How many syllables was that again, or, “Can I buy a vowel?”
Written by Melissa Ann Singer, Senior Editor
At this point, Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory, and I have worked on seven books together. They’ve all been fascinating and fun but there were a couple of times on this last book, Crown of Vengeance, where I thought my head was going to explode.
Because of spelling.
The world that Lackey and Mallory have created is populated by many wonderful creatures . . . and a whole lot of elves. Not the “Shoemaker and the Elves” kind—the tall, beautiful, magical, warrior/artist kind. And they (and the places they live, and their horses) all have names. Long names. Multi-syllable names. Names that go on and on and on (Galathornthadan, Runacarendalur, Peldalathiriel, Aralhathumindrion) . . . .
As I was working on the final edits, I began to worry about the copyeditor who was going to have to cope with all those names—and would not have the advantage I’d had of reading the book several times. So I decided to put together a style sheet—a list of character names, place names, frequently-used words in Elvish, a list of the “books” mentioned in the novel, etc. And I decided to annotate that list a little bit so that the writers and I could use it as quick reference to make sure we had all the family connections right . . . and, as war and battle became the order of the day, to keep track of who died, and when, and where, and how.
Making up that style sheet just about drove me around the bend! But it was a useful thing. Because in a book of this size—Crown of Vengeance is around 200,000 words long (and all of them entertaining, even “a” and “of” and “the”)—a character might appear in chapter four and then not be seen again until chapter ten, and sometimes there was a slight change in the spelling of the character’s name between the two scenes . . . at one point, a married couple swapped names . . . and once or twice, the name of a character or a location added or dropped a syllable or two along the way . . . .
Emails flew as we worked out what was correct, because Elvish has rules about how things are spelled and what certain suffixes and prefixes indicate, so it wasn’t like we flipped a coin and said, “this should be an ‘a,’ not an ‘e’.”
I wound up with three separate style sheets. One for elves, demons, and horses (there are 16 named horses in the book), one for locations of various kinds (countries, places of worship, forests), and one for things like military ranks, job titles, noble ranks, numbers, and the names of months. About 16 pages in all.
Turned it all over to production and heaved a sigh of relief that I would no longer have to remember the difference between Denarcheliel and Dendinirchiel, or where the “u” belonged in Hamphuliadiel.
And then, weeks later, there was . . .
A lovely map, created by Jon Lansberg, showing many of the countries and places through which the High King’s army travels as it attempts to conquer the world. And when I looked at it for the very first time, a tiny voice in the back of my mind said, “Isn’t that spelled Jaeglenhend, not Jaeglenheld?”
I can’t wait for book two . . . .
From the Tor/Forge November newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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