Thor's Thoughts: The Art of a Name

Greetings people of Earth. It is my pleasure to join you today in the discussions surrounding writing and other aspects of the publishing world. May you all benefit from my wealth of knowledge.


Today, I would like to bring up an element of World Building. Now, I am a God, so I do know a thing or two about this. But I don't mean creating physical worlds, but literary worlds. You see, as my alter-ego, I write YA Fantasy. This often means that my stories take place in settings entirely outside the existing realm of knowledge. These fictional places need depth, structure. They need details, history, and strength. Sometimes, the most difficult part of creating these places and their landmarks, is naming them.

Similarly, our characters need names as well. I know some authors search for days to find the perfect name for a given character. The right tone, strength, and rhythm can make all the difference in a good character.

There are many ways to go about finding the perfect name for your country, kingdom, mountain, ocean, or character. I took the liberty of questioning my fellow writers on the organization called Twitter, and compiling their strategies for your information.

*Thank you to all those who volunteered their thoughts.*

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"Generally the made-up names just pop into my head. Failing that, I use a random generator, then mix & match until it's mine." - @RachelxRussell (See below for links to Name Generators)

"Usually I find a name or word I like and tweak it." - @stephandrea_

"Sometimes, I'll put keywords into Google Translate and see if any languages spark an idea. @vbartles taught me that." - @NHNovelist

"Sometimes finding meanings in other languages, sometimes just randomness. My baby names book is the best resource!" - @NikkiDiehm

"For places, one of my fave ways is to take the word in English and in French and have a smashword party and see what happens. :) " - @LindsFlanagan

"I keep a notebook with all the cool names I come across. As far as setting, I use real places I've been and change the name." - @atrueblood5

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All of these are wonderful ways to go about naming both characters and places. As you can see, some writers prefer to have a meaning behind each name, while others lean toward the random mash-up of a pleasant-sounding word. Personally, I tend to base most of my setting names on Latin-based words, and I find character names on a website called babynames.com, which gives the definition and allows for various search modes.

One of the most important things to remember when naming people and places -- particularly in YA literature -- is to make them pronounceable. They don't have to be easy to say, though that helps. When you think you've found the right name, say it out loud. Multiple times. Try to imagine how people might mispronounce it, and possibly alter spelling to avert that.

A quick search for "Name Generators" brought up the following sites. May they aid you in your writing journey.

http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/ - specifically for Fantasy
I believe that covers everything. Any questions? If you have a method of finding or creating names for your stories, please share it. I'm sure other readers would love to hear. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must check to make sure Loki is writing his novel, and not wasting time on the Twitter.

-THOR


7 comments:

  1. Naming people and places is a fun part of the writing process. Like the examples above, I pull in ideas & inspiration from latin & other languages. Another methd is modernizing "old" names. Then, of course, the personality or physical characteristics of a character can spark a name. From my novel, Phreak Show, here are some examples of these processes in action.

    Tera - The MC who must free the sideshow teens from the Phreak Show. Name taken from the root of "teratology", latin for the study of monsters.

    Phineas - The showmaster. Gleaned from P.T. Barnum's first name.

    Niko - A modern variant of Nikola Tesla. This is a nod to the technology in the novel. Also, Tesla is awesome.

    Twiggy - She is cast as The Blubber Girl, but I chose not to use a stereotypical name such as Bertha, but to go the opposite direction instead--naming her after a thin, waify model.

    Now, I'm feeling the itch to name a new batch of characters!

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  2. Names are fun! For me, I tend to veer towards the simple ones. When a person's named has no vowels and Ls all over the place, I confess I get lost. The simpler the name, the easier it is to discuss it with my sister over pancakes. I mean, it's a lot easier to talk about Sauron then Galbatorix (yes, we discuss villains. Doesn't everyone?)

    Great post, Thor! :)

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  3. I like short-ish names in fantasy. I'm still trying to figure out how to pronounce Alagaesia from Eragon. I had to skim it every time I read it. :) Every time I hear a name, or think of one, I try and write it down so I don't forget it, and then use them later, when I need them. Like, "Larnie", which was origionally supposed to be "Lanie" until I realized that was "Lay-nie." Ah, the complications of mispronounciation. My other one was Aalyiah, and so we can see where that one went wrong. ;)

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  4. *snort*

    Thor's 'wealth' of knowledge. You don't even know what a typewriter is.

    -Captain

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    1. I would appreciate it if you would keep your false humor to yourself, "Captain," and not on my posts, or I shall have to teach you a lesson.

      -THOR

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    2. **Watches with humor....**
      -Hawkeye

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  5. But anyway. For me honestly, the naming is like the easiest part. And kinda the funnest. Usually when I get an idea, there is always a name attached. Or it starts with a name I love. Haha. Although I did have one story where I had NO idea what to name my villain...took me forever.... Pros and Cons I guess.

    --Hawkeye

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