Cleaning up the Novel

As part of the novel rewriting process, I am make some important changes. First, I realized that I needed to formalize the timeline in the novel. I always had a pretty good mental image of the timeline, but I realized that I needed to write down numbers, largely because there are some relationships between stories in the novel that could create odd readings. For example, one of the stories, “Sirk the Til”, takes place during Skordokott’s childhood. Later on, Skordokott  is a young man. I needed to make sure that the interval between the two stories is about 15 - 20 years. Here’s the current result of my work; I expect to modify it in future.

Another problem that several people have commented on is the difficulty of keeping all the alien names straight. There are maybe a hundred different characters in the novel, and some of the names are indeed difficult. On the other hand, I certainly can’t go around naming my characters “Joe”, “Tom”, “Mary”, and “Jane”, can I?

After some thought, I have hit upon a few guiding principles that will make things easier. The highest priority is on making names easily pronounceable. Yes, the process of reading does require some amount of “audio imaging” in order to take in a word. “Xchararfarshchar” is quite an assault on your reading skills, isn’t it? This pronounceability imperative manifests itself in several rules:

No uncommon consonant pairings
The mind trips up over names like “Flebtin”. It’s short, but the consonant pair “bt” is uncommon in English, so readers stumble over it. Here are some other examples: Feslym, Filrith, Sesfika, 

No pairings of voiced with unvoiced consonants
B and P are the same consonant, but B is voiced and P is unvoiced. That is, you use your vocal cords when pronouncing B but not when pronouncing P. The same thing applies to D and T;  G and K;  CH and J; and F and V. The consonants S and F are also close in another dimension: S is sounded with a whistle while F is unwhistled. M and N are another troublesome pair; have you ever tripped up over words like “somnolent”? Another troublesome consonant is L, which doesn’t play well with M or N. There are lots of consonant pairs that just don’t work well. Indeed, quite a few pairs don’t work at all unless they are adjacent because they belong to different syllables. Try pronouncing “cabj”, then “flapjack”. Hear the difference? 

No long names
I’ve coined some real whoppers: Manlorkeetle, Freenkotsil, Theolodin, Sorkhokhtani, Bayanadan, Buricalex. 

Some generally bad coinages
Kilmank, Yeemsly, Chlotild, Yoloway, Norkimda, Hurtuh, Nopkox, Sathstun, stlim, trokyo, Crablox, futlor. 

As always, there are exceptions. I fully intend to keep Zubenelgenubi and Skordokott, clumsy as these names may be. I also like Sufupican; it has a simple consonant scheme and a bit of cadence.

Some guidelines
I have therefore developed some guidelines for coining names:

1. Two syllables preferred, three acceptable.
2. Syllables of the form Consonant-Vowel are preferred. CVC is acceptable.
3. Double consonants are discouraged.
4. Triple and quadruple consonants are forbidden.
5. Word-terminal consonants are acceptable.