Saturday, June 1, 2013

Finding Friday - Name Creation

This is just something I've been wanting to share with you fellow writers.  I'm sorry for leaving out you non-writers today.

Writing high fantasy, I try to invent new names as often as possible for my characters, monsters and locations.  Occasionally while I'm thinking of - or writing - a character, their name just appears on the page like POP! and it's perfect.  But sometimes, I can't think of a snazzy name to save my life.  For those situations, here's the tactic I've taken up for my current work in progress.

Think of one word that describes your character - for example awesome, naive, meek, obnoxious, etc.  Go to Google translate and translate the word to a different language.  My favorite languages to use are currently Finnish, Latin, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Norwegian.

For one of my characters I entered the word "Pure" because out of every character in my current story, she's above reproach.  The results didn't come back with anything that stood out so I tried "Chaste".  The first result in Finnish was "siveƤ".  I loved it.  She became Syvea. 
Adenhelm, the lake of lava where human sacrifices are thrown, came from two words.  
Aden - Ahnden is German for punish or avenge
Helm - Holm is Norse for island and Heim is German (and Norse) for home
Fohrvilda, the nation run by barbarians, was pretty simple.  Feral translated to Swedish is Forvildad.
Kaedheim, the arena where prisoners of Fohrvylda are forced to fight to the death, was pretty straight forward too.  
Kaed - Caed is Latin for murder
Heim - Norse for home
A little bit backward from this is the island called Redemier.  The name sounds a bit grim, whether you pronounce it 'Red-eh-mire' or 'Reed-mier' and it should sound grim, the island is forbidden.  To step foot upon it is to die.  But the name came from
Vrede - Peace in Dutch
Mier - Peace in Slovak
In this case, the name is a bit of a spoiler, but only to a select few... I find this cool.

One reason I leaned so much toward Norse, Finnish and Swedish for these names is that a lot of the setting of the story takes places high on frigid, unforgiving cliffs over a violent sea.  The languages are only fitting.

The brilliant thing about this is that sometimes you'll use words that readers recognize, be it consciously or otherwise.  This can add depth to the characters and locales.

After you've settled on a name, I suggest doing a Google search on it.  It's a good idea to be aware if the name you've chosen is already in use or has negative connotations.

Do you have a name generation system or do you just "pants" it?  Do you fancy the idea of learning another language one word at a time??


  1. That's a clever idea. Never thought of using a word that describes the character.
    My system is rather random. A few names will come to me as I write, and the rest I just take twenty to thirty minutes after I've written the story to brainstorm. I aim for unique, short, and easy to pronounce, and I keep track of what letters of the alphabet I'm using.

    1. Easy to pronounce is pretty vital, too. I don't know if I always achieve this though!

  2. I like this idea. It is funny I was watching an interview with Patrick Rothfuss a few weeks ago and the interviewer was talking about how the names in his books all sounded "right". Pat went on to talk about how that wasn't a mistake as he used names that people find familiar even if it is a word he has made up.

    Lots of depth there, I may have to steal this idea myself, lol.

    1. I do like the names Pat chose... mostly. I'm not too terribly fond of the name Qvothe. (blasphemy, I know!) But its uniqueness is pretty unparalleled.
      Patrick is a smart dude. I'd like to know more about his name creation.

  3. Missed you for this month's IWSG posting. Next one is July 3, David.

  4. I do this too!! I love looking up meanings and words in other languages to give me ideas. Latin is my favourite. I also have a baby name generator app on my iPod. haha. It actually has some weird, fantasy-ish names in it, so it's come in handy.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

    1. Baby name books are awesome for this too! Especially the ones with brief definitions

  5. Genius idea ... I may just start using that to make up words, never mind names!


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