How to Make a Fantasy Character Name

[A note to my subscribers: this post was originally published in October, but wordpress hiccuped and the post was down within the day. Some of you will remember it and some of you will not. I just now made this re-post.]

Usually, fantasy and science fiction names come easily to me. But for some reason my current WIP does not want anything in it named. I was having a headache of a time, so I decided to do a little research. Maybe you aren’t having as bad a time as I was – you just need a fantasy character named, without the writer’s-naming-block. Well, you’re in luck. Fantasy name generators are a half-penny a dozen on the internet. Just google search, pull up a site, press “generate” until you find something you don’t hate, and presto, fantasy name. Go on. What are you standing around for?

Still here? Good. That means you understand enough to know no generator can possibly supply a quality name, specific and tailored and an enrichment to the rest of your fantasy world. You know a generator can not supply originality or the specific need of your story. Yay!

  • Quick: What NOT to Do

I found this humorous piece while researching. In short, it gives a good run-down of how not to make a fantasy name. Since humor does every so much better a job at explaining things (especially why things are wrong), I’ll just link. How Not to Make a Fantasy Name. It’s a quick read.

  • Methods of Creation

I found many authors sharing their method of playing with words and sounds in order to come up with something they liked. I suppose this is what I always did before; it just came naturally to throw together sounds. Lots of writers look through baby name sites and then manipulate a name they like. One author said she would take a word, and then change it one letter at a time until she had what she wanted. At first glance just playing with sounds doesn’t sound like a good method, but don’t dismiss it too soon. This mainly relies on your ability to decide on a name that “feels right.” Which comes to my next topic. . .

  • Connotations of Sounds

What makes a name “feel right”? It’s not psychic. It’s not random. Sounds have connotations around them. Yes, this is scientific. Think about softer sounds versus harder sounds. S and L versus the hard G and K, for example. When a word, especially a name, sounds like what it means, that’s perfect. So play with sounds. . . but know what you’re doing when you play with them. If you have the time – and I highly recommend you make quite a bit of time if you don’t have it – explore the site at http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/, which deals extensively with this subject.

  • Fitting in the Language

Names are part of a language. Names from the same country are going to come from the same language. Grithinlot and Tien are different fundamentally because they do not sound like they come from the same language. Brandon Sanderson, an author of fantasy, detailed the way he came up with different languages in one of his novels, and I highly recommend the source – anything I say would probably be repeating him. http://www.brandonsanderson.com/book/Elantris/page/35/Creating-the-Languages-of-Elantris. Why do you need to think about an entire language when all you want are character names? Well, what else will you need to be naming? Cities? Animals? Foods? Maybe you need a magical phrase. All words are part of a language, and you can’t ignore that while worldbuilding.

As mentioned earlier, many writers have their own methods for giving their fantasy characters names. What is your method? What is one fantasy name you particularly like? What is your favorite fantasy name that you created?

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About Kathrine Roid

I'm an science fiction and fantasy author living in Texas with an undead parakeet and teleporting cat. Think about that for a moment.

Posted on January 18, 2012, in Fantasy, On Writing, Posts by Genre and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Very nice. not sure which one I like best, I have’t thought of too many fantasy names. Thanks for posting.

  2. Great post. I always find it difficult to come up with everyday names, never mind fantasy names! This has been super helpful though!

    Stephanie @ Stepping Out of the Page
    Drop by & enter my International Giveaway

  3. Oh, this is good.
    I currently need approximately… 12 characters named, a world named, a bunch of mythical creatures named, and a legendary figure named. I’ve got a lot of work to do with that, I think.

  4. Thank you for the “How not to make a fantasy name” link, I had a blast reading it and it was actually quite useful for ideas too!! :)

    How do I name my characters? Hmm…that’s a bit of a hard one to think about as I don’t really think about it so much. Often, I have an idea of a character’s look and personality before I think of a name, so I try to come up with a name that suits what I see. Sometimes it’s something that’s suitable for the setting or circumstances, (example, I came up with the name for Denkai by combining the two Japanese characters “Den” meaning electricity and “Kai” meaning ocean).
    Sometimes its a twist from an applicable word, like I have a dragon called “Zatra” and it was actually a funky mix of the words “Zap” and “Litre”. Long story….
    Sometimes it’s just something which ‘sounds right’. Often those names don’t make sense per se in the context as such, but for me I just see the character as being the kind to warrant that name.

    My names range from quite ordinary, like “Clara”, to mid-random or mixed, like “Clair-zene” or “Clandestine” to just I-don’t-know or really long or, well, I don’t know… :P

    Would love to see more posts about fantasy stuff if you come up with anything! :)

  1. Pingback: Writing Tip Wednesday: Naming Your Characters. | Inside My Worlds: R.L.Sharpe

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