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Creating Fantasy people names?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    So I tried creating my own names for my fantasy planet but I couldn't really do it - it's just not my strong point so instead I took world from other language and make them the names for my characters.
    Like Greek words for certain things is that ok to do? Is there any problem with doing that?
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Istar

    Only thats others may be familiar with the borrowed language and that may not be what you like.
  3. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    Cultural appropriation in order to sound alien to westerners. Is a criticism you may get.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    That is something to watch out for, but it might work if you are going for a Greek "vibe" to your work.
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    This is my philosophy on writing in general. You do not have to ask if you can do something. Just do it well and apply some common sense and things will work out more often than not. IMHO, the more you overthink something, the more likely you'll execute things poorly, and that's where problems arise.

    If you think something is working for you, then keep using it. Because everything is filled with potential issues. It's like using the name Dick for a character. It can work, and it can blow up in your face. No pun intended.

    Further more, as long as you're actively thinking about your story throughout the writing process, from draft to final polish, eventually, the really sticky issues will bubble to the surface and will be plainly obvious. But that won't happen until you write the darn thing.

    And if you happen to make a mistake, big or small, just roll with it. IMHO, you learn more from making mistakes while doing something than you will by asking others if you should or should not do something or if there are issues with doing something or not. Because, most of the time, the answer will be maybe and it depends.

    my 2 cents.
    EMoon, Malik, Rkcapps and 1 other person like this.
  6. wirehead

    wirehead Acolyte

    I created a conlang and lately, I've been taking names I've found cool and then translating the literal meaning of the name into the conlang.

    I've also adjusted the conlang such that any missing words tend towards the sound of the original name, or at least the part about the original name that I found appealing in the first place.
  7. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Cultural appropriation in order to sound alien to westerners. Is a criticism you may get.

    That was what I was concerned about. This isn't a human race or a race that has had anything to do with planet earth so...I'm just no good at creating my own names (for anything) some fantasy writers just seem to have a knack for it. I could try blending the words I guess.

    Thanks for the input so far x
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I wouldn’t worry about cultural appropriation in general, let alone when creating naming languages. Achieve cool, worry about nothing else. LOL.
    Rkcapps and pmmg like this.
  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    In general, Greek myth is such well-trod ground in the west that nobody's going to take you to task for using Greek names. They have none of the awkward implications of using African or Native American names out of context, for instance. My rule of thumb is to just make sure that you have a relatively consistent naming scheme, whatever that ends up being. Makes your world feel more real. And you don't have to pay much attention to a name's literal meaning if it "sounds right", but if the meaning of a name can add some thematic depth, go for it.
    Dark Squiggle and Rkcapps like this.
  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Many many years ago, back when MMORPG’s were text, I recall someone asking if my character was named after a city in northern Africa during the time of Carthage. I blinked and said, “uhhh, no.”

    Ever since then I’ve had that nagging sensation that someday, if I ever have a bestseller, someone along the line will inform me that every time they read a character’s name, I’m telling the reader to go [email protected]*^ themselves in whatever-language. Or better, it insults some religion that will want to have me killed.

    My mouth has always gotten me in trouble, my fingers might as well have some fun too. So, I make up whatever and worry about nothing until the bounty lands on my head.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
    Rkcapps likes this.
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Vala

    Nowadays, a minute or two on Google can help to reveal those problem names, without much bother. I use various tools to help me create fantasy names, but for main characters and side characters, I run the name through a Google search and see what pops up. I'd found one I liked and ran a search on it, only to find out it was a vulgar term in some other language. So I didn't use it. Yet.
  12. Jorunn

    Jorunn Dreamer

    The main worry I run into with character names specifically is whether they are linguistically consistent with each other. Do they sound like they could come from the same language?
    And then I wonder how much that matters, because as much as I admire The Professor, I am not a linguist and won't be creating 14 languages.
    Rkcapps likes this.
  13. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Sage

    I tend to go for constisency. I use Scrivener if I can't think of something. Just start with a name, write your story, and do a global change if you're unhappy. Global change has flaws so always do a read through your MS afterwards.
  14. Horus

