After waiting in vain for a copy of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn to come available at my local library I finally just put it on my Christmas wish list. At least that way if I didn’t like it, it would have been someone else paying for it. Actually, that wasn’t my concern. Enough people I know recommended it that I suspected it would be okay.
And, by golly, I got it for Christmas! I’ll review it when I finish it, but in the meantime, I’ve encountered one of the ongoing problems for writers, and fantasy writers especially: name pronunciation. No matter how hard a writer may try, someone is always going to find a different way to pronounce names. I thought I was doing well on this one. I listen to a podcast by the author, and he refers to these books regularly, so I’ve heard the names of many of the characters. For example, when I encountered the character Sazed I remember he pronounced it “Say-zehd”.
I’m now far enough that I have encountered the character Elend. Except the name didn’t ring any bells with me, so I didn’t try to think back on whether or not I’d heard him pronounce it. I’ve been pronouncing it much like the name Ellen, with a ‘d’ on the end. The other day I finally started realizing this character might become significant to be considered a main character, and it finally clicked that I had heard Sanderson pronounce his name before. It’s just he’s always pronounced it “ee-lund”.
Thus we see the plight of the fantasy writer. You can spell things so that people can pronounce them (and people will still get it wrong), or you can spell them in a way that looks good. He could have spelled the characters Vihn, or Kehlseeuhr, or Eelund, but Vin, Kelsier, and Elend look better. But then, when you talk to people in person, you run the risk of them not recognizing the name, or worse, being bothered by the fact that the author pronounces it stupidly.
I’ve seen cases where authors actually include pronunciation guides in their books. I doubt that helps much. I tend to be more anal than most, but even I get tired of flipping back to the front or back of the book every time I encounter a new name, and eventually will just say “Forget it, I’ll call them what I want.”
So I guess the best I can do is try to promise, should I ever publish a book, I won’t get upset with readers if they mispronounce the names. If you are so nice as to buy a copy of my book, you can call them whatever you like. Consider it one of the perks of ownership.
UPDATE: I have since gone back and listened to that particular podcast, and it’s actually NOT Sanderson who keeps pronouncing it “Ee-lund”. It was one of the other podcasters, and the one time Sanderson pronounced it, it sounded like “Eh-lund”. My bad, but also it proves my point. When two friends can’t even agree on pronunciation…