Names to Conjure Without


Names, especially for a writer of fantasy, are a constant source of peril.

Often, it’s people and places that cause the trouble. At this instant, however, I’m trying to name a thing.

We have a set of supernatural wards stretched across the forests. This vast, shifting field of sorcery is anchored to Creation at different nodes. Or possibly loci. Maybe nexuses. But they can’t be called nodes. Or nexuses. (Or noses or Lexuses).

I need something with roots. It may help if you follow me a little with this. Our wards are an ancient force. They were tied to the world by desperate people. The whole thing struggles to free itself like a lashing eel. Like the aurora. Maybe something from the world of shackles or nails, pins, stakes, or palings.

Nothing has presented itself.

On and off, I’ve turned to various species of thesaurus (there are some wonderful word finders out there) and weird old dictionaries. There’s a big book of forgotten crafts full of weavers and unusually shaped ironmongery.

From the shackle world, the word “gyves” had a promising rootedness–and a lovely “y” right in the middle. (All fantasy words since “wyvern” have wanted a strategic “y”). Then, sadly, I checked the pronunciation. (It’s possible that I’d been hearing people fussing about “.gif”), and I learned, to my horror, that we were going with a soft “j” sound with my “gyves”. My characters really couldn’t be walking from “jive” to “jive” with a straight faces.

Fantasy is, at the best of times, only the filmiest of gossamer thingamajigs from utter absurdity. At any moment, I might have to sell the existence of a gnome with a grim backstory and a secret burning love for justice. “Jive” might be pushing it.

I frequently convince myself that my search for the right name is a rabbit hole: a trap to catch the time and attention of the unwary writer. It’s *juste* a *mot*, after all.

But names do have a curious power. The wrong name is bad. It becomes part of the tone of a piece, clanging away every time you strike that note. Conjuring up unintended associations. (Moby Dick, I would contend, was a name to be overcome for old Herman M).

Another word from the chains and shackles world was “bilbo”, by the way. It’s a sort of an iron bar with sliding ankle chains. Very stylish. (I thought this word best avoided).

Bad names are bad. We can agree on that. But nameless things are even worse. They are boxes without labels, or suitcases without a handles. I’m sure that one might find science behind this. Somewhere someone will have put brain to scalpel the butter fingered lobe that cannot come to grips with the slippery nameless things.

(I’ll likely give up soon and throw in a placeholder. “Placeholder” Hmm. It almost works. Better than “loci” and “node”. Never mind).

Wish me luck.

That eel thing has me thinking. Maybe there’s something in a book of knots. That’s next.

(You think I’m joking).

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