What’s In a Character’s Name?
When we write fantasy or any other genre of fictional story we need to name our characters. We get to create the people and creatures and then give them a name, so they come ‘alive’ to us as we write and to the reader who’s going to be blown away by our stories. Cool, huh?
Art by Kirstie Shanks Brand & Web Design
3 Ways to Create Fantasy Names
Reading and researching old books from the countries or regions which have influenced your setting can be a big help. Consider the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Heath means ‘an area of land covered in heather or similar low dense shrubbery’, and Cliff is ‘a high steep rock or precipice’. Heathcliff is a perfect name for the dishevelled and tortured romantic hero living on the English moors. (Dear to my heart as I was born there–not on the moors, down the road a bit).
Other characters have more obscure names such as Mark Twain, the renowned author and humourist. He was born Samuel Clemens but used the pen-name Mark Twain, which means the second line on the side of the riverboat where Twain worked as a young man. The second line (mark) was 12’ and the safe depth mark for the boat.
How do you go about choosing, or inventing, a name for your fantasy characters? If I want to quickly write a short story or an ebook, I find it easier to use a name that fits with the occupation of the character.
First Name + Occupational Surname
Penelope Donkeyrider (Courier)
Dugan Bagsnatcher (Thief)
Ventrice Shoemaker (Cobbler)
Tola Axegrinder (Blacksmith)
Roland Brewmaster (Winemaker)
First Name + Setting Surname
Fantasy characters can also be named for the place where they live:
First Name + Race
How about naming your character as easy as using their race as a descriptor?
Kreg Cave Dwarf
Felicia Fairy Princess
Eleander High Elf
You get the idea. I’ve come up with a few hilarious names doing this. I’ve also found watching the credits from shows and movies to be inspiring, especially if the show was filmed in a place similar to my story world. There are name generators that can help too. Here’s a site I go to for inspiration – Name Generator
And here’s a Dwarf Name Generator for you.
Authors and Pinterest
Giving my main characters names helped me to organize my files on my Pinterest boards where I stash every image I can find that looks at all like I envision my character to be as well as my story settings and other features. Now that Pinterest allows me to add ‘sections’ to my boards I have one for my hero, minor protagonists, the main villain, minor antagonists and one for settings. Also, I feel a closer connection to my characters when I talk to them if they have names (admit it, you do this too, right?) Check out my published books on Pinterest and the new novel I’m writing. I also use these images for my social media gems (unless they’re repinned and have copyright).
By naming my darlings, I feel them take on a personality, and it’s easier to write their story, how they would respond to situations and their mannerisms. Do you feel this way about your characters?
A brainstorming session with friends could generate a lot of names for you – and a lot of beverages snorting out of the nose (always a good party trick). What else could influence your characters’ names?
So, have fun with naming your characters.
What name would you give the character in the title picture?
Leave a comment. I’d love to know what name you came up with.
Til next time, know you are loved by the One who made you in His image.