Thursday, July 9, 2009

Making names sound consistent and believable

Even in fantasy, names of people and places should sound consistent and believable. While this may come easy to someone like J.R.R. Tolkien who was a linguist and knew dozens of languages, to use mere mortals it's a far more daunting task.

In my contemporary fiction that I've written, the names have generally come easy. First names that is. If I ever needed a last name, I'd simply flip open to a random page of The Dictionary of Surnames, and scan for a name that appealed.

Fantasy becomes a much uglier beast. I have a spreadsheet on my computer to keep track of the significant name changes to either person or place. In one fell swoop, one day, I re-named several of the important side characters and every major location name for the country it all takes place in. Including the country's name!

My general strategy for coming up with names is to either get on baby naming websites and go through the database willy-nilly or to open baby name books to random pages and look for a name to jump out. On occasion I do go to fantasy name generator sites and look for names that way.

So what are your strategies?


  1. My book is a contemporary YA, so most of the names came from my fifteen-year-old's yearbook. But I did need some Irish names, so I found those on a website. Don't remember which one.

  2. My fantasy world character names are made up. I started with some unusual names I found in a magazine article and then changed them until I liked the way they sounded. Google is my best friend when it comes to contemporary and surnames.

  3. I love the topic of character names. I did charts and stuff for both male and female names on my blog. I'm crazy like that.

    So for me, I really put a lot of time into the names I choose. Sometimes they're just "there" and I know what they're supposed to be. Other times, I hear something on TV or sit and think about what a cool name would be.

  4. I agree with your point about fantasy.. I had a real problem with working what style of writing I was writing. Was I dark fantasy or urban...

    As for naming my characters, it the best bit about writing, I love it


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