What’s in a Fantasy Name?
Today I ask you to share some of your creative ideas. All authors have to give their characters names, whether they write romance, mystery, or fantasy. Fantasy authors have more fun than most authors, because we create unique worlds. One major part of worldbuilding is to create names for characters, creatures, landmarks, towns, and places of interest. How you name your world is important to how your readers perceive that world.
The temptation is to develop names that are imaginative and unique to the created landscape. That’s a great idea but remember to keep the names pronounceable. Imagine someone reading your work aloud. Will the names detract from the flow of the story? A short common name can often allow for a character’s formal title to be a little more imaginative.
So, when choosing names where do you go for ideas? Of course there are name generators but they don’t give the imaginative author a chance to create a name of their own choosing.
One suggestion is scanning the credits of world movies for ideas. Compiling lists of similar names for reference when creating different cultures and races. Adopting this idea can keep consistency in the spelling and style of titles. Even if not used, the lists are handy for reference.
Foreign language dictionaries can help an author find names that relate to people or places in their novels.
Names can reflect a trait of character or distinguishing landmark for a place. Something a little more imaginative than Smith for the blacksmith perhaps, but this method of naming allows scope and imagination and subtly reminds the reader of the character’s purpose.
Too many names starting with the same letter can cause confusion. Remember some readers use visual patterns when identifying names. Others read them aloud inside their head. Having names easily read and remembered will keep the story flowing. Too many names beginning with the same letter is one of my weaknesses. Despite being aware of this problem, going to lengths to change names, somehow I revert to the original names. Against my best intentions!
So apart from the names that refuse to leave, what do we look for? Ease off the tongue? Good symmetry when written? Or do we employ an aspect of the character to describe them or their background in their name? I apply all of the above, at different times.
Just a few examples of names from my series The Chronicles of Caleath.
Penwryt for a mage, reflecting the scholarly attributes of the study involved in reaching his status. We meet him in Exiled: Autumn’s Peril.
Tallowbrand again a mage, the reference to candle flame seemed relevant with his power to influence fire. We meet him in Exiled: Winter’s Curse.
The Vergöttern are a god like race we meet in Exiled: Winter’s Curse. Vergöttern comes from the German verb to deify.
The Sorathii are a race of space pirates who maintain an artificial sun in the hollow earth world. Sorath (angel) who is the spirit of the sun. We meet this race in Underground: The Day of the Sun.
Gwilt, comes straight from the credits of a favourite TV show. Have no idea of meaning.
Caleath and Nasith, my main characters from book one, came from a friend with whom I began writing many years ago. The names have remained, though their story has changed many times.
Enough about my writing, this is your chance to share. There are no wrong answers. All ideas are welcome and could help another author. How do you choose the names for your characters, creatures and landmarks? What do you avoid? Have you ever put down a fantasy novel because the names confused you?