This is part two of a series of posts that detail how I’m handling worldbuilding for the first time. The dark fantasy setting of Salazarre is a lot of things, and it’s gonna take me a while to discuss them all. I’ve come up with good chunk of it already, so these posts are gonna be me reflecting on where I’ve come in the two years Salazarre has existed in my mind.
As I keep writing these, I might be able to detail my thought process in how I come up with ideas for the world, what kinds of things I research. Might be fun, though it’s not what I plan on talking about right now.
The picture up top is unrelated. I just felt I should start adding title images to these, and I’ve got a lot of pictures saved up over the years of places I thought were interesting. This is a courtyard at my alma mater, Villanova, that I always thought was nice and somber.
The name ‘Salazarre’ doesn’t mean anything. At least, it didn’t when I first used it. I came up with it as I wrote a little fairy tale thing, nothing more than a vast stretch of plains and a cursed forest. The story was even called “The Cursed Forest,” and it also starred my witch Relia, when she was just a generic winsome witch.
I still have that story, though it’s just awful to look at now. Relia was so different back then, not the somber, reserved person she is now. She’s come a long way.
Anyway, the name. I sat at my computer desk, a few paragraphs in, and the dialogue led to a name for the country the characters inhabited. I didn’t have one, I hadn’t needed it. I even kind of liked having them in this formless, empty world, like a blank chalkboard. They were people, they had lives, but the world they lived in was all potential, nothing set down. Coming up with the name of it, well, that’s a flag in the proverbial New World. A loss of the endless potential, the first narrowing down into something concrete. It’s kind of romantic, now that I think about it.
I came up with the name the way I always do: I picked the first word I thought of that didn’t sound entirely ridiculous.
Salazarre. It sounds pretty Spanish. ‘Salazar,’ of course, is a Spanish name, and the -rre ending reminds one of the Navarre region of Spain. I didn’t even have a particular Salazar in mind when I thought of the name.
It sounded fine at the time, I wrote it, and continued with the story. It sounds fine to me now.
The entire process took about three seconds.
There’s something that nags me about a lot of fantasy stories, specifically contemporaries. Their names don’t mean anything. They aren’t made to mean anything, they’re essentially nonsense words made to sound fantasy-esque. Rarely, you’ll get a fictional etymology.
Usually it’s not a problem. Nonsense words, as I call them, work for countries because you don’t always need a reason to establish just why the state is named what it is. Could be after a person, a race of people, a geographical area, whatever. I wonder how many people know “America” is named after an Italian explorer. But sometimes in fantasy, you’ll have names bandied about for cities, people, races, without much logical thread connecting them. Names that sound fantastic, but without any justification. It seems flat, to me.
I want to avoid this. Names are important to me, I spend a lot of time thinking of them, or researching them. People have told me I’m apparently pretty good at it. But more than anything, I want names to be meaningful, to have some kind of justification apart from “it sounds fantasy.”
People who live in a certain place devise a language, a means for naming the things around them, naming themselves. Fantasy names should reinforce the verisimilitude (I love that word) of the setting, to really sell the fact that these people are not our own. There should be different cultures, unless the story calls for otherwise, and they should usually have their own languages and naming schemes. If they don’t, there should be a reason for that. There’s no one grand naming convention the ancient civilizations of Earth agreed to, though that might be different in your setting.
I did create an etymology for the word ‘Salazarre’ after the fact, of course. Easy enough to tie it into the lore of the setting, I think I came up with it driving home from work.
‘Salazarre’ literally translates to ‘Land of the Archangel,’ the Archangel being the semi-divine deity of the setting. ‘Salaz’ just means ‘Archangel,’ it’s a title. The word doesn’t entirely translate that well into English (so I imagine), and ‘Archangel’ is its closest synonym.
Brief tangent on that: the lore around the Archangel explains that she was born a mortal woman, a messianic figure in Salazarre’s religion. That woman’s name was Salia. You can see how it influenced the later title.
Anyway. -rre simply means ‘land,’ as a suffix. Salazarre’s language, Hieratic, which I shamelessly stole from Ancient Egypt, uses a lot of suffixes and prefixes to modify base words. Similarly to Salia/Salaz/Salazarre, ‘Sal-‘ is often used in a person’s name, usually female but not always. I have a male character with the last name ‘Salib’ in The Witch and the Snake.
I also just realized I could probably get away with calling a character ‘Sally’ in the setting, which seems a bit lazy to me. There isn’t a reason for that, despite the fact that I’ve always liked the name. I only realized it just writing this blog post.
I don’t quite plan for all this to be relevant in the course of the story, but it’s there for people who care.
There’s a bunch of other names I’ve come up with for the setting, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll end with this.
The government running Salazarre is called the Succession. I wanted to invent some kind of governmental title for the country, beyond just ’empire’ or ‘hegemony,’ but I wanted it to mean something. In practice, it’s a confederacy or federation, a few disparate provinces bound together by religion and a common war. But, well, I like to be special.
For a while, I didn’t really have much of an idea, just the underlying lore. The country of Salazarre was created by their messianic Salia, just prior to her becoming the Archangel, in order to keep her alliance of nations secure. It’s stayed stable for thousands of years, owing to a shared cultural identity bred through religion and war. But what kind of name should that alliance take? What’s significant about it, what’s meaningful?
So a caliphate is a Muslim government led by a person considered the religious successor of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s a common enough term these days. I’m really interested in Islam, both as a religion and as a cultural ideology lasting hundreds of years. Being that it can be a very touchy subject for a lot of people, and the last thing I want to do is offend Muslim people with an imperfect understanding of their heritage, I decided against calling Salazarre’s government a caliphate. But the idea of it a government being led by the successors of a holy figure stuck with me, for I hope obvious reasons.
Hence, the Succession of Salazarre. It’s got a nice ring to it.