Jon Snow, Sauron, Gandalf, Jorah Mormont, Bilbo…
Those are examples of well-remembered names that genius authors have created. Names are important, for it’s the thing that serves as a bridge to the character’s core, but why is it so hard to create unique names that your readers will remember?
If you’ve struggled with names, don’t worry, for I’ve struggled with it all my life. For a long time, I couldn’t create any names for my characters. I had to use generic names from the real world, which isn’t preferable because of the fantasy setting’s different rules.
But after time passed, I realized a few ways to create good names and today, I’ll share them with you!
(I’ve also added some helpful links at the end of this article, so make sure to read till the end.)
Different Types Of Names
There are a few ways or recipes for names.
1: Using practical names, such as Dark Spear or Greyarm
2: Creating a linguistic rule for names (I’ll get on this later)
3: Borrowing names from the real world
From all those three, I prefer the second option, but if you haven’t gone too deep into the actual language creating in your fantasy world, don’t worry. It’s not necessary!
Practical And Symbolic Names
So, let’s start with the first one, practical/symbolic names!
This is a good way of creating memorable names, but they also serve another purpose, characterisation!
Think about it. A character named Red Axe creates a certain image in your head about that character. A character named Swift Tongue could make you imagine a sharply speaking character, who deals with his enemies with words, instead of swords.
These kinds of symbolic names serve so many purposes that I suggest using it for at least one character in your story.
For my current fantasy project, the people called westerners use these kinds of symbolic names. One of their most legendary heroes is called, Fire Helm.
The name originates from the myth that he killed the Dragon of Hate, Nalron thousands of years ago. This tradition of using symbolic names stuck with their culture and it helps to separate them from the other kingdoms of my world.
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Creating Names From Your Fictional Language
The second path is a more linguistic approach and it will take more time, but trust me, the results are worth the effort!
I’ve created a fully operational language called Charitar, which is the language the Gods speak.
This language has its own sounds and vowels in use. It uses a lot of softer sounds and leaves the sharp sounds out.
Back to naming people. When you’ve created languages, you can use your language to name people, which results in original and interesting names. You’re worldbuilding at the same time, so it’s a win-win situation!
Valnorians speak the Common tongue but use Charitar for naming some holy places and spellcasting. Naming is also done with Charitar. People like Daelon, Dianil, Maron, and Lanor sound and look similar, but not too similar to be confused with each other.
People of the north, who talk Sylthorian tongue have colder names. People like Dravok, Jaroc, Zylron, and Rakul are different from their Valnorian enemies.
This creates intriguing names and helps to make your world more intriguing and deep! It’s natural for people of different cultures and nations to have different names, so why wouldn’t you follow this fact in your own world?
Real World Names
And finally, the third option: Borrowing names from the real world.
This is completely fine if you’re writing an action book or a murder story, but if you’re writing a fantasy story, this might sound a bit out of place.
But it can still work! It just requires you to make some research and name the right characters with the right names!
For example, In my world, there are a group of people called The Architects. They are technologically advanced people and their society is similar to Victoria’s era England. They’re my world’s steampunk people, which led me to borrow the Victorian era’s names when naming them.
This works because their culture and society are vastly different from the other kingdoms. While Valnorians use blades, Architects use rifles fueled by magical crystals.
But even when I could borrow real names and just leave it at that, I like to change things a bit. I might take a real name, throw some letters around, thus, creating a new and original name without having to do tons of planning.
In the end, it’s up to your own personal preference. You might pick one of these three ways and use it till the end of your days, or you might be like me and use them all! No matter your decision, I’m sure you’ll find great success with these tips!