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Jedi Knight Muse

Naming characters/places/creatures etc

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So I decided to rename some of my countries/kingdoms/whatever you wanna call them (I guess they'd all be part of one continent) and realized that I'm terrible at being consistent with using the same kinds of nationalities with names. XD They're kind of all over the place.

 

I thought that it would be fun to discuss our processes for finding names for various things in our worlds- characters, places, creatures, etc.

 

What are your favorite resources to go to to find names? What do you try to look for when choosing a name (meanings, origin, etc)?

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Usually for the story ( havent post any yet ~.~" ), I would usually just think of names before I fall asleep. I sometimes get some really good names just by thinking out randomly

Otherwise, I usually go out on a heist on random stories I find on the Internet and then modify some of the letters  :P

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Normally I name one character, then use the origin for that name to chose similar ones. Take a new project for example, I named one character Assan, which is Irish, so now all the humans from that kingdom have Irish, or at least Gaelic, names. I kind of went overboard with the another kingdom though. I wanted to give them slightly foreign sounding names, but none I could find really fit well, so I made up my own language to use for them. It definitely makes them all sound similar enough, and it will help in naming places as well.

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Mostly I rely on the name adoption threads on the NaNo forums, but I also rely on 20000-names.com and Behind the Name. I think found my names for Arris and Merek in adoption threads on the NaNo forum. I honestly didn't even look at their meanings until afterwards, and neither of them have meanings that really fit the characters. XD But that's okay.

 

I'm going to try and be better about sticking to one specific origin for names- for example, I have a fairy country that should probably be more Irish/Gaelic/Scottish with any character names (which, go figure, so far the two characters from there aren't any of those, oops).

 

My world's name is Kytherra. Apparently there's a place in Greece called Kythera (so there's a missing R as a difference).

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I like really unique names so it's really rare for me to use a list of names or anything like that. I just throw letters together until they sound good. Typically my main characters will have the most unique names, and secondary characters will have names that sound like they could naturally come from the same place but aren't always so unique. I used to just throw letters together until I found something I liked regardless of continuity between people who come from the same region, but I'm a little better about that now. I don't have an exact science for making sure the names match up, though; it's just whether they feel matchy to me.

 

So the main country in my main storyline has names that sound kind of Russian-y to me. Khatien, Rorik, Marika, Feodor, Ilia, Veronika, etc.

 

There are little quirks here and there, though. This country's continent believed in two gods centuries ago, Sens and Esh, and as Esh was the "good" god the syllable 'esh' crops up in a lot of names. Even the current gods of the new religion there are based on that: Resh, Sesh, Kesh, Lesh, and Senset (the loner). The country's name is Ryesh, the neighboring country to the north is Esharin. They refer to magic as Eshery and mages as Eshen. Etc, haha.

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I believe I've said this before more than once, but what I do is either pick a name from a certain culture or make up one that still sounds like it could come from that culture. In some cases, I use a name generator like this one. Regardless of my precise method, it's important to me that my character and place names sound evocative of a particular culture or region.

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I usually look for already existing places and I research about them. 🙂

Settings for my already published novels?

"The wanderers of the seas" - little villages on the mountain Olympus in Greece (which was part of the Byzantine Empire), Venice, Constantinople, a small islet in the Norwegian fjords (this was named by me, Froj, but I took the name from somewhere in Norwegian chronicles. A Norwegian girl told me recently that it was another name for the god Frejr, so it made sense), then the precolombian area around now Veracruz, Mexico.

Lives in turmoil - Genova and the surroundings in military campaigns (including the battle of Novi), Mantua, Viareggio, Venice, then across the sea to USA - Boston, the road West, St. Louis and Venice, IL (a part of Greater St. Louis now), as well as another little town northwards in IL, named Roxana. As you see, sometimes the existing names give me plot twists.

Rightness' friends - both Nogales twin towns (AZ and Sonora), then Bucharest, Romania

About choosing names...

There are a few names which can be found in several novels because they are my favourites (if I had children, I might have named them so): Marina, Emilia, Andrei/ Andrea (depending on nationality), Alexandru, Sofia, Roxana, etc.

Generally I choose the names based on the characters' nationality and sometimes I try to make them fit with other details about their families/ personalities. There are families who use to name their children from the Bible, others who might have a foreign godfather or their parents' best friend as godfather. I use names' lists sometimes, and for the specific ones I have been looking for (Venetian, Scandinavian, Irish, Basque, etc) San Gabriel Academy was the best place.

Sometimes a name I chose initially isn't the good one and in the final version of the novel it got replaced.

So a Mary-Ann I had initially didn't sound as well in my mind for that foreign girl that didn't speak English well and children didn't want to play with her. Marion seemed a better choice and it was replaced ultimately. 

