1. Kroni

    Kroni New Member

    Nov 11, 2010
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    Coming up with original names/cities

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Kroni, Nov 21, 2010.

    I am working on a fantasy novel that takes place in a fictional world. I've already come up with several names, though I still have a growing list for more. Where do you get your inspiration for original names, and how important do you think the name itself is to the character/place?
  2. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    I use a variety of places - my planet is Litae named after Greek daughters of Zeus.

    My main country is Covesea Island (technically should be pronounced Cow-see) - I took it from the local area. I was really original and named the capital city Seatown lol The other countries I either made up by tweaking earth names like Ceylonica or using old names for places like Scotia, Moravia etc Cities I used the local villages so have Burghead, Fogwatt, Helgun (old name for main city).

    People I used normalish names like Angus, Socrates, Matt, Jack, Tom, Lorenzo etc For different tribes I looked at names for different cultures. I have Izanami, Tola, Hai, Kazuto, Shun. For my fire people I made up one name Fyren and tweaked others like Blayze.

    I don't know - I do know my names seem to work in the context of my stories.
  3. Top Cat

    Top Cat New Member

    Nov 10, 2010
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    Connotations, phonology, semantic fields, relevance, sausages - go with what feels good to start with. You can always change names in the rewrites. I think connotations are key - villains have villainous names! A city full of thugs would not be called Alexandria for instance :p More like Bosscum, or Dragsden. You know - it's in connotations. Play with language and have fun :-D
  4. Nilfiry

    Nilfiry Senior Member

    Aug 4, 2008
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    Eternal Stream
    Inspiration for names can come from anywhere for me. I just put together syllables I like that may or may not have been influenced, and a name is born! My username is one such example. It has no particular meaning, no language root, just some pretty sounds that... sounds good together.

    It is my belief that names have very little consequences on a person or place. Names are merely a means of address. Names can give a feel on what a person or place may be like, so it can be used to foreshadow something, for example. However, names can be just as misleading.

    Nevertheless, I have a habit of saving names I like best for big and/or important things, so one can usually tell how grand a place is by how nice its name is.
  5. Mallory

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Jun 27, 2010
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    Tampa Bay
    Be original, but also relatable. For example, let's say you have a name like Crimson/Cagney/Zayley/Tracker/Jaden/Tobin/etc...(half of these are mine so don't steal them please) ... it's not a name you'd normally hear from some random person off the street, so it's odd enough to credibly pass as a fantasy name. You definitely don't want to give a name like Jessica, Ashley, Nicole, John, Chris etc to a fantasy character unless it's someone from our world thrust into a fantasy setting. On the other hand, though, you don't want to give your character a name that's 5-syllables long with way too many Ys and Zs and that is impossible to pronounce. You want your characters to be as relatable as possible, and this is 100000 times more important than usual in fantasy, where nothing else about the setting is relatable to real life. But that's just my two cents. Good luck! :)
  6. HeinleinFan

    HeinleinFan Banned

    Jan 6, 2007
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    Look at other languages for references.

    You can take a list of words and add a few letters to make them original. (At the cost that native spakers of that language might raise an eyebrow.) A not-terribly original example are the numbers one through five.

    Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco. My made up language emphasizes t, r, d, m and n. So now I have the cities Duno, Desdos, Tresdem, Cruat Moro, Cintom.

    Nigen, khoyar, ghorban, durben, tabon. My made up language emphasizes u, i, f, d, and n. So now I have Unigen, Khofyan, Dighorb Dan, Dunfuiben, Tafbon.

    Mot, hai, ba, ban, nam. My made up language emphasizes ng, i, k and d. My results are Dimot, Hingi, Bakdi, Dibangk, Namidi.

    Echad, shnayim, shlosha, arba'a, chamishsha. My language emphasizes o, e, i, t, k and r. My results are Echitka, Koshnayir, Oshletsha, Ekabat, Chakmishetch.

    Mak, erku, ierek, chorss, hing. My language emphasizes w, r, a, uo, and l. My results are Waku, Elwuo, Wirek, Lachora, Ruohang.

    And the results sound clearly different. I can have a group of peole named Elwuo, Wirek and Ruohang meet a similar group named Unigen, Khofyan and Dunfuiben. I don't think the readers are overly likely to get the two groups confused, even though none of these names are ones you see every day. Add in different dress, appearance, weapons, language sounds, and attitudes, and there's just no way the readers will confuse Elwuo and Ruohang with Khofyan and Dunfuiben.

    As for your other question, "how important is naming," I honestly can't give you an answer that's always true. Names change over time -- I grew up in California, and we didn't think it was weird at all for our cities and counties to be a mix of obvious descriptors and Spanish flora and fauna. I mean, we have Fresno, Modesto, Mariposa, Visalia, Paso Robles -- and we don't even think of "Oak Pass" or "Ash Tree" or "Butterfly" as being the actual names. Just as Finegold and Coursegold once had meaning and are now just places.

    But they are, I suppose, important to the history of the place. And the names show the cultures that have mingled over the years. But sometimes the story doesn't need a lot of that; sometimes the story takes place in the "present" of whatever setting you're in, and the events from two generations before have little bearing on the here-and-now of your story.

    Plus, sometimes people just make up random names for things, particularly people -- I'm thinking here of African-American culture, where there are particular sounds that are emblematic of the larger social and ethnic identity. So kids might be named Shawna, Roquelle, Latoya, Dwane, Shane and such, even though the parents may not have heard of that name before. So a character in a modern setting with a name like Roquelle may have an "informational" name -- "Oh!" says the reader, "The character might be ethnically of African-American descent!" -- but in a way that doesn't give any more information than a simple description of the character's appearance might give.

    Or think of the kids nowadays who are named things like Mercedez and Honda. We're naming our kids after cars now. Well, that's useful information for a reader to know. (/sarcasm)

    But then, other stories might put a lot of importance on names. Perhaps the child is named for a saint, who will hopefully protect the child as it grows up. Or perhaps the child is dedicated to a god, or a spirit, or to an ancestor-protector. Or maybe the name indicates lineage -- "Jon Snow" and the kids named Rivers and Stone and such in Song of Ice and Fire. Or maybe the name tells what season you were born in, so Snow and Pinefall are winter children while Rain and Haygrass are autumn children. Or perhaps social and cultural identifiers are really important, and so it matters that a girl and her brother were named LaNetta and Shane respectively. (Lest anyone get mad at me, I'm using names from people I knew in high school. I'm not making these names up.)

    It really depends on the story. If the name is going to matter, I'll spend a lot more time choosing it (maybe as much as three minutes! whoa!) than if the character is just a character and the name won't matter. In which case, heck, there are lots of neat names out there I want to use; I can pick one randomly.
  7. rpgnerdette

    rpgnerdette New Member

    Nov 22, 2010
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    I come up with names for anything by writing down any word, name, city, object that I think sounds cool in my head. I have a couple notebooks full of random stuff. When I need a name, I will look around in there, mix words together, sometimes while reading it I will think of something completely different to use. This also seems to work for me for brainstorming.
  8. miss_darcy

    miss_darcy New Member

    Aug 4, 2010
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    United States
    I honestly take my ideas for names and places from:
    1. People and places around me
    2. Name books (but I change the spelling a bit to make it fit to my character or I give them a nickname in the book)
    3. Other languages, mainly Latin because I took Latin in high school
    4. And different objects (like perhaps a flower I pass by one day or if I see an original license plate)

    I just try to take everything in around me and edit it to fit my story.

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