The Fell Gard Codices

More on How I Use Wikipedia

December 14th, 2012

I wrote a bit the other day about how I used the ‘random article’ feature of Wikipedia to inspire names for the various dungeon levels in Fell Gard. More and more I’m finding it useful as a source for inspiration for other names and ideas. Even if sometimes I have to go pretty far afield from the original source article.

For example, the other day I wanted the name for a sword to be used by, well, let’s say ‘a powerful and fearsome force’ and leave it at that. I had a general sense of how the thing was going to be used, and symbolically what the, ah, entity in question was about; but I had no real sense of what I should call the sword itself. So I went to Wikipedia.

The random article I got was a disambiguation page for some towns in Iran named Qarah Chay. In and of itself, that didn’t mean much to me. So I figured I’d see what kind of resonances I could dig up. The articles about the towns in question were very brief, so that wasn’t much help. I don’t speak Persian, so I don’t know what the words of the name literally mean. I went to Google Translate, which told me they mean ‘cranberry tea.’

Well, okay. Whether that’s accurate or not doesn’t matter for my purposes. The randomness of machine translation is part of the randomness I want to incorporate into my process. So I’ll go with cranberry tea. Back at Wikipedia, I look over the article on ‘Cranberry.’ Turns out the name comes from ‘craneberry,’  because Europeans seeing the things in the Americas thought the plants kinda looked like the heads of cranes. Hmm, I thought, and went to look up ‘Crane.’ Which reminded me that there was a Classical myth about wars between cranes and Pygmies, in which Pygmies were depicted riding goats off to battle against flights of cranes. Which in turn reminded me of the etymology of tragedy, ‘tragos oide,’ goat song. Aha, I thought, and now the sword’s named ‘Tragedy’s End,’ and has a history of bringing death to dwarves.

It’s a long way from a town in Iran. It is, in fact, a ridiculously circuitous route. But that’s the point. By playing around with words and concepts I can eventually find a way to the concepts that I already have in mind. But the way that I get to those concepts indicates to me associations I might have forgotten or overlooked or not been aware of. So I’m then able to bring in associations I otherwise might not have, making the story (I hope) richer and fuller. It’s all another way in which randomness can serve to allow intentionality to emerge, as the subconscious plays with information.

2 Responses to “More on How I Use Wikipedia”

  1. Gill Alderman

    Hi Matthew. I hope this is the way to get in touch with you.
    Thank you for your generous appreciation of The Memory Palace on the Black Gate website, which one of my daughters forwarded to me. It cheered me and has made me determined to get on with the third part of the Guy Parados trilogy, though finding a ‘real’ publisher may be impossible. Maybe I’ll publish online. Lilith’s Castle is the second part of Parados’s story, out of print like the others. I may have some spare copies but they are in boxes still – three years ago (2009) I moved from Ireland back to England and live in Herefordshire in the Welsh Marches in a fantastic 15th century house.
    While in Ireland I tried unsuccessfully to break into mainstream fiction with a story with an environmental/Pagan theme set in Dorset. And also did two distance learning archaeology courses with Exeter Uni.
    To update my biography, I now have six grandchildren and two great grandchildren so I am pretty old, which may be a factor in getting any writing out there. I still have my scientist husband and a few lurchers.
    All the best,

  2. Matthew

    Hi, Gill! I’m glad to hear my thoughts on The Memory Palace had some value for you. It was an excellent book, and I hope I get to read the rest of the series. Best of luck finding a publisher! I’m still finding my own way with self-publishing, but if there’s any sort of advice I can give you, I’ll be glad to share whatever I know. I have seen a number of writers talk about how they’ve found self-publishing online to be a viable way to keep their backlist titles still available, so it really may be worth exploring. Either way, I hope the mainstream fiction story finds a home, too. And I’m happy to hear your family life is going well — I’m just beginning to appreciate what it means to see a new generation of one’s family come along, now that my brother and his wife have proved me with two lovely nieces. It must be wonderful to have seen three generations come into the world.

    Wonderful to hear from you!

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