A Vanessa I chose in my teens (knowing then that it means Venetian, and it was a good choice for the daughter of Venetians born abroad) I discovered later that it was not the true etymology and the name didn't even exist in the time my character was named (not to say that it is actually invented by an Englishman), so when I learnt it, Find and replace all - Vanessa became Vittoria.

Also I noticed that some characters had similar names in the same novel and it wasn't acceptable. I had a Marina and her love interest named Mario (don't ask me what I was thinking at 15), he became Marco when I transcribed it on the PC... but I still think that Marco might be too close and I will investigate if anything goes wrong in the eventuality Marco becomes further Luigi (ie if I had any saint connections or other connections to be jeopardized by the new choice).  In the same idea, in "Lives in Turmoil" I had a Luigi and a Luisa... who became Larissa by replace all 😛

When publishing the "Rightness' Friends" I changed some names because I didn't want people who know my family and will read it to connect them to real people who...had no connection, as personalities and life facts, with my (not so good) characters. This is how Mihai became Gabi, Iulian became Flavian, Cornelia became Aurelia, and Anca became Bianca...

I'll have the same thing for some not so good characters from "The Crew". A Ionel became Aurel, a Cristina became Valentina, so I can say any time if there would be any suspicion that it is no connection between the characters and real people. (And it really isn't, they aren't the villains in my novels).

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When it comes to naming places, characters, or anything else, I use a naming set based on a real-life language. For example, for my short story, I'm using Medieval English - and similar variants - as the naming set. I simply alter some medieval names to better fit my world so it isn't a blatant copy of real-life names.

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I... stick sounds and letters together until I like it, for character names at least. For place names, I tend to be very thematic. I have a water-based world, and named all the countries after ancient water deities. I do stuff like that for a lot of my worlds.

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I love linguistics so when I'm feeling particularly enthusiastic, I take some time to figure out the phonology of the language(s) the characters' names are based on. Usually I decide which phonemes exist in the language, choose some features I think might be fun to play with like vowel harmony or frequent consonant clusters, and then come up with some common beginnings and endings for male and female names that I can mix with each other and with other letter combinations that fit my rules.

 

For some reason, I'm a lot less comfortable naming places. They never feel right. I think it's because so many real life place names have recognizable words in them like -land, so I think the names of places should feel different from the names of people to reflect that.

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I love linguistics so when I'm feeling particularly enthusiastic, I take some time to figure out the phonology of the language(s) the characters' names are based on. Usually I decide which phonemes exist in the language, choose some features I think might be fun to play with like vowel harmony or frequent consonant clusters, and then come up with some common beginnings and endings for male and female names that I can mix with each other and with other letter combinations that fit my rules.

 

For some reason, I'm a lot less comfortable naming places. They never feel right. I think it's because so many real life place names have recognizable words in them like -land, so I think the names of places should feel different from the names of people to reflect that.

 

I also have a great enthusiasm for linguistics. I mentioned in my post I tend to base names on a real-life language depending on my fantasy culture. However, I also have difficulty in naming places, as I have to extend my language research on place-naming conventions in real-life. How do you handle in naming a setting or place?

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I could have sworn I replied to this already...

 

I use fantasy name generators, particularly https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/ because it has so so many options. I'll find a name close to what I like and use it or tweak it. Character names are usually just pleasant sounding syllables but I try and make country names sound similar or having a theme to make each country cohesive.

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So many great ideas here. I personally just troll the internet until something sticks... It'll probably leave me for dead if someone ever brings it up, but ah well...

 

On another note, anyone have any ideas for naming weapons and items? I'm trying to go for the "whole new world" thing and want as little pull across from real-life as possible (without going completely overboard of course).

I did ask on another forum recently who all pretty much mentioned translating a similar word and altering it. Just wondering if any of you guys had any other ideas?

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Coming up with names is something I love doing and I agree with many of the methods used here by others in this discussion.  Yes, I use baby names lists and name generators, but I prefer to invent my own where possible.  I also like to adapt the spellings of more regular names.  Examples - Justeen instead of Justine, Veveen instead of Vivien.  You get the idea.

 

For characters, I have specific cultures and national identities within my worlds.  For example, those from Malvania tend to have Scandinavian-sounding names.  Virians tend to have Irish/Scottish-sounding names.  I use Hispanic/Latino/Mediterranean names for my Varathusian characters and Turkish/Arabic names for my Varagans.  Yttrians, Mondians and Losinthans have Eastern European-influenced names.  Sartorians have Afro-Caribbean-sounding names.

 

All my deities have invented names, although some are from real-world languages that I've messed around with.

 

I've made up most of my worlds, countries, cities, towns, villages, etc.  I have also named places after people whom I admire.  I have a town named Emerson after the late keyboard player, Keith Emerson.  I've named schools after Peter Gabriel and Alan Rickman. 

