April 5, 2021 at 10:48 am #128117
Hi, I really want to get into fantasy writing, but the thing that stops me is coming up with names. I’ve always been very bad at coming up with clever/unique names so how do ya’ll go about coming up with a name for a fantasy world you’re creating? If you’re writing a book with other beings that need names or things that can’t have normal names how do you do that? thx.
"Courage is found in unlikely places." JRR TolkienApril 5, 2021 at 1:02 pm #128125Zee@zee
Interesting question…I don’t write fantasy, per se (no magic, wizards or dragons) but my current series does take place in an alternative history Southeast Europe. So the cities and provinces that provide the locations for the stories are made-up.
For the names of characters, I used names of Southeastern European origin for the majority ethnicity, (Peter, Anna, Bogdan, Oksana) and names of Central/South Asian origin for the minority ethnicity (Preen, Arjun, Dunya.) I did this because I wanted to give my world a sense of authenticity, of being grounded in reality and history that I don’t feel totally made-up names can provide.
At the same time, I didn’t want to base either people group, or the conflict they’re involved in, on anything in our real world, so I attempted to create a sense of distance by making a whole bunch of stuff up…April 5, 2021 at 1:14 pm #128126Erynne@erynne
Hey!! I totally get this frustration. Coming up with names that aren’t cheesy are hard. I have a few tips that I’ve discovered writing my fantasy. I’m sure there’s more and better ones but these are just what I’ve found work for me:
First, don’t feel like you have to have a permanent name right away! Call it anything you want to begin with. The pressure of feeling like you have to have the perfect name from the start makes everything ten times harder.
And second, I’ll give you the steps I use for world naming.
1. Decide which theme you are wanting for your world. If you have this terrible, frightening world over run by monsters you probably want a scarier or at least serious sounding name. For instance, you wouldn’t want to call it Flowerland
2. After I figure out a theme, I think of random words that go with that theme and write them down. (seeing the words makes it easier)
3. Then, I seriously just scramble them and walk around my room talking nonsense until I find something that I like.
I hope this helps! And once you figure out a good name, enjoy writing your fantasy!! 😀April 5, 2021 at 1:35 pm #128128Elisha Starquill@elisha-starquill
@melancholicwriter – I usually go to Google translate and translate a bunch of words (relating to whatever I’m trying to name) into several languages. Then, I have a nice list and stick words together or tweak them until it sounds nice and, preferably, fairly pronounceable. The languages I pick often correlate to the cultures that I draw inspiration from, or they just sound super cool.
I also LOVE to pore over maps looking for names, and I slightly tweak ones that I like. I typically use the names I find in maps for characters/races/terminology instead of for places/locations. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Tolkien did something similar, because Dunedin is a city in New Zealand, Turin is a city in Italy, etc. 😛 )
Hopefully this helps!
INFJ ➳ Trinstamentalist ➳ Thalassophile ➳ Chocolate Hater ➳ Daughter of GodApril 5, 2021 at 9:27 pm #128173Skylarynn@skylarynn
My usual strategy is to take names from whatever real culture I’m using as inspiration and occasionally making up things that fit with those names. Or to look up the definition of the word I want the name to mean and use either synonyms or a root of the word (usually for place names). Ost Tarn is the name of an observatory on a lake in the eastern mountain range. ‘Ost’ is an old english word that eventually morphed into the modern ‘East’ and ‘Tarn’ is a word meaning ‘mountain lake’. For character names I’ll find a real name (‘Karin’) and make modifications (‘Kharin’) until it becomes its own thing (‘Kaharin’) that I can work with. I’ll alter spelling a bit to make it more unique (‘Brandon’ to ‘Brendin’) and so on. Name generators are a wonderful resource.
And if you’re specifically stuck on place names, think about what the land would be known for. The main land of my fantasy is called Haven because this plains area bordered on 3 sides by mountains and the other by a vast marshland is a sort of safe zone amidst a myriad of Australian-like wild horrors*. Tyggr-höfn (safe haven, roughly) is so named because it is the least treacherous harbor on the island. On a smaller scale the abandoned city of Cairne is so named as it is a city of the dead where emperors and their courts were buried. Tome is the home of the University and the largest library known. The Huldrevale is a broad, lush valley that is the capitol of the huldrefolk community. And so on.
