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Thread: Names in fantasy books....

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW RobertEvert's Avatar
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    Names in fantasy books....

    I really enjoy reading fantasies. However, what really spoils many of them for me is the names the author uses. It seems that most of them are unpronounceable or overly complex, like "Glortheablat" or "Kim-au-duae." What about "Tim"???? Who wouldn't fear a sorcerer named Tim?

    Anybody else run into this?

    How do you all find good names for your characters?

  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    A good portion of my names start out with finding a word that can sum up a character, either very tightly or loosely.
    Then I play with the spelling a bit, working with how the name sounds and how it comes off in a person's mind.

    My MC's name is Vixous, from Vicious, which he is.
    My other MC is names Strycrome, from Scrychnine.


    Other characters, I just find a name that suits them. I play around with them, roll the name around my tongue until I find them appropriate.

    I wanted a weak character, that was to be pitied, but not pitiful. So I chose Enlous.


    I try to avoid hard to say, or even understand names. I think my hardest name is Gracioletio Falcet Verronies, which is more like a joke than anything. He just goes by Gracio.
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    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Well, if they want a non-Earth feel, as in a secondary world fantasy, then Tim probably isn't going to work.

    That's no excuse to call someone Glortheablat, though. XD

  4. #4
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    I rather like the idea of a powerful sorcerer named "Tim." Way better than either of the Harrys (Dresden and Potter).
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  5. #5
    Ah-HA! Smiling Ted's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bergen View Post
    Who wouldn't fear a sorcerer named Tim?
    "Tim" is scary as hell, true - particularly with a brogue.

    One good way to create names is to look at primary texts for a real-world society similar to the one you've created. For instance, my series is an historical fantasy set in Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, so one of the name sources I can use is the Domesday Book. It has place names and proper names that "fit" my story, but are unusual enough to be memorable: Brissac, Lugwardine, Durand of Gloucester, Widard, etc.
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    practical experience, FTW victoriakmartin's Avatar
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    I'm afraid someone already beat you to using the name Tim for a wizard.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_the_Enchanter
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    practical experience, FTW Dreity's Avatar
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    I don't actually mind long, hard to pronounce names as a reader, though as a writer I'm keeping it simple. When wearing both hats, consistency is what I find most important. If your character's name is Nadheera but her brother's name is Joe, there better be a reason for it. Multicultural family, one of them changed their name, Mom was going through A Thing - just, something.
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    New Member Ian Isaro's Avatar
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    Excessive hyphens and apostrophes are a problem in fantasy, of course, but I think some of it is just authors' desire to create some distance from our world. "Tim" is a name with etymology and history, so it feels a little odd if your story isn't supposed to be on Earth.

    Names in real life can seem strange if they come from languages you don't know. I have trouble with Scandinavian names like "Bjarke" or "Fridtjof" but they're normal for many people. "Cattle" in Swahili is "ng'ombe" which hits at least two of the fantasy cliches.

    So in brief: linguistic diversity to get away from medieval-esque Europe is good, random syllables to try to create the same feel don't work so well.

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  9. #9
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    This is a common complaint among Fantasy readers. I believe some people cope by assigning the character a similar name that they can pronounce.

    My Fantasy's contemporary so my characters have names like George, Jack, and Rebecca. No Tim's tho.

  10. #10
    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liosse de Velishaf View Post
    That's no excuse to call someone Glortheablat, though. XD
    Glortheablat really rolls off my tongue. It's fun to say.

    Glor-thea-blat. Really rolls when the accent is on the second or third syllable.
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    I fight like a dairy farmer Corussa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearilou View Post
    Glortheablat really rolls off my tongue. It's fun to say.
    Seems to me that one good way of choosing sensible names is ensuring you as the author are entirely confident about pronouncing them, and think others will be too. When I've been reading my MS out loud to others or discussing issues about characters/places, I've sometimes realised I'm not 100% sure how to pronounce a name I created. Major red flag that results in a name change!

    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    A good portion of my names start out with finding a word that can sum up a character, either very tightly or loosely.
    Then I play with the spelling a bit, working with how the name sounds and how it comes off in a person's mind.
    And often my method of choosing names is a bit similar to Will's - I find a Greek or Latin word (a bit sad, maybe, but I have to use my past studies for something ) that relates to a key personality trait of the character, then toying with the word until it sounds like a good name. Hence Corussa, Orothon and various others.

    I've also used a random name generator (at a webpage titled 'Serendipity') to create some names, although these might ultimately be replaced with more 'designed' names to ensure consistency of approach.

    I also occasionally come across words in the dictionary that I just HAVE to use as names. Feldspar's in, but I'm not sure that Gallimaufrey and Godetia will have roles now, since the plot dramatically changed...
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    Will Food for Write Dimanagul's Avatar
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    Rather that mewling over the meaning of a character's name I like using consonant sounds that match the character's personality. I also like to do anagram checks against their names.

    Two examples:

    Tartagin Tolten -- Travelling priest with a penchant for postulating.

