Glossaries and Lists Needed or not?

A recent conversation amongst some science fiction writers involved the pros and cons of having and/or publishing glossaries and character lists.

My sci-fi/fantasy series requires, for my own reference at a minimum, a list of characters (names, ages, personalities, familial relationships for all and occupations, quirks & secrets/fears if a major player), places, items of social significance, religions, swear words, wildlife, foods, all with a pronunciation guide if needed, etc. I have a separate file on my laptop so I can add to it as new characters or terms are needed or appear in the stories. The decision to include such when the first book is released later this spring has not yet been made. I have found that reviewing this list occasionally to be enlightening as it reminds me of characters, usually, who have been cut out of a scene and I may find a use for them in later scenes or books.

I also have a running list of character names as a pool to choose from, especially if I am struggling with a new character or I need to change a name because the name does not fit anymore. That list resides in a small notebook which travels with me (whereas my laptop may not) so I can add to it as sounds present themselves. Realize the sound of a word has a subconscious impact and as characters are developed the name they start out with are not necessarily the best one and you should not feel bad about changing a name. If you liked the first name you came up with perhaps it will fit a different character, so don’t just delete it. It may be the inspiration you need for the next project.

Whether or not you include this extra material may depend on the sheer number of characters or the amount of science/magic in your story. It may also depend on space or page count or even technology available. I liked the idea of having access to a list by highlighting a word on the Kindle, Nook, or other electronic reader. If words can be connected with a dictionary I see no reason why they can’t also be connected to glossary or pronunciation guide related to the story being read. Perhaps that is already available and I don’t know about it yet.

Having such lists is invaluable to writers as worlds are being built whether it involves science fiction, fantasy, or your current neighborhood or nonfiction work. I suggest you get started on your list now.


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