1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Use of Real names for Things for second world Fantasy

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Chasejxyz, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

    203
    206
    43
    I, and I'm sure many of you, use the word "earth" and "moon" and "the sun" to refer to the ground/dirt and that thing in the sky, since they're generic terms for things (like our sun is named Sol but we never call it that, it's always just the sun). In a fantasy world, where there is no connection to our reality, we also accept that the characters aren't literally speaking/thinking in modern (American or British) English, but the story is presented as such because the author (and the readers) write/read that. We use words and phrases that have etymologies based on real people, places, or events and we accept that, too.

    My question is: at what point is that too much? The Royal Capital isn't going to have a Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, of course, but your story probably has assassins, so does that also mean that your world has hashish (i.e. cannabis)? A lot of words from Dune* are just straight-up lifted from Islamic culture, but the average person probably didn't know about jihads when it was first released (or they didn't have the same relationship to it as we do in a post 9/11 world), does that make it more acceptable?

    I've been thinking about this since my next project will be having a "magic" system based on alchemy and I want to have seven [important things] based off the seven planets/planetary metals...but those are names we all know from reality are from Roman gods. I would feel that if I said "Jupiter" or "Mars" then the reader will assume that this is our Earth (either alt-Earth or fantasy Britain or something) since why would a made up planet have the same solar system as us? Or I could pull a Dune and take a name from a culture/language less well known by readers, but that feels kind of gross to do.


    * Dune technically isn't second world, it's a very far future, but it might as well be, since it's 20,000+ years ahead of us and has "magic" and spice and all that other stuff that can't exist in reality
     
    Maxine Carr and S.T. Ockenner like this.
  2. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

    305
    97
    28
    Your book is being written in English for English language readers. If you don't call the Sun, "The Sun", it's just confusing.
    Like, you can't rename colors in a book without pictures.

    It's an interesting topic, each writer has there own tolerance for such things.

    For example a book I read used the phrase, "rite to bear arms" in context to swords... even though it does not technically reference Earth, it very clearly does and takes me out of the moment.
     
  3. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Troubadour

    102
    82
    28
    On one hand, you can think of yourself as a translator or interpreter of other realities for human earthling readers. You can call a sun (notice the minuscule here) with any name, but making clear that it's a sun and not anything else. The same happens with moons, planets and even weaponry if you will.

    On the other hand, you can invent a language from which take some words to put here and there, but yet you'll need to make clear in your narration what they mean and also use them in meaningful ways, specially if you want your reader to remember them. For instance, in her novel The left hand of darkness, Ursula K. Leguin invented a calendar and clock system for the planet Gethen, complete with gethenian words to name months and days (also, it didn't have a week concept). In the edition I own, there's an small appendix at the end of the novel explaining the calendar. The problem with this method is that it forces the reader to go back and forth searching for such-and-such name to understand what they mean, breaking the intended immersion into the story. A similar thing happens in Dune, where you have a glossary of terms at the end of the book. Personally, I prefer to read novels in one go, not going back and forth, and also I find kind of a waste being forced to memorize details that are mostly decorative. A middle ground solution would be using footnotes on the pages where certain terms appear, that way you don't break much the immersion and don't force the reader to go somewhere else to look for the meaning of whatever alien concept you present them with.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  4. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    571
    265
    63
    Since my current novel is set on another world I never use "Earth" to name the world, ground or soil. Other than that, every world has a sun (star), many have moons, which is only a name for Earth's moon. Other planet's moons have other names (Titan, Europa, Io, etc). I avoid names that specifically reference only our planet. I don't rename "ocean", "river", "tree" or anything else along those lines. I generally leave alone things people (readers) see everyday.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  5. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

    223
    272
    63
    I think it depends on how much detail you feel is needed in your setting. Tolkien created languages, calendars (with unique names for months and days), geography and history. He even included some astronomical details. But he didn't make much use of them in the story telling, they were more mentioned in passing and as background.

    I think my question to you would be if you need to name the planets at all? I mean, does it matter if they're not named, or can you get away with writing something like "when the third planet is aligned with the second planet alchemy connected with gold (or whatever) is at its most powerful"?