*These include wyverns (coconut crabs but as dragonoids), sædracans (saltwater crocodiles but worse), drakes (30 foot long tree-eating lizards), cassowaries (Google if you don’t know), a forest of wild boars and the deadliest archers known, basilisk-infested mires, gryffins, etc.
"Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you." - Rev. Peter R. HaleApril 6, 2021 at 8:56 am #128267
Thanks everyone! This really helps!
"Courage is found in unlikely places." JRR TolkienApril 6, 2021 at 12:24 pm #128324Arindown (Gracie)@arindown
@melancholicwriter All of those are really good advice.
I was going to say something, but then I realized that I don’t have a method for coming up with names…I just make them up. *shrugs* (Or I ask my siblings for ideas😆)
Don’t stress about coming up with the perfect name the first time. Sometimes it will take weeks or even months. I had a character who didn’t have a last name for years, until I was watching a movie, and the name Tiaz showed up in the credits, and it just fit perfectly.
And secondly, don’t worry about being clever or unique. Being authentic is good, but being simple is okay too. Sometimes, familiar names can be the best, or even familiar things. For example, my capital city is called Acacia…which is a type of tree. The city has nothing to do with trees, I just thought the name was pretty. Or, a whole bunch of my cities are just Outposts with different numbers, like Outpost 8 or Outpost 12.
I find that fantasy writers sometimes over-do the unique names, so I wouldn’t be too worried about being “different.” Sometimes it’s best to go with what you think is best, even if it might feel lame compared to other people’s world building.
Not all who wander are lost.April 7, 2021 at 2:42 pm #128732Madelyn@madelyn
I often experiment with what letter combinations that I like best (for example, fj, ae, ai, ey) and use those frequently when creating names.
Another neat trick to use on occasion is reversing words. One of my characters was at one point an arsonist, and her name is Tsinorsra (arsonist backward). Not all readers will catch it, but it’s a fun easter egg to throw in!
Also, I sometimes use this website for generating names, or at least getting ideas for part of a name.
In Christ Alone My Hope Is Found.April 7, 2021 at 7:28 pm #128847Kylie S. Pierce@kylie-wingfeather
Hmm. I don’t use a particular method, but I will look up names for characters on baby name websites… I’ll also just use Google Translate and translate random stuff for place names. It all depends. My family and friends give me ideas too; my sister gave me a name for a pub, The Cracked Egg 🙂 , and my friend (known as Penny Rose on here, but we know each other outside of SE) gave me the name of a Realm, the Andellyn Sea.
I also use stuff from random myths and legends.
"Bha e fhathast. Agus bha e air a ghràdh." -Am Maor agus an Rìgh WolfApril 12, 2021 at 8:35 pm #130605
You guys are awesome!!! Thanks sooooo much!!!
"Courage is found in unlikely places." JRR TolkienApril 12, 2021 at 8:56 pm #130612sparrowhawke@sparrowhawke
Like others have said, I like to think about the fantasy culture and get inspired from the real-world. I like to modify or make up new names that have a similar feeling to real-world names. For example, I’m pretty familiar with Greek and Latin names. I altered “Antigone” to “Antione” or “Tione”, that kind of thing. Meghan Whalen Turner does this in the Queen’s Thief books: the MC is named Eugenides, which she made up but it sounds like a real ancient Greek name.
I also like to think about the sounds the culture’s language would have–you don’t have to make up a language, just think about it’s alphabet. I have one culture that has harder and more throaty sounds and another that is lighter with more vowels. They both have very different feelings and it adds a nice uniformity to the names.
Behind the Name is an awesome website for name inspiration. It gives etymology and history and has lists of names by culture, including ancient names, and surnames.
Hope this helps some!
Semper ubi sub ubi.
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