, but after that one should learn to do their own research.

    • I will help where I can, but a lot of times it ends up being . . . forgotten. Or they come to the well again and again. I think, as writers, we have to know how to not only research, but to stretch that imagination. It’s so important.

  3. Well said, sir. Its hard to remember how it was to write back in the days where I had to wait until Tuesday Kayak (my mom always called it canoe) club to do my research because it was the only time I was likely to get a ride to the library. Physical card catalogs. Actual BOOKS.

    I always want to tell people who ask (repeatedly, at least) for the simplest of things – if you’re too damn lazy to click Google and type in ‘name generator’ how the eff are you going to write and edit 100,000 words? Oh wait, you won’t. You’ll throw your first draft up on Amazon and then call me later to cry because people say mean things about your punctuation, grammar, and lack of general…talent. *cough* Okay, that’s only happened once and I was much more sympathetic than I seem… but really.

    Writing is work, even when its easy. Bleed on the page or don’t bother.

    Gosh – this is a lot b*tchier than intended. I think I need some coffee.

    • Oh, no, it’s fine. I agree with you 100%; you have to wonder about someone who wants to be a writer, but every day they’re going, “I need a name; who’s got one?” The urge to really mess with people is very strong when that happens.

      I’ve run into this before from hanging out on a political board years ago; even blogged about it some time back. You’d post a comment based on something you read, and, for some people, if you didn’t give them the link ASAP, they called you a liar. I blew up on some guy who did that, calling him a lazy bastard for not being able to Google the story himself, and told him I wasn’t going to be his internet monkey. Didn’t go well.

      The probably is, I think the people who should have read this post never will. And if they do . . . “Well, that certainly isn’t *me*!”

  4. Isn’t this part of creating a work of fiction? If we are to create our world, then we should name it as well! Adam got to name things becasue he was the first man! So we get to name our stuff in our world we create. I think it’s part of the creation process – the fun part of writing. If you’re not going to do a bit of research for a name, I’d be willing to bet that there are plot holes in the story you could drive a semi through as well! It’s all part of the process. And, Raymond – my hat off to the master!

  5. Pingback: Q1 and Done | Wide Awake but Dreaming

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