“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
Those few words changed my entire life. It was almost my birthday all those many moons ago the day Star Wars hit the scene. And yes, I was there. Even picked up a shirt a while ago declaring that fact. I had always been into sci-fi before this. I read Bradbury and Asimov, watched Doctor Who and Red Dwarf. I even had a bridge play set with dolls from the original Star Trek. But there was something different about it. Sure, Kirk fought against the Gorn and The Doctor battled the Daleks, but this was truly the first time seeing alien creatures on the big screen.
The infamous cantina scene, where Han shot first. You still knew they were actors in crazy costumes, but there was such a rogue’s gallery of shapes and sizes all crammed into that one tiny bar.
I always believed that was what actual space aliens would be like. So much diversity and variety. I didn’t know much about the actual science behind it. The concepts of gravity, atmosphere, and genetics were far too lofty for my young mind to completely grasp, but I just knew that not everything in the universe would have two legs and walk upright.
Once I began writing my space opera in earnest, I decided to be creative when it came to my alien races. Most of them are bipedal, so shoot me. I think, at the end of the day, it’s easier to explain movement when you have characters with a skeletal structure you are familiar with. And to avoid any strangeness with the physical romantic aspect, our hero and heroine have compatible genetic make-ups. I imagined it akin to how species on island groups evolve into something unique and yet, are still genetically similar to species found on the mainland. (Thank you, Darwin. Actual science in romance. Who knew?)
After that, all bets were off, and I let my mind run riot. I looked at nature, anime, childhood cartoons, and general weirdness for my inspirations. I wanted depth, humor, and most importantly, a level of believability in each character. But first, a little lesson on the peoples inhabiting the Seven Quadrants of the Dantaran galaxy.
Our hero, Kahlym, along with his brother Brel, are from Raedyn Primus, one of five planets in that part of the system. Warriors through and through, they are strong and proud. I pictured them like giants, standing well past six and a half feet tall, with broad shoulders yet with more regal and aristocratic features. Metallic skin tones and eyes in every shade of pure gemstone imaginable. In fact, one of the reasons my heroine stands apart is because her human eyes are brown. I wanted them to be more otherworldly rather than alien. I mean, she does have to be incredibly attracted to him, so I couldn’t have him look Jabba the Hut.
The next player is my cleric and healer, Yhan’tu. Now, originally his name was going to be Falko, with my very, very tech earning the name Warwick. I liked the name, and it was a bit of an homage to one of my favorite actors, Warwick Davis. Sometimes, I think the author community has a shared mental highway and another author beat me to it. Not wanting to seem like a copycat, I shifted gears. Warwick became Falka and my physician became Yhan’tu. The design was easy. When I thought of a comforting presence, I envisioned, well, an old-style “papa san” chair. My sister had a pair of the padded round seats when I was a kid and I’d love to curl up in them. So, I made my cleric a big and round. Bald, blue and with four eyes was a crazy after thought.
When it came to Falka, my tech, I asked, what would be helpful for someone trying to run an entire starship’s engine room pretty much alone? Why, a third arm, of course. For so much multi-tasking, the character had to be female. And how about a little helper in the form a three-foot tall owl? Sure, why not? So, Lozzan was born.
And rounding out the crazy group are my brothers, Dhaerin and R’uan, and the troublemaker, Qaen. The siblings are from a leonine race and I thought of them as a cross between the Cowardly Lion and the performers in Cats. Caring, compassionate, and spiritual, they embody loyalty and friendship. Qaen, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is dangerous and disreputable. So, for my sleazy playboy, I stole a page from my youth, and he looks very much like the “bad boy” stereotypes from early 80’s anime. You know the type: killer smile, perfect teeth, and hair that defies gravity. I opted to give him pale lavender skin and a blue and white hair, spiked out á la Flock of Seagulls. (Young people, you might want to Google that one.)
Add to that mix, one human female. So, she was easy. Personally, I love creating their names almost as much as I love the characters themselves. Sometimes, I take a normal name and figure out an interesting way to spell it. Other times, I stare at the keyboard and start choosing random letters. No, really. I’m serious. I know it sounds completely crazy, but that’s the honest truth. I’ll look at how the letters form a word on the screen and if I like how they meld, I’ll keep it.
Just don’t ask me to pronounce some of them.