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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Good Titles, Great Words!

So today I wanted to say a few words about...words, specifically names. Sometimes names just come to us when we write. Other times, it's a struggle. The past few weeks I've been working on the second installment of my dystopian fantasy, and I've had to come up with words for things that don't exist in our world.

For example, I had to name a little robotic thing that drills into a person's body and attaches to their nervous system. The thing reads their DNA, cell structure, the status of their health, blood type, neurological abilities (specific to this world) and can even try to assimilate them into the collective by drilling a pathway into their heads for the collective to use for invasion. Not a cuddly friend!

I didn't know what it would look like until I sat down to describe it. In the end, it looked like a spider. The abdomen was a metal box and eight metallic, serpentine tentacles came out of it, which are things that drill into the body. The name that came out for me was Arachnoid. (Note: I have tattooed men in this story called Arachnimen because of their spider's web tattoos. I'm sure this had something to do with it!)

I wasn't sure I liked the name. I'm still a little meh about it, so it might change in the final writing. Despite not coming up with something I loved (yet!) it got me thinking about how to move forward when stuck on a name or other word.

Later, I had to come up with a name for someone that hasn't been a major character in the story. He won't ever be a major POV character, but his role in the story is vital. Basically, he's someone who raised a child that wasn't his so the future could be protected. (Think Uncle Owen and Aunt Bru in Star Wars). So, I wanted his name to mean 'surrogate' or something along those lines.

So guess what I did? I pulled out my trusty iphone, which happens to have a dictionary.com app on it. (I'm the nerd who looks up word definitions and etymologies six times a day, so this app definitely gets  a lot of use). Anyway, I looked up the word 'surrogate.' Of course I know what this means, but dictionary.com, just like hard copy dictionaries, gives a word etymology after the definition, including the Latin base for the word. Apparently, 'surrogate' comes from the Latin, 'surrogatus' which is an assimilated (weird, as my book is about assimilation) form of 'subrogatus.'

What does all that mean? Nothing unless you speak Latin, and, let's face it: who does? As for me, I named the dude, Subro. It's not something many of my readers are likely to pick up on, but if they do, they'll actually get a glimpse into the future of the story. See, despite naming this character now, the reader won't learn that he's not the kid's biological father until much later on.

What's my point? Word etymologies or synonyms in other languages are awesome ways to come up with names, titles, or other words for your stories.

(Ever heard of a cat named Felix? Of course you have! But 'Felix' means cat in Latin. So, he's a cat named Cat, just in another language. See? It works!)

Try it out and let me know what you come up with. I'd love to hear. Oh, and if anyone has any suggestions for a word better than arachnoid, bring those on too! :D


  1. Felix means cat? I never knew! I would do the same thing you're doing if I was an author. You're names sound good to me so far.

  2. I think Arachnoid is cool. Very fitting. It's great to remember to use etymology.

    1. Thanx for stopping by Alison! And for the input. I appreciate it! :D