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the internet until something sticks... It'll probably leave me for dead if someone ever brings it up, but ah well...

 

On another note, anyone have any ideas for naming weapons and items? I'm trying to go for the "whole new world" thing and want as little pull across from real-life as possible (without going completely overboard of course).

I did ask on another forum recently who all pretty much mentioned translating a similar word and altering it. Just wondering if any of you guys had any other ideas?

 

Go here http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/#other for weapons and other types of generators.  There's a lot of material so be prepared for a long session. 

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For characters, I use baby name books, or baby name websites. I'll look up a meaning I want that character's name to have, or specify a language of origin, and then I'll pick a few favorites and make a small list, just like I'm getting ready to name a new baby. Eventually one of the names just "feels" right.

For example, if I'm trying to name a heroic badass globe-trotting lady, I might look up meanings like, "adventurer," "hero," "protector," or "journey." So maybe her name is Fernanda or Alexandra, and she goes by Fern or Sandra. If I'm trying to name her frail but pure-hearted little sister, I might search for names that mean, "innocence," or "light." So maybe her name is Candace or Liliana. Maybe she goes by Candy or Lili. Oh hey, Fern is a plant and Lily is a plant, suddenly it makes sense for those to go together, and yet both of their names are still representative of their uniqueness.

 

I rarely make up place names because I like contemporary fantasy and usually set things in real places with fantasy elements added, but when I do want a new, nonexistent place, sometimes I'll think of the place I'm basing it on in my head, and change a few things. For example, last NaNoWriMo I had my novel set in a small town that was based on the real New England town where I was a child. The name of my old town literally translated to "East Town," and it was super woodsy, but had a lot of old stone buildings. So I changed the state to somewhere that would have similar environment, and changed the name of the town so it literally translated to "West Town."

Therefore the fictionalized version of Easton, Massachusetts became "Weston, Connecticut."

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For characters, I tend to use a combination of real-life place names and naming websites. For example, I have two characters Kentra and Donan that both take their names from Scottish places. My main character's name (Maeve) came from a search for gaelic names. Still not sure if I'm sticking with it though!

 

As for place names, I tend to base them on known naming conventions in Scotland. For example, we have a lot of places with the word "Dun" in the name, which usually means "hill" or "hill fort", so if I need a name for a hill, or a city based on a hill I might base it around this. My main character's hometown is called Dundarroch, which would roughly be "Hill of Oak".

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I like names that bear some resemblance to something recognisable, rather than out-and-out "fantasy" names (Eddard and Prunesquallor rather than Xl'ggotr-th Dragonsmasher or Ellailiellia the Ethereal Queen), so I tend to scour language and try and let myself misread things in order to come up with a name. Fortunately the Soybomb Nonsense Generator (https://www.soybomb.com/tricks/words/) seems to have an algorithm that does just this. I think of it as letting "The Universe" help me select a name, so I can't then be held accountable if people hate it. The Pseudo-Elizabethan Fantasy Place Name Generator works too.

 

Actually now I want to write a story about Xl'ggotr-th Dragonsmasher and Ellailiellia the Ethereal Queen. I've got the whole world picked out, can picture the mountain keep. Stupid brain.

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In my fantasy series personal names and place names fit together logically - so one country has Germanic names, another Greek etc. With a few liberties thrown in. Naming can be a chore to me sometimes, but if I'm reading a book and the characters names are just random with no thought I can struggle with it - it can be a sign of a lack of depth to the world building.

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Posted (edited)

I'm really picky with names. I want them to stand out in the text (and from each other) so having some distinct letter in the name helps. I also never ever use the same beginning letter for the more important character's names, and I also like the difference of long-short names for those interacting the most to make them stand apart even more. My writing is pretty easy to read-books, so I don't want to make it difficult for the reader to remember who is who. That's also a personal preference, I don't like losing my immersion in a story because of a name. 

I like to name characters in a way that says something about their background/family/parents. One young man got named after which number he had in the long line of siblings, since that position in the family had a big impact on him. I also sometimes name them after what the parents wanted them to be, or something showing the parents' interests, class or cultural affiliation. Two sisters got over-the-top fairy names, chosen by their mother who lived in the city slums, implying she wished for a different kind of life.

Other than that it's a regional/period thing. I pick from lists that mostly resemble the culture/the era, maybe with a simple tweak.

 

My two favourite places to go for names are: 

https://www.britishbabynames.com/blog/name-lists.html    (Don't let the name fool you, this blog have awesome lists from different cultures/countries, and also lists by themes/literature/style/time period/nature and much, much more. I love this blog.)

http://www.infernaldreams.com/names/Europe/Medieval/England.htm  (The link goes to the most extensive list of Medieval "English" names I've come across ever, with origins from Latin, French, Norse...)

Edited by Pinchofmagic

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