World Building: Naming a Continent—or Not

It’s hard to believe you can fail to address a decision for so long the task becomes disproportionate to its importance. One world building question of mine went unanswered for years. Okay, for over a decade. Hopefully there aren’t other writers out there who can identify with this problem, but there probably are.

The task? Name a continent. I failed (for a loooooog while).

At least no one died. No country fell. No economy collapsed. Still, there was a fantasy world with a hole in it the size of my procrastination.

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

In the early 2000s when I was developing a fantasy world to serve as the setting for my stories I created Ontyre. The world of Ontyre (remember that, it’s important). The name came to me, as I recall, fairly early in the process. Other elements followed: histories, a highly defined magic system, peoples, cultures…even a rudimentary language for the ora’ean people.

Oh, and then there was the geography. And so my ridiculous tale of self-imposed woe truly begins…

I now know there are multiple continents on Ontyre, but when I started out I focused on the first one created. It’s called…I have no idea. I never named it. Nothing came to me at the critical moment and so I moved on. I named regions, mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, and a host of other landforms—and never the continent.

Over time naming the continent became a thing. It became a bigger decision than it deserved, which made it easier to set it aside time after time. When I made the first map I was reminded of my failure, but again delayed. What did it matter, after all, since there was only one continent (so far)?

After a long illness I returned to fiction writing in 2012. That’s when the mess really got out of control. I updated the map again and called it Ontyre. The world? The continent? Who knew? I played games with myself. I knew Ontyre represented the world, but I looked the other way when I looked at the map (I know, that’s a physical challenge). My lazy subconscious knew the map’s name implied the continent.

Meanwhile, I named my website Ontyre Passages. I created a Pinterest board and called it Ontyre Visions.

Time ran out.

Ontyre Map: CA Hawthorne

The 2015 version. The updated map is currently in the production pipeline. Ontyre Map: CA Hawthorne

After the last map update in 2015 I started daydreaming about those other continents (Arkrish gained a name). Yes, how delightful. I’d named one of the other continents before I named the original. Truth is stranger than the fiction I was writing and a blatant half-truth was happening on my maps. How tragic.

So, I named the continent. As in, I spent hours (after this many years I figured the task was worthy of overkill) deciding on the name, which involved dictionaries, Latin and Greek root research, and multiple Google searches. Yay for me, I’d finally named the continent.

Except, I didn’t.

Two days later I changed the name because its awkwardness bothered me. After a couple of more days I changed it again for the same reason. Later, yet another change happened because the latest version screamed “Character name!” to me. I didn’t want to sacrifice a good character name for a continent.

Besides, continents are ancient so the name should slide off your tongue as easily as if it’d always been there. My original versions came out of my mouth like sawdust.

Did I mention the word overkill?

Finally, a name stuck. Tremjara. I know, yawn. No, it won’t change your life. In fact, if I’d named it way back when you’d have noted the name with little interest. The reason this takes on importance now is because it’s a cautionary tale demonstrating the dangers of procrastination, and because it’s a weight off my shoulders. Too, it’s interesting (at least, to me), to see all the work (some of which is pointless) that goes into small details.

It’s done. It’s over. And this time I even updated the map as a part of its 2017 overhaul, but that’s a whole other topic…

One Reply to “World Building: Naming a Continent—or Not”

  1. Pingback: World Building: Naming a Continent—or Not | Christina Anne Hawthorne

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