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NaNoWriMo Day 5

New words: 2,444
Total words: 8,927
Goal: 50,000

8927 / 50000

A follow-up from yesterday's whine: the one good thing about NaNo and a story that's meandering in the wrong direction, is you can write five versions of things and count them all in the word count, then pick the one you like best in December.

At least you can by my rules.

But now, a question for anyone who's read this far: I need a name for my spirit beings. I can't call them spirits, djinn, fae(ries), angels, demons, goblins, ghouls, ghosts, etc, because they aren't any of those things, and they are all of those things. But they still need a name, something they might use to refer to themselves. And as much as I try to just "make up a name", made-up names sound lame. So I was thinking, if I could usurp a lesser-known word actually used for similar legendary creatures, that would be cool.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 6th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Could you use a fairy-like being from another culture?

  • asparas (Hindi)
  • phi (Thai)
  • menehune (Hawaiian, but less spirit-like)
  • apsari (Java)
  • tennin (Japanese)
  • yosei (Japanese)
  • patupaiarehe (Maori)

These courtesy of The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference. Hope they're somewhat helpful.
Nov. 6th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
I'm nervous about giving any obvious ethnic flair to the name, since they are not creatures *from* any place in particular. I think that's part of the issue--the story takes place in the modern day, in the modern world, where the names any particular culture has assigned to supernatural creatures becomes too provincial. I'm looking for a more universal outlook on the whole thing, that's sort of the point of the story, where it is humanity as a whole struggling with the concept of a non-human intelligence sharing the Earth with them, rather than legends of any particular place on Earth.
Nov. 6th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. What about something like "Others" -- it seems like a likely direction people would go in this situation. Or maybe a little PC stammering with terms like "corporally challenged" or something . . .
Nov. 6th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
Well, I've been calling the the "Beings" as a sort of place-holder, going with the assumption that most cultures' words for themselves, when taken in their original form and translated into English, invariably turn out to mean "the human beings." So the spirit beings would just think of themselves as "the Beings."

But it needs the capital because it's the most generic word, ever, and generic is never a good way to go.

I was using the "Others" for a while too, but it reminds me too much of the lurking creepies on Lost.

Edited at 2011-11-06 04:06 pm (UTC)
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Nov. 6th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
As I mentioned to Ann1962 below, sprite sounds too whimsical to my ears, and my creatures aren't particularly whimsical. Sprite is also too well known, I think. Fay is just another spelling of fae, which is obviously the fairies or sidhe. Nimbus and kobold, on the other hand, are much less well known and might be the beginnings of a good made-up name I could cobble together.
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Nov. 6th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
That's interesting, because in the Wikipedia disambiguation page, the word "Nimbus" as a name for a supernatural creature doesn't appear, not even in the section on creature names used in fictional works. Kobolds, on the other hand, have their own page full of stuff, and even I've heard of Kobolds before (probably from all the research I did a year ago in my previous vain attempt to give these creatures a name).
Nov. 6th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
I like the "fey" though it's mostly an adjective in English.

Some suggestions form other languages with plural in parentheses.

from Russian
byes (byesy)- demon
dukh (dukhy)- spirit, ghost
feya (feyi)- fey

from Spanish
duende (duedes) fairy, elf, goblin
trasgo (trasgos) goblin, sprite

From German
(always capitalized)
Geist (Geister) ghost, spirit
Fee (Feen) fey, fairy
Nov. 6th, 2011 03:26 pm (UTC)
I'm nervous about giving any obvious ethnic flair to the name, since they are not creatures *from* any place in particular. The difficulty is, every name for a supernatural creature comes from some culture or another, and sort of wears its ethnic origins on its sleeve.

But reading all the suggestions might help me cobble together something made up that sounds sufficiently unusual without sounding too much like it's one particular culture's legend.
Nov. 6th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
I always found it interesting that the origins of the word spirit have to do with breath - a lot of cultures make the connection between breathing and the soul. That video of the starlings flying that's been going around taught me a new word, murmuration, which is rather beautiful.

I realize none of this really helps...
Nov. 6th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
Well, actually, asking the question itself with so little detail and then sorting through how the answers hit and miss what I'm looking for *is* useful, because it helps me focus in on why it's been hard to name these things. One reason being calling them "spirit beings" is a misnomer because I don't think they are really incorporeal, just so ephemeral they seem that way to us. Just like our breath is not incorporeal, either.

There is a scientific angle to the book where I imagine the scientist characters will give them some kind of taxonomic name, but for the creatures themselves, when I haven't tied any legends of them to any particular culture, it's kind of hard.
Nov. 6th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Well, historically when encountering new cultures it does seem like there's a scientific name, a slangy common-use name which may or may not be offensive and then what the people actually call themselves which is usually "people" in their language or some variation of "people from such and such place." Then of course there are various trends that come and go, like lately I've been noticing "newcomer" being used in place of immigrant, which reminds me of that alien tv series from years back, what was it - Alien Nation, that's it. There's "the Folk" if you want to sound more rootsy and in with the fairy tradition, and I'm rather fond of the Outsiders myself!
Nov. 6th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
Except one of the points of the back story mythology is that the spirit beings are native to our planet, co-existing on it with us, so that neither is the outsider. And they just call us "humans" because they don't really have language at all in their native form, so they just use our word for ourselves.

And the only reason they'd have a word for themselves at all is they can take human form and use language, and then there would be the need for a word, a word that differentiates them from us.
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Nov. 6th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
Devas in the New-Agey sense of the word (not Buddhist conception) seems close to how I've imagined them. I hate adopting New Age terms, though, because they show such ignorance of the cultures they ripped off names and concepts from.
Nov. 6th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
That was a whine? Would have never guessed.

My vote is for sprite too. I like how it sounds, devilish without being mean. Though that might rule it out entirely, depending on character.
Nov. 6th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
Devilish? Really? It sounds whimsical to me. A little *too* whimsical for creatures who don't really have the personality traits of the fairies/fae, which is why I am not calling them that, either.

I guess my problem is I made up some creatures based on personality traits *I* wanted them to have, powers *I* wanted them to have, rather than what a lot of urban fantasy writers do, sit down and say, "Okay, I am going to write a story about fairies/fea" (or about vampires, or about the djinn).
Nov. 7th, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
Hmm, in the interests of making it more personal to you how about something like the Masked? Many cultures used masks as a way of connecting to the spirit world. And in Latin, masca also means spectre or nightmare.

This if fun! Like coming up with band names!
Nov. 7th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
Masca. Oooooh.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )