There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Naming Names July 20, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 3:25 pm
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The names in fantasy novels or really any speculative book in general can often be absurd. Confusing. Misleading. Downright impossible to pronounce. Names you struggle to understand if it belongs to a male or female. Perhaps there are whirs or clicks involved, maybe a number even. The fantasy genre is notorious for producing extremely unique names and that doesn’t often work to the writer’s advantage.  But it can! There are a few things to consider when naming your fantasy cast: setting, timeframe, and audience.

When it comes to setting, think of where your story takes place. Is it on Earth? Is it in the woods? Is it on the ocean? Is it on another planet? Is it in another realm? Where your story is set should influence the names you give characters, but no matter what, remember to keep it simple.

The timeframe is also incredibly important to naming because some names were used more often in the 18th century than in the 4th century and if your story takes place on Earth during a notable time period, be sure the names fit into that. And remember, keep it simple.

Audience is extremely important to keep in mind when naming, believe it or not. If you’re writing for adults, you can probably be a bit more creative and whimsical when choosing names so long as (once again) you keep it simple. However, if you’re writing for children, especially young children, your names need to be very easily pronounced and understood.

When it comes down to it, your setting, timeframe and audience are crucial factors you need to consider when naming fantasy people. But the primary rule you should never forget is to keep it simple—knowing that you can still be creative and fun and unusual.

What are some of the most interesting names you’ve read or written about?

Rachel H

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4 Responses to “Naming Names”

  1. Setsu Says:

    I like using slightly-to-the-left terms, like “nightstay” rather than “hotel.” I’ve gotten some really good names from watching the credits for movies with massive special effects staff. Word-searches are also a fun resource. I find it frustrating when authors add a number of silent letters, though.

  2. deshipley Says:

    I’ve found that names that are in some way relatable to those we’re already familiar with tend to work better than those without any frame of reference. If the reader can think, “Oh, it’s just like ‘James’, just with an ‘H’ and a ‘Y’,” or something like that, they’ll have an easier time of it than if the name’s an undecipherable string of letters.

    Or, if the full name must be a monster of a thing, you might consider doing everyone a kindness by having the character go by a much-simplified nickname in most circumstances.

  3. Some good tips there, worth remembering 🙂

  4. djgarcia94 Says:

    Excellent list. I really do hate how more fantasy names are compeletey made up. For my work I name characters with names from real world languages that actually mean something, I use the languange of the real world culture their fantasy culture is based on. One cliche with naming I have seen warned against in a couple of places is the f’riv o’lous u’sage of a’pos tr’ophes with no linguistic justificatation.


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