    Kristoph Rupandil -- Kleptomaniac Nobleman who thinks himself god's gift to women.
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    practical experience, FTW RobertEvert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_paint_the_sky View Post
    I'm afraid someone already beat you to using the name Tim for a wizard.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_the_Enchanter

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    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Please could we stop putting apostrophes in the middle of names? Pretty please? I don't wish to read about any more characters called K'takh'lep or Yng'raveyt. Thanks!

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    practical experience, FTW RobertEvert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    Please could we stop putting apostrophes in the middle of names? Pretty please? I don't wish to read about any more characters called K'takh'lep or Yng'raveyt. Thanks!
    Oh! I hate that too. Ugh!

    It is amazing how much names convey about characters. I mean, imagine if Sauron or Voldemort were named "Ricky." Clearly the books would lose something.

  16. #16
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bergen View Post
    Oh! I hate that too. Ugh!

    It is amazing how much names convey about characters. I mean, imagine if Sauron or Voldemort were named "Ricky." Clearly the books would lose something.
    Oh, now I know what I'm doing this evening: I'm going to get an EPUB of Lord of the Rings now and find-replace 'Sauron' to 'Ricky'.

  17. #17
    is Envy Augustine amrose's Avatar
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    I don't mind complex names for characters as long as you get the tongue twister name once then everyone refers to that character using a short version.

    Zeidi La'Mal Dzree is introduced, but he goes by either Zeidi or Dzree.
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    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amrose View Post
    I don't mind complex names for characters as long as you get the tongue twister name once then everyone refers to that character using a short version.

    Zeidi La'Mal Dzree is introduced, but he goes by either Zeidi or Dzree.
    How do you pronounce that apostrophe in La'Mal - glottal stop?

  19. #19
    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearilou View Post
    Glortheablat really rolls off my tongue. It's fun to say.

    Glor-thea-blat. Really rolls when the accent is on the second or third syllable.
    I'd still feel sorry for the lady saddled with this unfortunate name. (Although maybe in her society it's considered beautiful?)

    Quote Originally Posted by amrose View Post
    I don't mind complex names for characters as long as you get the tongue twister name once then everyone refers to that character using a short version.

    Zeidi La'Mal Dzree is introduced, but he goes by either Zeidi or Dzree.
    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    How do you pronounce that apostrophe in La'Mal - glottal stop?

    That's the real problem here. The people throwing in these apostrophes have no idea what an apostrophe actually means.

    In English, it's usually an elision. In which case my question is, with all the z's and x's in there, why did you find it necessary to drop the vowel?

    In other languages, it often represents a glottal stop, in which case my question is, does the author even know what a glottal stop is? XD

  20. #20
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    At one point, I was fed up with all the weird fantasy names -- especially the ones with random apostrophes. So I wrote a story and picked out names from a baby book. I got a personal rejection back -- they'd rejected it because of the names!

    (Also got published by the next magazine I subbed to.)
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    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    I'm okay with a few difficult names, but when every name is difficult and there are a million places and organizations to keep track of, I quickly lose patience with a book. One book that has had this effect on me is The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker. There are interesting parts to the story, but it's just name overload.

  22. #22
    is Envy Augustine amrose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    How do you pronounce that apostrophe in La'Mal - glottal stop?
    I would have said "there's a pause between the La and Mal."

    I didn't know what a glottal stop was until just now.

    When I encounter it in novels and videogames I read it as shorthand for "you are dealing with a fantasy/alien race" unless it's a human character speaking a foreign language. It's lazy unless the author really knows how to use it, but it doesn't bother me.
    Last edited by amrose; 11-13-2012 at 02:00 AM. Reason: a not I
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    Even quite simple seeming names can trip people up if they aren't familiar - I've had two (avid fantasy readers) ask me how to pronounce Rojan so far. And I know someone called Rojan so it isn't even made up!

    As long as it's easy for the reader to pick/sound out a pronunciation in their head, I think you're fine.




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    Quote Originally Posted by Liosse de Velishaf View Post
    That's the real problem here. The people throwing in these apostrophes have no idea what an apostrophe actually means.

    In English, it's usually an elision. In which case my question is, with all the z's and x's in there, why did you find it necessary to drop the vowel?

    In other languages, it often represents a glottal stop, in which case my question is, does the author even know what a glottal stop is? XD
    When I see a lot of apostrophes in a name, I'm always reminded of the Wade-Giles system of writing Chinese. The apostrophes there indicate that a consonant is heavily aspirated, which is definitely useful information. I don't know how many fantasy authors have actually drawn inspiration from that, but imitating Wade-Giles seems reasonable enough to me. (FWIW, it looks to me like Wade-Giles gives native English speakers a better idea of Chinese pronunciation than Pinyin does.)

  25. #25
    Just call me Iris. K.P. Iris's Avatar
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    I tend to get a little historical when looking for an uncommon name. Usually something that may have been common waaaay back in anglo-saxon times. But since the novel I'm working on is urban fantasy/sci-fi I can get away with modern names that look uncommon on paper but are relatively easy to pronounce. That is if the reader has some knowledge of pronunciation sounds in other languages.

    On an off-hand note: Glortheablat. Put "Princess" in front of it and it suddenly reminds me of Adventure Time.

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