    I'm asking, because sometimes I think we overdo the world building. I'm not sure we always need to put all the details in, I think that our readers will accept a broad brush approach provided that the story telling holds up.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

    203
    206
    43
    I'm pretty sure I'll need to name them for this project. Mars/iron is tied to war, auspicious occasions, strength, aggression, and anger, and the [one of seven things] for Mars is the personification (monsterification?) of those traits, so just saying "it embodies the fourth planet" would be...kind of weird for it to not have a name. Like if I made a periodic table of elements in that world, there wouldn't be a "Livermorium" or an "Americium", but calling it "the 116th element"...also wouldn't make sense. Someone would name it something. (I'm not actually crazy enough to do that, don't worry).
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  7. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

    223
    272
    63
    OK. I think you may find yourself doing more than just naming planets. You're going to have to think about how you find them in the night sky, and that means you need some idea of the stars and their constellations and where they are relative to each other. As a real life example, a few weeks ago Mars was visible to the naked eye in the night sky. To find it you needed to know where it was in terms of azimuth (compass direction relative to north), altitude (how high up in the night sky relative to the horizon it was) and its position in the sky relative to other celestial objects.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  8. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

    267
    143
    43
    It's your choice, of course, but personally I'd name the sun and moon as sun and moon. With other things, it depends. As much as possible I like to use the same words, but some just wouldn't work, of course. I wouldn't use Roman gods unless there was some connection with our world, even if that connection is that your world is an alternative version of ours. I'm not sure I'd use Earth unless it was this Earth or one connected in some way.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  9. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

    591
    495
    63
    In general I think about worldbuilding that you can't do everything. Tolkien tried. It took him more than 20 years and even he didn't manage to build everything.

    Also, to me it feels a lot stronger if you worldbuild a few things very in-depth and sort of gloss over the rest. I don't need to know the full 2000 year history of that one mountain over there, where 12 battles were fought, unless it plays a role in the story. But if gender roles play a big role in your story then I love it if you have examined it from all angles and worked out the consequences and have it influence everything in your world.

    Combining these two things for me means that I move some things over from our world to an imaginary world. The sun is the sun. My pirates wield cutlasses and rapiers. And the parliament building is called a parliament building. Why? They're not essential to the plot and not where I want to focus my attention on in regards to worldbuilding. Also, they worldbuild in their own way. If I mention a cuttlass wielding sailor on a frigate, then people will have a certain image in their head. It's fast and effective.

    To bring this back to the planets. I think this is an area where it pays to invest some worldbuilding time into. They affect the magic system in your story, which seems to play a fairly big role in the story. This makes it an area where you want to go deep. You want to know something about the planets that play a crucial role in your story and how they affect your society. Here, it would throw people off if you called them Mars and Jupiter in the same way having your capital named London would.

    It should be noted that you don't necessarilly need to do this for all 7 planets. If in this book only "jupiter" and "mars" feature, then make sure you know everything about them. The others are not that important then. You might even get away with not naming them or having only a general idea of their powers and influence. Something to save for a next book in the series perhaps ;)
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  10. Malik

    Malik Auror

    1,089
    1,313
    163
    The trope here is Calling a Rabbit a Smeerp. The general rule is, don't do it.

    This. It sucks, it's going to take time out of words-to-page, but you need to work it out. I was dead-set on having a world orbiting a ringed gas giant. What I learned from building (literal) models is, the slant of the rings in what they considered "the moon" would change during the day, and where the rings were every morning would change throughout the month and slowly throughout the year. Which is a cool little piece of worldbuilding detail that doesn't really affect much . . .

    But . . .

