For February 2004

February 4th, 2004 

Naming Names

One of the more difficult tasks in doing Pastel Defender Heliotrope is coming up with really good names. In the original, simplistic, Kamishibai that the story is expanded from, a handful of single names pretty much sufficed for the entire story. But in doing a comic, with a much expanded cast of characters, and a much more detailed world, I need to fill out the names of everyone in the story, and everyone peripheral to it as well.

One difficulty is that I set the precident in the original Kami that names would be based, mostly, on colors. There are some exceptions, though, names made from words with specific meanings that foreshadow or relate to the fate of characters...Nakimono for example. But, mostly, the gimmick is color names.

Fortunately, fans have helped by supplying me with many color names to work from, from many languages. I also scour the internet looking for more and more. The trick is finding names that sound euphonic, basically, 'really cool'. I have to follow some limitations on such names too.

For instance, I cannot use color names that are simply taken from materials. I cannot use 'turquoise' for example, because turquoise is a type of stone, native only to earth, possible only on earth, and the humans of my story have no real solid idea of what earth was, or that it even existed. While it is possible that 'turquoise', as a color word, might have survived independant of the source of the word, it is less likely than, say, 'blue' which is a color name only, and related to no material substance.

Unfortunately, I can't use 'Blue' either. Or at least I probably won't, because it is such a very common word, and so plain, that it lacks a certain quality of 'otherworldly name-ness' to me. Yellow works, but Red does not. Yellow sounds more exotic to me than Red, which is a name used here on earth, just like 'Blue' is used for hound dogs. But nobody I have ever heard of is ever named 'Yellow'...just called that, for cowardice, appropriate in the context of my story.

On the other hand, the Japansese word for blue, Aoi, works not only because it came from the original text, but also because it has...exotic appeal for my expected audience, which is almost entirely non-Japanese. By the same token, I can use words from Spanish, German, indeed most any non-English language with freedom, and for the same reason: virtually all of my expected audience will find these words exotic to some degree.

This same trick is used in Japanese manga, of course, when the artist names a character some strange word that sounds more or less 'Western' to Japanese ears. To an English speaking person, this can seem sometimes unintentionally hilarious, which is doubtless what a Japanese reader...if I should actually ever have one...would equally think of my own name choices!


By Jennifer Diane Reitz

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