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In some AU scenarios, you can't use a manga character's original Japanese name. In ancient Rome, for example. it breaks the fourth wall to have a character named Genjyo Sanzo.

But in modern and recent-past AUs set in much of the English-speaking world (the U.S., Canada, Britain), it's not so jarring to use an Asian name.

How do you feel about character names in this kind of AU setting?

Bring on the alternative names! Just make sure I can tell who is who!
If you decide to use alternative names, it makes it easier for me if they start with the same initials as the characters' names in canon.
Just use the characters' canon names - it's less confusing.
Some other option wot I shall explain in comments.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
You're right, in very historically specific AUs, it adds to the ambience to change the name so that it fits the setting, but I've found modern times stories with canon names, changed names similar to the canon ones and changed names that had nothing to do with canon and I've bought all of them because it fit the story. So, I don't really have a preference. I can skip the argumentation of why a foreign name just like I skip the reasoning behind Gojyo's eyes being red. I can buy stories where he's dark haired or has blue eyes, too. I think that, if the characterization is good enough, the rest can't jar me enough to care.

Unhelpful comment is unhelpful.
May. 9th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)

Thanks for answering!

May. 8th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
I know there are some peole who find changed names confusing and hard to keep track of, so when I can, I use their canon names.

I'm writing a chapter-by-chapter AU (that I haven't finished yet, horrors) set in New Orleans in which Sanzo's local, Goku's from rural Mississippi, Gojyo's part Native American, and Hakkai's from a city with a significant Chinese population, and I changed all of their names except Hakkai's. (His I rearranged according to Western naming conventions.) But for my 7th night story from last year, set in the suburbs of New York City, I didn't change anyone's name except to change Kougaiji's nickname to Koh.

It's probably easier to keep track of who's who if you give them the same initials and names that are as close as possible to the originals given their presumed ethnicity and the period, but sometimes other names work better. I'm not particularly picky about it. So in short my answer is whatever of the three works best. If you change names, though, a listing at the beginning can be helpful.
May. 8th, 2011 03:28 am (UTC)
The handful of AU fic I've written where the original names wouldn't be appropriate have involved ancient Chinese settings... so I just stuck with the Japanese names like Saiyuki does. But I did once roleplay a Japanese character called "Ishida" in a Chinese setting, and had him adopt the title "Lord Shitian" (written with the same characters).

Saiyuki is kind of a weird example to use because it is almost a cross-cultural AU in canon. I guess since I was familiar with manga "Sanzo" before I read the novel version where he's "Sanzhang" in Chinese or "Tripitaka" in Sanskirt, it's not jarring to see it written in Japanese. But when I write fic for Chinese-themed Japanese anime like Koutetsu Sangokushi, I backstranslate all the Japanese names to Chinese. I read the novel with Chinese names first, so it's way too weird to see a name like "Rikuson Hakugen" instead of "Lu Xun, style name Boyue."
May. 8th, 2011 04:11 am (UTC)
I am all for the world building (and overthink things), so I am going to be confused and annoyed if I have to imagine Gojyo being called Gojyo if the story is set in, say, the Umayyad Caliphate -- and if he's called Gojyo in 1948- era NYC, he'd better be at least partly of Japanese ancestry (and then I wonder what his experience of WWII is like, and then,...). So names consistent with the setting are best :)

Having said that, great character voices mean you can always tell who is who, but if you aren't totally confident in voice, it is easier if the names hearken back to the canon names with initials or similar sounds or something. (This goes double if you introduce a lot of people at once.)
May. 8th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
Needs tickybox, not radio buttons! Or else a radio button for "IT DEPENDS".

If it's AU but the sort of thing like some very short ficlets, light kinkmeme fills, etc. where the AU setting is just a bit of lightly-sketched backdrop scenery, I really don't care much either way; whatever the author chooses, I can roll with it.

If it's a more detailed and carefully-established AU, where the change of setting is a big part of the story itself, I'd prefer to see the author use whatever fits the story setting best. If the characterization and voices are consistent and well-done, I don't have any trouble adjusting to new names and keeping them straight, and they help add to my sense of immersion in the AU setting. If it's possible to keep things starting with the same letters/sounds as the original names, that's helpful in figuring out who's who right from the start, but not a must. If you want to go for AU-language names that echo the meanings of the canon names, or otherwise refer back to some significant trait of the original canon characterization, that's also workable and IMO a fun little "easter egg" sort of thing for the reader to figure out.

