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Fantasy Names

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Aleister, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. Aleister

    Aleister New Member


    So as I'm sure you all know, creating fantasy names is fun, but also a constant challenge. With so many amazing names already used in various fantasy works and the sheer difficulty of making cool unique names up to match personalities or traits, I was hoping we could share some name making strategies.

    Personally I like using Latin when naming geographical locations or animals. For example a rock eating beast could be called a "Petravore" Petra being rock in latin.

    Anyway, Id love to hear some of your name making techniques.
  2. Hypervorean

    Hypervorean Scribe

    I have come out of the habit of making up my own names for characters. I used to do that all the time, now I simply use ones that already exist but are very uncommon.

    When I write in Danish I always use Old Norse names and when I write in English I always use Old English names. I think it adds a bit to the general feel of the universe (I always write something inspired by mediaevel or earlier periods).
  3. ArelEndan

    ArelEndan Scribe

    For characters, I like to use names that give a sense of the culture I'm trying to evoke. If I'm writing something similar to Medieval Europe, this is my favorite resource: Medieval Names Archive For other cultures, I used Google and baby name books to research name conventions and meanings.

    Place names and creature names are harder for me. I often make them up, or use mythology that goes with the cultures I'm basing my story on. I'll be curious to see other writers' suggestions about that.
  4. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    One trick I've used --when I write in completely non-Earth worlds-- is to think of "corrupted sounds" from English. If a fortress is on a high mountain pass, I might say it was named "Highfort" ages ago, and then adjust that into say "Hoafurt" or however I might think the language of its time might be different from now. (It's especially fun if I lay out a kingdom in terms of the sequence of its colonization, so the map shows that the newer areas have more recognizable names.)

    Of course this uses English as opposed to other structures, but the key is which ways and patterns I decide to change it with, and it implies that the reader can recognize the otherworldly language roots as if they were English.
  5. We are, I fear, often too used to dealing with the written word. I used to have problems coming up with good names because I would shape it with letters from the start and focus too much on how it looked when written down. This often gives you names that look strange and exotic but often sounds somewhat awkward.

    These days, I prefer to go by sound - often I can just clear my head and think of a sound that resembles a name, something with the right beat and tone. Most the time I get a good name right away using this method, though maybe it becomes easier with practice. What you don't want to do is sit by your keyboard/notebook and jot down individual syllables or puzzle letters together like a game of Scrabble. Focus on the sound. You can figure out how to spell it later.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
    Aleister likes this.
  6. Hypervorean

    Hypervorean Scribe

    I used to do this as well (though in my Danish work), but I abandoned it because when I confronted my writer's group with it, they had trouble seeing where it came from and only thought of it as random nonesense :(
  7. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I remember coming up with Ashenford a long time ago (All the churches in the city ended up consumed by an intentionally run-away dig spell) and I altered it to "Ash at the Ford" more recently when I realized it would suit the culture of "druids" I have in my principal work in progress. I think it's important to have place names "fit" for the environment you are putting them into.

    As for people names, I at least try to be consistent within a given geography... It wouldn't do for believability if you have Urst Von Zell and Helmut Geist being friends with a James Baker and all from the same village. If you made it plain the James's family were transplated, it could work, but without that tidbit it seems out of place.
  8. MadMadys

    MadMadys Troubadour

    Naming is just one of those things that, before ever writing, doesn't seem too tricky. It's only after you get into it that it really take up your time.

    When it comes to naming characters, a lot of it, for me, comes down to how important they are in the story. Generally, I don't pull from any single source. I've used everything from Roman history, to Arabic, dictionary random-finger-pointing, and just pulling it out of my rear for ideas. Most thought went into my main characters which usually have names that are short and easy to identify in text. Lenn and Nat (short for Natalie) are two of my primaries and they are single syllable names that easily catch the eye. I also allow names to evolve over drafts. Another character is now Dera only after evolving from Dherra and then Derra.

    Another rule I use is, unless there is some kind of family lineage to consider, all character names are distinct from each other in spelling. I do it for the reader's sake since having a character named Beren and another called Baran would get really confusing.

    Other examples. For one race I created a way in which their names were formed and pronounced. Broken down as [Mother's tag name] ' [her child's tag name] ' [by father's tag name]. So this creates Bin'bur'kai for instance and, assuming it's a he who had a kid, that child's name would be something like Fel'tur'bur which takes his middle tag name at the end. In everyday conversation, they typically slur the names together, or just mix them, to make more 'regular' names like 'Feltur' or 'Feur' in this case. Though there are not many characters involved in the story from this race, creating this little structure was a nice touch to the overall world.

    As for places, I find there is never a hard-fast rule but if you are dealing with an entire world you should keep a method to naming certain areas or kingdoms. Having Gratsburg next to Veelsbhyptash seems a bit odd (unless it makes sense in the story somehow, of course).
  9. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

    I use Scrivener for writing; it has a "Name Generator" in which you input what source you want to use (what culture/nationality) and it spits out a bunch of names.

    So each of my nations and regions ties in to a region on Earth so I can use those general areas to draw names from.
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    For humans I use Renn names that are uncommon.

    I search the net for random name generators or suggested names depending on the race.

    When I say random, I use at most 1 out of 50 of the random names generated. It has to have the right feel to it.

    For all the names, if they aren't a main character of a book or movie I heard of, I will use it, cause there are many people with the same names today, so I bet they had the same situation back then.(whatever the time period is.)
    If it wasn't my Pen Name I would use Severin in my book, Severus Snape of HP is a name based on the same name as a pope. (Pope Severinus)
  11. dangit

    dangit Scribe

    for place names I take a real world name turn it around and alter it. For Example.

    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012
  12. Wanara009

    Wanara009 Troubadour

    I just use common name from the culture I based the nations from. For example, I have a nation based on Javanese culture so people that comes from there would have name like Cakrabirawa (Sharp and Frightening), or Wirasurya (Soldier of the Sun) and the places would have name like Bayakarta, Jayaraya, etc

    When naming a person, I usually matched the meaning of the name with the character background. Like if someone is named Digdaya (Conqueror), he would either come from a royalty or a soldier family.

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