There was an interesting discussion in one of my Facebook writing groups today, about whether a fantasy novel needs to call a horse a horse or come up with all new beasts and names. The original poster wanted to know if it was OK to use Earth animals rather than coming up with her own. There were some great points about the differences between sci fi and fantasy, and also about how some writers name every single object with some new fancy name and how that slows down the reading.
Here’s what I had to say on this: “In the Little Fuzzy books (H. Beam Piper) the planet settlers were creative, and named the items they discovered on the planet Fuzzies (latin-esque name Fuzzy Fuzzy Zarathustra), Damnthing (as in “one damn thing after another”), and Sunstones. This was sci fi, not fantasy, and it worked because it shows the psychology of how people name things. Here on Earth a “deer” wasn’t a deer until a majority of us called it that and stuck that word in the English dictionary. Call your riding beasts runnerbeasts (as they’re called on Pern) or some fancy name that matches other words in some “native” language if you really need to differentiate that they aren’t horses in order to show something to your readers. For example, you might describe them in the detail they’re described by CJ Cherryh in her Foreigner series if the pain of riding them moves the plot along. But if they’re just part of the scenery, the way carrots, beer, and fountain pens are, then don’t bother jumping through hoops.”
I’m very stuck on “does it move the story” logic right now. I’m trying not to edit myself as I write new sections in my main WIP, but every time I check something already written for consistency I find myself paging back and forth through all sorts of things and writing notes to myself about whether or not to remove certain things. It’s a pretty good thing to be hung up on. Now if I could just get hung up on finishing the last few chapters of that WIP….