    Watch this:

    - One of their lunar months is a rotation around the gas giant--110 days--of which the last 6 are in total darkness as they pass through its shadow.
    - Four rotations comes out to roughly one of the gas giant's orbits around the sun, which to them is a year. 110-day seasons.
    - 30-hour days, 440-day years. The locals are stunned at his youth and vigor at the ripe old age of 27 when he should be in his late 30's by Earth terms.
    - The gas giant will be in the sky, big as God, night and day to some degree in their hemisphere. The people will only see total darkness on stormy nights or during the 6-day eclipse.
    - The humans will have lousy night vision. The MC from Earth has a considerable advantage at night; he can read by moonlight on a clear night.
    - The people will be terrified of the dark, and darkness will factor into their lore and mythology. (Their conlang uses the same word for "dead" and "dark." You don't kill a man; you extinguish him.)
    - The lunar cycle is 110 days: crops, tides, and fertility cycles. Populations are going to be tiny. No massive cities, no massive wars.
    - Small populations mean gender parity; it's all hands on deck. Women lead guilds, command armies, fight in the ranks, train horses, everything.
    - There's a whole huge thing about how this affects sexuality on my blog, but the TLDR is that they're polyamorous and pansexual. Their literature, songs, jokes, and language are all sex-positive. They need to reproduce. It's not unusual for a woman to marry one man but sleep with several, or even marry several; it ups her odds. The MC, from Earth, is not cool with this.
    - The oceans are impassable due to tidal forces. No Age of Exploration trading economy means no need for Rule of Law, so everything's basically Germanic tribal law and local trading. No huge international agreements, no big treaties, no standard form of payment between nations.
    - The world will be subject to cataclysmic earthquakes every few hundred years or so, which is perfect, because it justifies pre-industrial stasis.

    And so on. All this from working out the motion of the planets.

    I don't have to detail all of this--certainly not in, say, a prologue--but it's just stuff to keep handy when I'm writing scenes and developing local color. Over the course of 2 or 3 books, it all falls into place.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  11. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

    203
    206
    43
    But all that stuff is really rad! It sounds like you found all those things and used them to logically build out your world. I don't plan on doing anything that crazy, the planets are just out there at regular planet distances, but if I'm making them up from scratch then I can change what the connections/themes of each would be. And I do have Universe Sandbox so I can play with that....and come up with constellations...this actually sounds really fun. Thanks for reminding me to do that!
     
    S.T. Ockenner and Malik like this.
  12. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    1,903
    349
    83
    Um..."rite" to bear arms?
     
  13. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

    305
    97
    28
    BEAR Arms. Arms of Bears. Did I stutter?
    Or Rite of Bear Arms - I'm very smart
    :p
     
  14. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    1,903
    349
    83
    Do you mean "Right"?
     
  15. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

    96
    79
    18
    No, the Cat-tholic Church in his world, populated by talking animals, has a rite for bears, as they are in communion with Rome(ow).
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  16. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

    160
    68
    28
    I'd just use the English terminology for such things, unless there is a good or specific reason not to.

    You mentioned alchemy. It deals with some metals such as mercury. The alternative name is quicksilver. That could give it a more mystical feel.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  17. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Troubadour

    163
    132
    43
    You could name the planets after another pantheon. That might be enough. Pick gods with similar enough attributes to the Roman ones our planets are named after (assuming you want them to have similar attributes), and there you are. It could be a pantheon as "dead" as the Roman one, which would make it not cultural appropriation. Norse, Celtic, Slavic, something else, perhaps even mixed and matched. (Whoever named the days of the week in English did the same thing. They kept Saturn for Saturday and named the rest after Norse gods with similar attributes to the Roman ones the days are named after in Romance languages.)

    Or, if you're creating a separate mythology for this world, make up gods with those attributes and name the planets after them.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  18. Maxine Carr

    Maxine Carr Dreamer

    17
    12
    3
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  19. Maxine Carr

    Maxine Carr Dreamer

    17
    12
    3
    If using Jupiter, Mars and Venus for example as aspects in your work make it understandable and you feel that they are the right words to use. I do not think your readers will think that you have just copied our solar system. It all depends on how you present them in your world.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  20. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    1,903
    349
    83
    Well, if your world was set in a different solar system it would be quite odd if you were using those planets, unless of course for humorous effect.
    "Wait, we BOTH have a solar system with Jupiter in it? That's waggldoggles, man. Leace, Pove and Plower fower."
     
Loading...

Share This Page