stillsostrange: (Words)
[personal profile] stillsostrange
Today I named a character. It may not sound like much, but after nearly ten hours of pondering it, I feel pretty accomplished having settled on one. I have never had any luck with placeholder names--I can know nearly everything else about a character, but if I haven't found their name, they won't put out. I can sometimes tweak spelling (Ciaran was meant to be Kieran, but then he ended on the same page with Kiril; one of them had to give), but rarely can I completely change a name without it having a profound effect on the person. Some of them won't change at all. That's why Adam is Adam, even though I had to do jump through a few worldbuilding hoops to explain why he would have that name. Adam has been Adam since 1996, and nothing I have ever done has been able to change that.

Isyllt is the last and best of a long string of not-quite-right names. Back before the oceans drank Atlantis, when I was sixteen, reading too much Lackey, and working on a terrible portal fantasy starring thinly veiled analogues of my friends, there was a snarky girl named Elizabeth who fell into another world and learned magic. Then I started college and decided the portal part was a bad idea, and made all the characters natives to a sad generic European fantasyland. I didn't want a Hebraic name screwing up my awful pan-Gaelic mishmash (except Adam, because he wouldn't change), so after much consulting of name books, Elizabeth became Isolde. It still wasn't quite right, but enough to get me through a few abortive attempts at a book. Then I found a new name book, which listed Isyllt as a Norse variant of Isolde*. Things clicked. Her appearance changed. Her backstory changed. Her snark remained. And so Falling Towers was born.

That fell apart eventually, but many characters crawled out of the wreckage. Isyllt, Adam, Savedra, Nikos, Ashlin (originally Aislinn**, but I'd been mispronouncing it for so long I had to take steps***), Kiril, Mathiros (originally Matthias), Brenna, Ciaran (Kieran). They emerged older, wiser, and with better wardrobes, and have gone on to win fame and glory.


* It should probably be Ishild, but she's Isyllt forever now.

** My first exposure to a lot of Gaelic names was the Cheysuli books. I mispronounced every single one of them, and bad habits became ingrained. Astute readers will notice I'm still borrowing names from that series to this day.

*** Yeah, I know it's still not quite right.
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