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  • Jon Bolitho-Jones

"What's in a name?"

Or so it goes in Romeo and Juliet. No I am not going to continue in this blog about roses and whether they would smell the same/worst with a name such as Boogerdil or Raawkleslunge. No I thought I would write a little bit about naming in writing.

A lot of people can find it quite difficult to name things. They’ve created it all but end up rather stumped when they have to add, for example, a title to their new thing. That’s why there are so many Untitled Project 1’s around, not because it’s a catchy name or anything. I can’t claim to have defeated this issue either: currently the 3rd of my series is rather imaginatively named book 3, while others have so far nabbed such brilliant ones as Sci-fi Dectective, and Flitwicks (the original spelling of the main creatures in this idea rather than the place). I guess book 2 in the Edimor series is quite happy to even have a full title, though this is a loose one at that.


When the World Falls Down was also not the first title to be attached to book 1 either. It was originally meant to be At the End of All Things in deliberate reference to something Sam says in the Lord of the Rings. It was from this original statement, the idea of a fantasy world finally at the end of its tether, on the brink of annihilation that was a key focus at the outset of my writing. Whether it’s Ragnarok, the End Times or what have you, there is often this apocalypse mythology in fantasy worlds though it is rarely ever tackled in real time. It tends to be a prophecy, something that will come, or a challenge the hero ultimately overcomes therefore ruining the prophecy. Doom prophets must get quite annoyed with all these hero types proving them wrong. As you would have probably guessed so far I am quite a big fan of fantasy. As such I wanted to play with some of the key tropes seen in a lot of these in regard to this series. For example in many works of fantasy fiction Elves are a dying race. However no matter how many die, they still seem very willing to go to war after a bit of encouragement. It is something that is key to their identity, but rarely does it do more than tread water. That’s why in my series, though Elves were once a part of it, they are pretty much extinct but for a few notable exceptions. The same for the dwarves; that other dying race. You won’t find them peeking around the corner, or hiding underground with their treasure. They are dead and gone, the world for them has fallen down. This was quite an early idea that I wanted to establish in this series.


Anyway back to my original point of names. If you type When the World Falls Down into google you will find plenty of things about both David Bowie and the wonderful film Labyrinth. I would like to add that the song he does sing is actually called As the World Falls Down not my books namesake. Maybe that’ll stop all the people getting it wrong on Twitter…





The thing is though that to some degree this is a deliberate reference too. You can probably guess that I am a huge fan of the film and it was one of my biggest inspirations for the entire series. The song itself is a sad one, and very much ties into the central themes running through. To call them out here to you though would very much be a spoiler so let’s move on.


Naming things can be quite fun, clever, and downright odd. Indeed I find myself almost head-butting the keyboard when coming up with a creatures name, then looking at the screen, thinking for a moment and then going – yeah that’ll work! Other times my fingers just improvise something phonetically interesting onto the screen. Not all of them are like this, though the ideas I want to place in your head from reading these names is of a place alien, odd, and a little bit confusing. Let me make up a name for a new creature…


Slpek


There we go. Now what is a Slpek? I don’t know about you but I’m thinking of some kind of irritable race of spikey snail creatures. Interesting isn’t it? That’s probably how they come up with new Pokemon nowadays…


On the other hand sometimes it’s less random and a lot more thought is put into the creation of a name. Sometimes this will be a purposeful reference to something from our world, whether important to me or that I find interesting. Take this chap for example:





Most of you probably have no idea who this peculiar person is. This is Conrad von Hotzendorf, a wonderfully stuffy sounding name isn’t it? Really suits this military man of the 19th century. He was the chief of staff of the Austro-Hungarian forces in WW1. Seen as Austria-Hungary doesn’t exist anymore you can probably guess he didn’t do a very good job. You’d be right, he was an utter, bumbling disaster. The epitome of the sort of stuffy individual found in some of the military classes of that time, one with little understanding of what was really going on. It’s a name that also, to our ears nowadays sounds odd, from a bygone dusty age that has long faded into mystery. When you say Hotzendorf it bounces dumbly, like an arrogant idiot falling down the stairs because they refused to listen to how to use them. There’s a “Lord Cuthbert “One Word” von Hotzendorf” in book 1. He’s got an equally pompous sounding English name added to the front. Don’t worry he’s not an important character, in fact he’s only ever mentioned in passing, but in spite of this you can probably imagine what sort of individual he is.

This can be used in other ways, to play around with expectations. For this I’m going to use another famous Austrian: von Trapp. Now if you didn’t know anything about him or the Sound of Music you would probably think of someone very strict, rigid, straight laced, and maybe a bit pompous too, from an upstanding family of some sort of German origin. Indeed this is the sort of person that greets you in the musical at first. He’s put on a hard shell to try and cope with the loss of his wife and to manage his family and the world around him. But these expectations are soon worn away as you discover instead that he is a very warm, caring, and effectible family man. This is a case of a name (in this case a real one) being used in a dramatic interesting way. Names can be very useful things in writing. If a rose was called boogerdil, it would likely smell just as sweet, though it would be very much a surprise, much like a von Trapp, than a bumbling Hotzendorf. However the image I have in my head as of writing this is of an excited Admiral Ackbar pointing at a member of the musical family and shouting “It’s a Trapp!”. But maybe that’s just my weird sense of humour.


There are other names in the series that have other attachments, even hints at to what is going on and the deeper themes to the series. The origins of the name Bethany Hannah Morgan is a very easy one for people who know me, along with the name Grandpa Vic. You just have to look at the dedications page at the front and the mystery is solved. However other things will take more effort to work out. Why is the ship called the Evanescence for example? What is the inspiration for the name Tassarin? To explain them further would really be spoilers, so I’ll stop. I’ll leave it to you to see what you can figure out.


With that though it's bye for now. I'll be back soon!


Jon


https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/young-adult/when-the-world-falls-down/#

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