I had decided on the genre, Sci-fi. Of course, that meant alien planets, alien beings. The problem that hit me straight away, irrespective of whether I liked it or not, was that aliens probably aren’t called John Smith and planets need to be something other than Mars.
Try thinking of an alien name right now. I challenge you! Think of an alien name that doesn’t sound absolutely ridiculous. Let me help you, Zansedakonus; let’s say you’ve slaved over that totally spurious name for an hour, here’s what happens. You keep saying it to yourself over and over, out loud. The rest of your family are ready to call for the men in white suits, with the explicit instruction that it would be a good idea to bring along a straight- jacket.
You go and make yourself a well-earned cup of coffee; you need the caffeine desperately; by the time you return back to your manuscript you cannot, for the life of you, remember the name you have just concocted. A thought enters your head ‘how the heck I am going to answer questions on a blog interview if I can neither pronounce nor remember my characters names?’ Repeat this exercise 30-40 times over and the alien name issue becomes a real problem.
‘There’s got to be an easier way’ I thought ‘it would be easier to trace down a damn alien and ask him outright what his name is, rather than endlessly, night after night, persecuting myself over each and every name.’
I googled alien names. I felt a bit of a cheat. I’m writing about aliens, I should be able to do this. Right? ‘What the hell, no one will ever know’ I thought. I found the answer, an alien name generator. Couldn’t be easier, you simply click on a button and the site generates ten randomly fictitious alien names. ‘Hallelujah’ I thought ‘I’ll have this book finished in no time.’
I clicked; ten names appeared; I rubbed my eyes, ‘can’t be right’ I thought ‘these names look like a two-year-old has randomly managed to get its hands on my computer and played it like a piano’. The names didn’t make sense, you could not pronounce any of them.
Undeterred, I decide to persevere. I kept clicking to reveal the next ten, then the next ten and the next. After a while I’m staring at these relentless configured names as if hypnotised; again, the family are wondering if they should call the men in white suits. It’s the realisation that you have to go back to thinking up these names yourself that drives you to keep clicking; no matter how futile.
It’s amazing what goes through your head. Reviews of your book on Amazon, for example, that might go something along the lines ‘Good read. Best part was when ‘what’s his name’ from the planet ‘what’s it called’ dies in battle.’ Not quite got the same appeal.
The worst thing is when you come up with a gem of a name, a ‘hallelujah’ moment and you google it, as sure as eggs are eggs, some celebrity has chosen the same random name for its child; anything to be different. You find yourself hollering ‘What the….’ Out loud.
At this point the only thing you wish was that you had chosen thriller or romance rather than sci-fi; even a cookery or knitting book would have been easier.
If you can think of a useful alien name, why not post it as a message? I might use it in my next book!
Next – the end of the first draft.