(I have the same "it depends" attitude towards changes in appearance. If you don't *need* to change hair/eye color, etc., then don't; if they're colors not found in nature, and you're writing a realistic setting where you can't justify fantastical crayon-bright coloring, then I'd generally prefer going to the next closest naturally-plausible color, if possible, rather than going for a drastic palette shift. Although in Gojyo's case in particular, I find it relatively easy to accept an AU recoloring if it leaves him looking somewhat like Kenren; characters who don't already have one dramatic recoloring in canon are another story. Also, I will freely admit that I am sufficiently irrationally attached to long-haired characters like Gojyo that I am willing to cover my eyes and sing LA LA LA LA loudly if you want to keep them in haircuts that are a little longer than would be the norm for a particular time/place/culture, even if the story has little or no handwavium to justify it; or on the flipside, I am sufficiently un-fond of facial hair to be more than willing to play along with an author who chooses to keep canonically clean-shaven characters looking that way, even if beards would be the norm for a particular setting. YES, I AM JUST THAT SHALLOW.)

If going for renaming, I'd actually prefer *not* to have a Dramatis Personae chart at the very beginning: that sort of breaks the fourth wall for me, and wrecks the fun of figuring out who the characters are this time around. If you feel you must include a chart because a lot of readers ask for one, because they find renaming hard to keep straight, then I'd want it to be somewhere after/outside the story -- endnotes AO3 style or in a cut that takes you to notes below the story text, linked in a separate post, etc., just not at the beginning of the story where I have no choice but to scroll past it.

Edited at 2011-05-08 04:46 am (UTC)
May. 8th, 2011 02:29 pm (UTC)
+1 :)

May. 9th, 2011 11:33 am (UTC)
Teashop icon love! <3
May. 8th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this comment so I don't have to do all that work of actually articulating my thoughts, lol. :D
May. 9th, 2011 11:34 am (UTC)
May. 8th, 2011 05:06 am (UTC)
If the setting isn't prohibitive towards using canon names, I definitely prefer those - especially in a longer fic with multiple chapters, since I don't really want to start each chapter not only trying to recall 'what happened last time' but also 'who is who, again?'. (So initials would be my second choice, I guess.)
May. 8th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC)
I picked the "Use their initials" option, but I don't like it because it's easier, I just like it because it's cool. Dorky, I know!
May. 8th, 2011 10:27 am (UTC)
I think it depends on the fic. Obviously, if it's in a reincarnation AU then they need different names, but otherwise, providing it makes historical sense, I think it's best to stick with the original names. And I don't know about initials, but it does make it easier to follow if the alternate names are similar in some way to the original ones.
May. 8th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
I prefer being able to tell who's who by characterization - but that of course assumes that I know the author's writing well enough to know where we agree and disagree on characterization. ;) (and by that I mean broad strokes of archetypal characterization, as obviously the details are going to change based on the character's new setting and experiences, etc.)

I also use name meanings that may not be surface-level apparent to indicate connections.

For my novella-length reinc AU, I went with what felt right for the characters: Sanzo ended up as Steve Garrett, Gojyo became Jake, and Goku became Val (short for Valin - monkey king). Hakkai became Keiran McCullach (boar).
May. 9th, 2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
OK, I've seen a few shorter things kicking about here and there, but HOW DID I NOT KNOW YOU GUYS HAD A NOVELLA-LENGTH PIECE? *flails*

Also, your renaming is making me giggle happily because my old malamute, the one I've told you about with a personality like a canine Kenren? GUESS WHAT HIS NAME WAS. XD
May. 10th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
^___^;; Ahha, well, that would likely be because it's a couple-few years old at this point, and in it's own community with completely non-existant non-intuitive links from LJ. Er. Yeah. (Also also it got written in small chunks, so it wasn't until it was finished and recompiled that I could pin a length on it.)

Comments still very welcome, despite the age. Kiro and I would be happy to natter on about it.

Also, hi Jake? *g*

Edited at 2011-05-10 01:07 am (UTC)
May. 8th, 2011 05:19 pm (UTC)
I can go either way, really. But I like option 2 because it makes me smile when the author comes up with a clever alternate name!
May. 9th, 2011 06:45 am (UTC)
Just my opinion as someone who only reads and doesn't writes fanfic, but for me stories that completely change a character's name tend to kind of throw me off. Even if it's easy to tell who the characters are supposed to be by the way they are written, not having their original names, or at least something resembling them in a way that you can make the connection, makes me less likely to read a fic. It probably shouldn't matter, but for some reason it just doesn't work for me.
May. 16th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
Bring on the alternative names! Just make sure I can tell who is who!

. . . also, if you're writing ancient Roman Saiyuki, I kind of want to know about it.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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