1. Pudge
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    Pudge New Member

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    No rhyme or reason with fantasy names?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Pudge, Dec 21, 2011.

    How do you go about selecting fantasy names for characters and places? Do you make it up entirely? Do you use one of those random name generators? I admit to having done both and find myself doubting my choices part way through my work. Maybe this is common? Even so, what is a good approach to selecting fantasy names that aren't too cliche or just outright ridiculous? I guess depending on the fantasy, name selection may be easier, such as writing about a whimsical world inhabited by elves. Anyone that's familiar with elves knows that there's a certain sing-song to elf names. The same applies to dwarves, being that dwarf names are commonly bold sounding, with a warrior vibe to boot. But what about in worlds that have no elves or dwarves? Is there any rhyme or reason to name selection?
     
  2. Masterforger
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    Masterforger Member

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    Ah, fantasy names.
    I usually make them up, but it helps to base them off a word. I made a character, a grim, evil fellow, and called him Grimill (Grim-ill)
    Take note, also, that alien language could be similar to our own, and due to fantasy, you can make it similar! Never be afraid to bend the rules, and names the same.
    Tip: Elven names have Vs in them often
    Aliens have sharper sounds such as "Flickter"
    Humans have a vast mix of sounds, but if you want futuristic names go for sharper first letters or "O or L" at the start
    Just a thought
     
  3. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    What I do is simply make sure that names from the same ethnic/cultural group sound similar. If I only have one group featured in my story, then I'll pick a theme and use it for all the names - like all syllables being consonant/vowel and names being around 2 or 3 syllables, for example. Or using as few vowels as I can and still be able to pronounce the names. Or using almost all vowels. Or ridiculously long names. Whatever it is, everyone will be named according to that pattern. If I have multiple groups, I'll pick different styles for names for each group, so the names really sound like they belong to different groups.

    Sometimes I'll just pick the theme for each group at random, other times I go by which 'feels' like them. For example, my group that worships an evil god in order to discourage him from eating the world all have kind of 'Eldritch' sounding names, like Zho'tal or Ker'gul. Or my targran (basically orcs) all have names with lots of hard consonant sounds, like Tagritha and Grio.

    About the only rule is to make sure that the names of people who belong to the same cultural group should sound like it - so don't have Eaiuo and K'gtlizkik be from the same small village!
     
  4. Yuri Strike
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    Yuri Strike Member

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    I usually give existing names fancy twists if I want them to be more fantasy-sounding. Not a big fan of making names up, though.

    You can always use translators to generate meaningful names in other languages. Geysir, Neerslag, etc.
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like using French names. Not French-sounding. Actual French names.

    Actually, frenchboys have an awesome generator for it. I don't like names that don't fit with each other. It annoys me. French and some Spanish names are good for it though because it gives you a chance to make sure all the names work together, and at the same time, you get names that are somewhat unusual, like Octavian and Isidore.
     
  6. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I think all of the above are valid approaches, but you have to find what suits you. If you're not comfortable with making up names, then pick a language you like the sound of and adapt words from it - George Lucas did!

    There's also nothing wrong with using English words as names - even if your fantasy characters are supposed to be speaking a different language, presumably your book will be written in English! So the names can just be 'translations' of the meaning of the names in their own language. Like Hunter, or Blackhand.
     
  7. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    I always tend to keep my names to a unified style. I start by selecting letters and conventions that I want to pop up throughout the name/language.

    I also research various languages before I begin writing, and I pick one to model my names off of.
     
  8. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    I extremely dislike it when authors go over the top with fantasy names.

    In my current writing, I'm using English names from Medieval England for most people. Only a handful have anything different. These characters invented these names themselves, specifically to make themselves stand out.

    The fact is, most people have plain, ordinary names.
     
  9. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Well, if your story's set on Earth - even if it's an alternate Earth - it makes sense to have Earth names, fitting whatever ethnic group the characters are. But if it's not set on Earth, then I'd find it more jarring to see an 'Edward' than a 'Tiriel' there. A completely different world wouldn't just happen to have the same kind of names as our world.

    Regarding meaningful names - please don't! Unless you have a within-story justification for that character having a meaningful name, it's just stupid to give them one (the only way I've managed to keep myself from hating Remus Lupin from Harry Potter is by assuming the werewolf who bit him picked him to bite because of his name). It shouldn't be possible to guess a character's role in the story by what name they have. And if you try to disguise the meaningfulness of the name, either there's no point in having made it meaningful because no one gets the meaning, or people see the meaning of the name despite your disguise, and they get disgusted with it anyway.
     
  10. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    There is a surprising amount of bleed-over with names throughout history. Ivan, John, Yunatan, three languages but all incarnations of the same name. It is true that this is due to the cultures intermingling, but the story is being written in English. Go back far enough, and you find names that sound totally different but have similar meanings, coming from different languages and therefore sounding completely different. Justin, for instance, is an English name meaning 'justice'. If you go throughout other languages, I'm sure you'll find plenty of names that have identical or near identical meanings. Adlay, for instance, is the Hebrew name for 'justice of G-d'.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't usually write fantasy, but I do have a piece of advice to offer. Please, please, PLEASE don't come up with unpronounceable, unspellable names! Don't use apostrophes! I HATE names like K'Grithil and Mon'Firg'nuch and the like. Or Grz'blkn. Don't use those names. It always looks like you're trying too hard.
     
  12. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    But sometimes those weird names fit the 'feel' of the world best. And what's wrong with apostrophes? There are real-life names with apostrophes, too.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends on the world created, the cultures in it, and the characters themselves.

    I try to avoid completely outlandish, nearly impossible to pronounce names, but I suppose there are even proper places for those.

    In the end, just what sounds right is what I go with.
     
  14. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Apostrophes in fantasy names are overused and cliché now. Everyone does it because they think adding an apostrophe makes it seem great. But really, it's just an apostrophe jammed into weird names.

    If I referred to myself as Jo'n instead of Jon, people would think I was an idiot. Same goes for fantasy names. There is such a thing as ordinary, and there's nothing wrong with it.
     
  15. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    True, unless there's a reason for the apostrophe.

    For instance, the Hebrew name Aaron. Ever wonder why there are two 'a's? It's because the proper pronunciation is (roughly) 'a ehron'. Better to just write (and some do) A'aron. The apostrophe can be a syllable break which changes the pronunciation of the word.
     

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