    Horus Scribe

    This one is my kryptonite, so I relate. I have made so many terrible sounding names by trying to create some new language that sounds right, only to discover that the names don't quite mesh with all the characters. Or worse, the reader gets too bogged down trying to figure out how the exotic name, with almost no vowels, sounds. If you aren't good at linguistics, I'd just skip to borrowing names. I've fallen into the habit of finding a similar real culture, then using their native (current or past) language to name characters/places. Will admit, it is lazy of me, but its not a talent I possess, or am likely to acquire.
  15. Tom

    Tom Istar

    I like inventing my own fantasy names, but it can prove frustrating a lot of the time. When I'm making a bunch of names from one culture, I'll determine suffixes and common sounds and naming conventions before I get started so I have a guide. For instance, one of my language groups has no K or Z sound, and female names end in -i or -ai, with male names ending in -an or -in. Their names are always either two or three syllables, no more and no less, usually contain a lot of vowels, and the most common consonants are L, N, S, V, and H. Putting these kind of rules in place makes the process of creating names a whole lot easier, and it keeps names from the same culture/language group sounding consistent.
  16. C. L. Larson

    C. L. Larson Dreamer

    I have found naming, people and places, the most difficult thing to do while writing. Partly because unpronounceable names are a pet peave of mine. Having an inadvertent pause in your reading, everytime a poorly conceived name comes by, is irritating .
  17. Malik

    Malik Auror

    I am so twelve years old right now.

    Another thing is that readers will pronounce the names their own way, and if the spelling is too wonky or has too many variables, then what they hear in their heads may not be at all what you heard in yours when you came up with it.

    You'll think it doesn't matter, until you're talking with a fan and you pronounce a character's name completely different from the way they envisioned it, and they get weird and sullen. It happens more often than you think. I've got about a dozen names in my series that I would go back in time and change, and mine are pretty easy.

    I'm terrified when I imagine readers' reactions to the audiobooks . . .
  18. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Sage

    I have set up my computer to talk (it's available on a standard Surface and it's standard , I believe, on most computers these days seeing as I just googled how to do it) that way I can listen to how a flat monochrome voice SHOULD pronounce the word. Use it to play around with your letter placement. The letter 'k' makes a harsh sound, so stick it in a character's name you don't want people to like. And the letter 'v' is popular for antagonist, think 'Vader' and 'Voldemort'. Keep those in mind.

    As an aside, I have my computer read everything for my WIP. It draws my attention to missed words and whether the flow and rhythm is off.
    FifthView likes this.
  19. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    I've been having some luck combining 2 to 3 languages for a name, by syllable. For example, rather innocuous, "Planet". In English, two syllables. If it's an exotic feeling I'm looking for, I might add extra syllables. I pick 3 languages, consistently based on what fantasy peoples are involved. Group A might sample from Japanese and Icelandic, Group B might sample from German, Armenian, and Hindi, etc. I then mash-up the words, not quite to the point of totally rearranging letters, until I get something reasonably intelligble with some hope of a reader sounding it out.

    At random: Planet
    Japanese: wakusei
    Icelandic: reikistjarna
    The new word for "Planet" might be "wakujarna".
    Or, "reikisusei". Maybe "Seijarna".

    I found if you pick languages that are vastly seperated by geography, you can get a unique-sounding set of words pretty quickly. Closer together might sound too much like 'one' specific language already recognizeable and in use.

    It doesn't totally skirt the issue of cultural appropriation, but it would take most people a long while to track down where you were borrowing syllables from. You might give a linguist a reason to hopefully chuckle and shake their heads one day.
  20. EMoon

    EMoon Dreamer

    Oddly enough, the most important thing about creating names is to make them easy to pronounce. By anyone. When I started asking people why they didn't read fantasy, the #1 reason was "those impossible names. I can't keep them in my head because I don't know how to say them." People can't connect to a character whose name they can't "hear" in their head. I took that lesson to heart, and am careful to make up names that don't have weird consonant clusters, apostrophes, five vowels in a row, etc. You'll always find someone who can't figure out how to say a name but 98% of your likely readers should get it right off the bat. (Show your name list to a friend who hasn't read the story, and ask how they would say the names. If it's easy for them, it'll be easy for most readers. If they stumble over something (unless it's *meant* to be difficult and people in the story also stumble over it) then change it. Change the spelling so it's easier to read or change the whole thing...don't leave readers confused by something like Nn'grturpkklnch. If you can say it, spell it out. "Engurtoorpkinch" is hard enough. His friends call him Engur. Let readers know him as Engur from the start.
    C. L. Larson and Night Gardener like this.

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