Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's in a Name?

Okay - I got this cool idea from the topic on The Writer's View 2. We're talking about names there, so let's talk about them here. We write fantasy, so choosing names is a little more difficult than if we wrote contemporary, right?

Choosing names depends on the type of fantasy you're writing. If your story is contemporary with fantasy elements, you can pick regular names for your regular characters and fantasy names for your fantasy characters.

High fantasy is totally different. You want names that are solidly strange and fantasy sounding. Here is my favorite tool for fantasy names: http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/
It's called Fantasy Name Generator. Sometimes I use the names suggested and sometimes I use a varation. You are free to use the names on the site without worrying about copyright.

I have also used the Bible. There's a ton of fantasy sounding names in the Old Testament. In my new novel, Koda's Quest, I picked "Nekoda" from the Bible and am calling him, "Koda." It's easy to pronounce and I like it.

Names are important. Here's something fun. How many books/movies do we know simply by saying the name of the main character? Or the villain? Or a strong secondary? Here's a few to get you started (a couple may throw you):

Anne Shirley
Luke (Luuuuuke! Use the force, Luuuuuke!) HA!!
Peter Parker

How many can you think of?
How do you choose the names of your characters?


  1. Honestly, I just pick whatever name fits the character, be it 'regular' or distinctly fantasy. I use the Bible for picking names a lot too--my Dad's Bible has a list of all the proper names in the back of it, which is so handy! I also like really old baby name books. A lot of the more archaic and obscure names have very good fantasy sounds to them. One trick I do like to use occasionally is to take a common name and just give it a completely new spelling.

  2. I love to tweak certain letters in ordinary names to make cool, fantasy-sounding names. I also take brands and regular names and spell them backwards :3 Blogs can generate some pretty cool names, too--didn't you get the name of one of your villians from a blog word verification?

  3. I can name almost all of those. Yay for me :D

    I usually come up with names by tweaking names that I like, or looking names up from the Bible.

  4. I got all the names except for Mia. Hrmm.

  5. Wow! i must be really bad! only new positively 7 + a little unsure on a couple...looks like i have 2 read up!

    Anyway, i have a lot of trouble with coming up with fantasy names that aren't 2 long with 2 many apostrophes--something that always confuses me in stories.

    it took me forever to come up with a name 4 my protag...his name used to be starlin, but my fantasy country's attitude toward stars wouldn't have permitted that!

    i luvd the name Aiden, but it's WAY overused...somewhere, though, i met a little boy whose name is Edan...so i spelled it Eidan, and it's finally something that fits my character without sounding 2 old, presumptous, or heroic! but it's still fantasy-ish and a name i like.

    other names:
    Quezandra--i think it sounds a little too pompous, so i'm fluctuating between this and Jahzwa
    Ria/Zaria--there's actually a girl i know named Zaria. and my sister was like, "you should use that name 4 ur story!" and it fits perfectly with the weird naming customs that Zora has!
    Adaven--it's the backwards of nevada!
    Siyel--not so great, but it seems sickly and weak, like the character
    Joktan--it's also the name of one of the Zoran (my fantasy country's) weapons, so it has an interesting story behind it.

    other names that might work there way in:
    Avarin (boy) or Avarna (girl)--i already have too many "A" names, though. i always get confused when there are 2 many names beginning with the same letter.
    Krilkenna--2 long, maybe


  6. Yes, Elisabeth - I got the name of my evil, beetle like creatures for my new novel from a word verification: Vimgozium. Pretty cool.

    Mary Ruth uses a baby naming book and tweaking the spelling of common names. Both are great ideas.

    Rachel, it sounds like you have a naming dilemma! Maybe you're thinking too hard? And keep in mind, you can always change your names if you have to. I did that for Koda's Quest. In the beginning, his name was Zeb. But my writing partner had just published a book with a character named Zeb. I think I kind of absorbed it and didn't want to copy her even though her novel was contemporary. So, I went to the Old Testament. I'm much happier with Koda.

    Answers to my quiz:

    Frodo - The Lord of the Rings
    Buttercup - The Princess Bride
    Anne Shirley - Anne of Green Gables
    Luke (Luuuuuke! Use the force, Luuuuuke!) HA!! Star Wars
    Mia - The Princess Diaries
    Piggy - Lord of the Flies
    Tuck - Tuck Everlasting
    Edward - Twilight
    Harry - Harry Potter
    Peter Parker - Spiderman
    Clefspear - Dragons in Our Midst

    Some were books and some were movies. Some were both. But it still shows you the importance of names.

  7. oh! i should have known! mia thermopolis, or something, right?
    ok. i got another harry. totally didn't get edward :p and i haven't read dragons in our midst!
    yeah, i do overthink names, because Zora has such weird customs, especially involving naming, and they have their own language and pronunciations!

  8. OHHH the Princess Diaries. Pshaw XD I only saw the films o_o

    RACHEL! I know! I have so many "A" names too! I'm trying desperately to even out the odds for the rest of the alphabet XD

  9. Remember I said books OR movies. :)

    Rachel brings up a great point: too many names beginning with the same letter. Yes, it can be reeeeeeally confusing, especially if you've named good AND bad characters that way.

    We also want to be careful of using names that are similar to other popular books. For example, I had named my dark lord, Viss'aird. A friend pointed out it was too similar to Voldemort. Duh! I never saw it. But I liked the name, so I simply changed the "V" to an "R" and that works much better.

  10. That is so. Thinking up of a fantasy name is very hard. For me you need to relate it to the theme of your story so that it could be relevant.

  11. I got everything except Piggy--thought that might be Miss Piggy from the Muppets :) . But Lord of the Flies works as well.

    It's very interesting how we each seem to psychologically favor particular sounds as the beginning sounds of characters' names. For me, I actually named my hero and villain with a similar-sounding name (Cor-- and Qu--). I didn't realize the similarity until I started typing the opposite one by mistake!

  12. Knowing Piggy will depend on your age, I suppose. :)

    I can tell you it's not a good idea to have similar sounding names in your story, especially main characters. Editors frown on that and it can be confusing to the reader.

    Sometimes, we use similar names as other popular books. In Fairyeater, my evil dark lord was named Viss'aird. Someone pointed it that it was similar to Voldemort. Yikes! So I changed the first letter and now have Riss'aird. I do not want to be compared to Harry Potter - I'll fall flat if I am.

    Names really are important! Thanks Sienna.