A Rose by Any Other Name...

Published by IHaveNoName in the blog IHaveNoName's blog. Views: 124

What's in a name? Quite a lot, actually. You probably know the saying "the clothing makes the man"... well, it's the same with names. Unlike real people, characters can get any name you wish to give them, so you should make the effort to give them something that fits - both the person and the story. You don't want to call your fantasy knight Joebob Bumblethorpe III, unless you're writing a parody, in which case it's perfect.

As I mentioned before, I write fantasy, and it's tough for me to come up with names. I kept a list of them, back when I wrote stories in my first world - people, towns, inns, etc. - for when I needed them. They were all right, but they lacked character. If you want to evince a certain culture, a time, a feel for your story, your names need character. Even if you think it doesn't matter, it does. Every world, every city, every setting, no matter where it is, is unique and should have its own names.

For people like me, random name generators are a godsend. YMMV, of course; some people prefer to do their own heavy lifting, and that's great - I tip my hat to you, who are creative enough to do that. My absolute favorite is fantasynamegenerators.com. Over 900 gens, everything from real-world names to fantasy and sci-fi; people, places, things, groups, and even some description generators - you name it, it's either there or in the queue to be made. It takes a huge load off to be able to flip through a few pages of names and pick something you like (and possibly modifying it), rather than have to take the time to think up something yourself. (As a side note, Emily, the site owner, is a really nice lady - if you go over there, drop her a line and say hi - she loves to hear from the people who use her site.)

The great thing about such a huge variety (besides the huge variety, of course) is that you can mix and match names and cultures and races with a lot less effort. Let's take my world, for instance: one of my races, the Vargrim, use dwarven names for their cities, but I use Mongolian names for their people - as it turns out, Mongolian and FNG's dwarven have a lot in common, as far as construction. Both languages work really well because the Vargrim are sonorous - they have large chests, deep voices, and are excellent singers, so their language is rich with deep sounds, long vowels, and rolling consonants.

Likewise, the Ma'jaat, another race, are largely based on Arabic culture. For them, I went with Elder Scrolls Khajiit - their language has Persian and Hindi influences. It evokes the Middle Eastern feel without actually being (overtly) Middle Eastern. Of course, I couldn't use Khajiit names for the cities and nations, so I had to go with Middle Eastern names there, but again - I can pick and choose names that fit the overall theme I've created.

This leads into my final point: If you want to use something that's "close but not quite", there are dozens of pop culture generators that are based on real-world cultures - French, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Oriental, Russian, English, and about a dozen each of elves and dwarves. Go dig through them, and you can find all kinds of cool stuff.

Edit: I forgot something: naming conventions. 99% of the names you see in fantasy are either (first name last name) or (single name), because that's what you see in western culture. The real world isn't like that, though, and neither should fantasy worlds. Besides the "normal" names, you have:

* Surname-given name (common in Oriental cultures).
* Given Name-clan name
* Given Name-son/daughter of-(last name) - Scandinavian and Scots-Irish (-son/dottir, O', Mc, Mac, and nic')
* Given Name-surname-patronymic (Russian)

And of course, you can make all kinds of variations thereof. The Ma'jaat, for example, use <given name> <son/daughter of> <clan name>.

Honorifics (polite forms of address) are also something that can add color to a culture. Eastern cultures are big on honorifics - Japan has a ton of them - but they appear in almost every culture - Mr., Ms., and Mrs., Dr., Esquire... those are all honorifics. Instead of going with the same tired old "master" and "mistress", toss out a <last name>-sen or eare-<last name> (that's "honored" in Frisian, a term that could be used for someone of great age or learning, or simply respect. Google Translate is a great resource.)

Handy Links:
* Fantasy Name Generators: 900 generators and counting (despite the title, it covers real-world and sci-fi names too).
I.A. By the Barn and cydney like this.
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