Weekly Roundup of History, Archaeology and Writing Wisdom August 15-21

This week I’m going to start with an extended question and I’d love to hear back from all of you in the comments below.

Fraktin Rock Carving of Puduhepa, "sleuth" of Blessed by a Curse

Fraktin Rock Carving of Puduhepa, “sleuth” of Blessed by a Curse

As many of you know, I’m working on a historical mystery set in the Hittite Empire. My question is this, should I shorten and simplify the long Hittite names of my characters? They tend to overburden and confuse the story for most readers. A couple of my long-time critique partners have said recently they really think I should shorten them. So what do you think? If I did, I would, of course, mention the changes in my author note.

My two main characters are famous within Hittite history, having ruled (after my book) for many decades, Puduhepa and Hattusili. There are three other characters whose names come down to us from history: Pentipsharri, Arma-Tahunda and Great King Muwattalli.

Then there is the group whose names I created, but using a list of known Hittite (or in one case Egyptian) names: Hepate, Naptera, Khety, Shalu, Kuna, Ilali, Daniti, Nakili, Akija.

So which of these, or all of them, would you shorten or abandon? And what to use instead?

Important follow up question: Propose non-silly nicknames for Puduhepa, Hattusili, Pentipsharri, Muwattalli and Pentipsharri.

Here are the posts I enjoyed around the web this week:

How to Write Dialog that Sounds like Real Speech. This is a no nonsense reminder of some tips for writing good dialogue. I enjoyed Linda Clare’s “before” and “after” models and her rule of 3 is a handy yardstick to keep in mind. On C.S. Lakin’s very helpful writing advice website (if you haven’t found it yet). Click here for “How to Write Dialog that Sounds like Real Speech” on Live Write Thrive C.S. Lakin’s website.

image of Judith Starkston reading Hand of Fire with Socrates

Judith reading Hand of Fire with Socrates

Many thanks to Debbie Hilcove for this wonderful article about Hand of Fire and writing fiction set in the ancient world. By Ishtar, I’m grateful for good writer friends! Click here for “Love Story Gone Awry” in The Wrangler

The site at Tel Kabri near Haifa, Israel overseen by Eric Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau continues to amaze (1850-1600 BCE). Last season they found storage rooms of wine and this season uncovered more clay storage jars in a series of rooms. The similarities to Aegean palaces such as Knossos continues to grow—which has surprised everyone. I may have to send some character in my fiction to this location–we don’t know what it was called or who lived there, but one can imagine! Click here for Haaretz’s article “Canaanite Rules Liked their Wine Jars: Vast Collection Found at Tel Kabri”



Weekly Roundup of History, Archaeology and Writing Wisdom August 15-21 — 3 Comments

  1. Judith,

    I would definitely shorten the Hittite names until they flow easily in English. Otherwise, a reader hesitates every time he has to mentally pronounce one. That disturbs the pace of the narrative and can develop into such an annoyance that the reader puts the book aside. As writers of historical fiction, we want to be accurate, but we have to realize that many of our readers are drawn by the story we’re telling, not necessarily the details of the time and setting. Discoveries that thrill us sometimes draw glazed eyes or yawns when we attempt to explain them to people a little more rooted in the present than we are.

    Hope to see you this fall. Keep writing!

    Rosemary Simpson

  2. Excellent point about the flow of the reading, Rosemary. You’re right about that. Unusual groups of consonants and long names can really slow a reader. We work so hard to keep the story moving that it seems counterproductive to slow it with names. But the names have to hold some degree of authenticity, I think. Coming up with a compromise is very tricky.

  3. Thanks so much for the mention! I’m excited to announce that my latest project a writing resource book, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing releases December 1st and is already #1 in writing resources. The book is chock-full of easy-to-follow advice and Before and After examples. Get yours today! http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=fatal+flaws

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