Wednesday, 17 February 2010
A couple of months ago I wrote about language in fantasy. One of the comments raised a question which has also been asked by a couple of my early readers: why do my main characters have such ordinary names?
This is, in my mind, intimately tied to the question of language more broadly.
More specifically, what does the English language represent?
I've invented two languages for the Charanthe novels, but they are the languages of foreign cultures. I don't write the kind of stereotypical Hollywood 'foreigners' who speak (heavily-accented) English when talking amongst themselves. English in the Charanthe novels represents the language of the Empire (with stylistic variations for different regions within the archipelago). This is Eleanor's language, and since we see the world through her eyes, we understand it. If other characters speak a language she doesn't understand, then I don't translate for the reader.
That's a conscious decision. So is naming.
In this case, I wanted the Empire to feel like familiar territory (since, for Eleanor and her friends, it is), and contrast that later with the strange languages and experiences in foreign lands. If the books are ever translated, I would hope for the English dialogue to be translated but the other languages to be left alone. Likewise, if it was up to me, I'd choose to replace the names of those in the Empire with names that feel natural in the new language, whereas Tarasanka or Magrad names belong with those languages and should persist.
How about you? If you write fiction, do you worry about these things?