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Akuma
11-25-2006, 02:40 AM
I need some help here.

I write fantasy but I've always struggled with names, whether it be for characters, places, or races. In muchmuchmuch fantasy, you'll see names and words that, as far as you know, mean absolutley nothing. Stuff like "Orogoth" or (dare I do it?) "Eragon".

I have to say that despite this common trend, I dislike making up words if only for some kind of sense of exoticness or ancient backstory. That being said, I don't want to be the guy writing stuff where the Evil Wizard's name is...Kevin.

What do you do in this situation? How do you make a foreign name without making it sound so blatantly fantasy-prostituted?

Scarlett_156
11-25-2006, 03:08 AM
If you are computer-clever, it's easy to make a name generator. Take syllables, i.e., "ten" "dok" "ral" "mim"-- etc.-- and scramble them, creating two- and three-word names. (Read Ursula LeGuin's "The Dispossessed" for some helpful advice regarding this problem. It's a great story just to read anyway.)

Of course, if you are just CLEVER, you can do the same without a program.

I hope this was helpful!

Kentuk
11-25-2006, 03:17 AM
Borrow names from a culture similiar to what you want to evoke but please let the Irish be. Chose some letter combinations that reflect the language, th-reflects English for example. Change the spellings of common names but please stick with the English alphabet.

soloset
11-25-2006, 03:31 AM
First, "Eragon" is just "dragon" with a letter changed. So you could always pick your favorite fantasy word, play a rhyme game, and go from there. :D How about "friffin" or "inicorn"?

My serious opinion is that most of the words we consider perfectly fine and even downright traditional in fantasy are considered such by virtue of the excellent writing in which they appear.

If you can put some meaning behind it, even better. Doesn't "hobbit" sound like a small person who lives in a hole? And a little like "rabbit" or "hobgoblin" or "bobbin". I'm sure there's a ton of historical meaning behind the choice, but even without being familiar with all of that I can still get the "feel" of the word.

Why not consider a few Earth languages that seem similar to your fantasy one and dig around in them a little looking for the "feel" of the language? A "ch" or "gh" in a name gives a much different feel than an "ss" or a "th". I wouldn't say use the words whole cloth, but it might be a good starting point for making your own.

ETA: Yeah, what Kentuk said. Oh, and try Swahili, it's fascinating. :)

Scarlett_156
11-25-2006, 03:42 AM
Swahili is a good language, similar to Aramaic. I used to know a lot of words in Swahili, but too many brain cells dead now. *drools*

rugcat
11-25-2006, 04:16 AM
If you google "random name generator" you'll get some fun sites.

JDCrayne
11-25-2006, 06:21 AM
A friend of mine has been taking personal and place names from the nonsense generated by the net spam mailers. I think it's nice that he's found a use for them.

Incidentally, "Kevin" was the name of a malevolent ghost in one of Barbara Michaels' romantic suspense novels.

Selcaby
11-26-2006, 05:57 AM
There's a Kevin in the Thomas Covenant books too. And he doesn't come from our world. It always makes me laugh.

Bartholomew
11-26-2006, 06:19 AM
The trick is keeping names consistant with some sort of obvious, but not overly blunt pattern that reflects the language and culture of your fictional peoples.

EG

English:
Bartholomew
John
Mark

Spanish:
Bartolo
Juan
Marco

Readers notice that sort of thing, subtle as it is.

Dawno
11-26-2006, 06:22 AM
You could try an anagram generator (http://wordsmith.org/anagram/index.html) - put in a couple descriptive words and see what comes out.

MattW
11-26-2006, 06:29 AM
Names should be readable and pronouncable, but also memorable enough. to stick with the reader while they discover who the character is.

I've used random generators, but always fiddle with the output to make some reason out of them, and a pattern, and names that fit my intended level of exoticness.

JDCrayne
11-26-2006, 08:00 AM
Names should be readable and pronouncable, but also memorable enough. to stick with the reader while they discover who the character is.

Yeah. I just realized that I have a Brok and a Brathi in the WIP. I can't change Brok, because he was in the previous book, so Brathi is about to be rechristened. I don't like using names with the same initial letter, unless there's a plot reason to do so. Names should be easy to distinguish, one from the other.

TsukiRyoko
11-26-2006, 08:10 AM
I LOVE making up names. OK, here we go:

Treslat, Borshiki, Quirinax, Robliten, Doktum, Noxeklyia, Lyano, Tonmik, Gipla, Hilrina, Ixif, Kilgoln, Furken, Wilnek, Vreldania, Driisdani, Jovlenia, Kekktix, Melrin, Havis, Dontres, Collag, Estilor, Ilidy, Shundrap, Voxrit, Ixraj, Javtunk, Huudranc, and I'm burnt out now.

Rabe
11-26-2006, 08:21 AM
Borrow names from a culture similiar to what you want to evoke but please let the Irish be. Chose some letter combinations that reflect the language, th-reflects English for example. Change the spellings of common names but please stick with the English alphabet.

And the Scottish and the Welsh and all the Gaelic languages, living or dead. I'm sick to death of Gaelic or neo-Gaelic names and languages in books that have very little bearing on actual Gaelic history.

But there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other cultures out there and they can all be used as 'naming' guides.

In my Eagle Ridge series (oh be quiet, this is the only way I get to plug an unpublished and unfinished series!) I use Balkan/Russian names "Esmeralda" and "Elizabeta" Slovachina for one family and then go over to the Basque for another family hence I have Zigor and Aitayna.

I also use angelic names for some other character because of a specific purpose and 'family' tradition hence I have Mikhael and Samael in a family and the main character's name is "Ian" (which does fit but I won't say why!) The tradition is carried over to the current WIP where a character's name is simply 'Angela' for another very necessary reason.

But think of cultures and take names from them, tweak them a bit if necessary. The plains indians of the American west. Tlingit names, Swahili, Zulu, Mongolian. Heck, it might even help you to come up with better customs for your people if you have a basic understanding of the culture to back them up. (which is where my plea to leave the Gaelic alone comes in!)

Rabe...

daoine
11-27-2006, 05:58 AM
Names should be readable and pronouncable, but also memorable enough. to stick with the reader while they discover who the character is.


I so absolutely agree with you. I detest unpronouncable character names in books. Overloaded consonants used just for the hell of it. Gah! Fantasy doesn't have to be unreadable just to qualify as fantasy.

Medievalist
11-28-2006, 03:25 AM
And the Scottish and the Welsh and all the Gaelic languages, living or dead. I'm sick to death of Gaelic or neo-Gaelic names and languages in books that have very little bearing on actual Gaelic history.

I've mostly managed to forget the pseudo-medieval Welsh fantasy with a heroine whose name means "napkin" in medieval Welsh, and specifically sanitary napkin in Modern Welsh . . .

LilaDubois
11-28-2006, 04:40 AM
I've mostly managed to forget the pseudo-medieval Welsh fantasy with a heroine whose name means "napkin" in medieval Welsh, and specifically sanitary napkin in Modern Welsh . . .

OMG! That is funny.

---

I know this is a bit cheesy but I use baby name books and websites and look up the meanings of the names. My WIP takes place in a pseudo eastern-desert climate and the main character is a Priestess in the Moon Temple so I gave her a name that means moonlight in arabic. I mixed up the other names from among other middle eastern languages but stuck with names that all had a similar feel.

frimble3
12-11-2006, 11:56 AM
Or try the endless variations: Get name from a random generator or other culture, then try variant spellings until you get something that reminds you of the foriegn name, but not an exact match, unless you are using exactly that culture. Kevin:Kevan, Cevan, Civin, Civan, Kiven, Ceovaun, Keffen.Or until the 'random' name seems less random and more like a word in your land's language.

TheIT
12-11-2006, 12:05 PM
I've made up names for my fantasy WIP, too, and I'm concerned about inadvertently choosing a word which has meaning in some other language. Any suggestions on doing language searches to make sure? Google search the word?

WildScribe
12-11-2006, 01:43 PM
One thing to keep in mind: if you make up a name, for God's sake say it aloud before using it. Thank you.

Qelenhn
12-12-2006, 06:10 AM
I use the InterTran web site and plug it in as a word in several of the foreign languages and see if the program comes up with an English translation for it. That's how I discovered that my bard's name means "remember" in one of the scandinavian languages, which I left because it seems to fit. I altered the spelling of a couple others when I found out what they meant.

Rian
12-12-2006, 10:55 PM
I am a slave to behindthename dot com. Great site with lists of names from lots of different cultures. Even if I don't take a name from them, I can get the right feel for what I want.

dclary
12-13-2006, 02:18 AM
First, "Eragon" is just "dragon" with a letter changed. So you could always pick your favorite fantasy word, play a rhyme game, and go from there. :D How about "friffin" or "inicorn"?



True. The popular game series "Ultima" for many years had "bobbits" -- small hobbity people who, for purposes of copyright infringment clarification, had absolutely NOTHING to do with actual hobbits.

badducky
12-13-2006, 03:50 AM
There's a great database of names that spans nearly every known culture over the last two thousand years, and comes with its own built-in meanings, if you'd like to use them.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/
do a history search, because we've discussed different databases for different religions before... where'd that sucker go...

Here we are:http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29801&highlight=catholic+saints

Judg
12-14-2006, 01:33 AM
That being said, I don't want to be the guy writing stuff where the Evil Wizard's name is...Kevin.

Oh dear. Mine is named Edgar. Kevin is a simple soldier...

Mind you, there is an excellent reason for which they have English names.

Alex Bravo
12-15-2006, 07:21 AM
In my fantasy, I use scientific names that go with the character, but then many do that, like Lupin in Harry Potter.

Some of my character names are: Allomerus, Mitara, Tarsata, Brachinus, Chrysura, Pyramica, Hamatum, etc...