Naming Your Fantasy World

As if naming our characters wasn't hard enough. On top of that, we have to name lands, buildings, foods, cultures, mountains even treaties and wars. The list goes on and on. How can we possibly come up with so many?


1. Pay attention to everything around you. You may come across a perfect name in a restaurant sign or even in graffiti. I once got a town name from an item in a craft store.

2. Think about what you want to name, a landmass for instance. What does that land represent to your story or to the people who live on it? Write down a few words. Then, go to a dictionary and a thesaurus and look up those words. Look at how the pronunciation is spelled, even the etymology- the origin of that word. Something in there may speak to you.

For instance, my race of beings can shadow but I didn't want to call it that. Instead, I looked up the word shadow and its origins. Now, my characters sceadu. It's pronounced the same, just spelled differently.

If the words you listed aren't working for you, find their synonyms and try again. Also, I like to use Latin Translations. I wanted a name for my race of being so, I wrote down words that represent them then, I looked up those words' Latin translation. After that, I pulled parts from each translation until I created a name I liked.

3. Remember, fantasy writers have amazing imaginations. Think of a letter and create a made up word from that. I thought of "B" and came up with Borterain. It doesn't have to be the perfect name. It could be incredibly silly. But, at least you have something you could work with. Play around with it. Take some letters out- put new ones in until you create something you like.

4. A comment from a Google+ group drew my attention to Random Name Generator. I do a general name search then, I keep reloading the page. Each time, the name changes. I reload and reload until I come across one I like.

5. Don't try to name everything at once. You'll only make you head explode. Instead, group them. For instance, start from big to small. Work on the names of all the landmass in your world, then the different territories within those landmasses- towns within those territories- any mountain ranges, deserts, forests, rivers near those towns.

Don't try keeping them all in your head. It won't work. I've mentioned my World Building Journal and Evernote in other posts. All names go in either of those places. I also have a colored world map on my wall with territories, cities, towns and geography.
6. The names don't have to be complicated or even made up. I have towns called Sovereign and Shepherd's Hook.

World Building is supposed to be fun. Enjoy it. The world you're creating comes straight from your imagination. It doesn't have to be anything other than what you want it to be.

Comments

  1. I've only created a world (to this extent) once, but it definitely was fun.

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    1. World building has its challenges but it is a lot of fun.

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  2. Making up names is something I'd never thought of, just worry so much that it's been used before. Your idea of picking a letter so narrows it down and makes it easy.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. We can learn a lot from fantasy writers. lol

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  3. I definitely like the "don't name it all at once" approach. It took me years to fully develop the world I'm writing about, and I named things as I came to them.

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    1. Yeah, world building takes a lot of patience ;)

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  4. Gah, I remember I DID name my fantasy world...and had it typed into the laptop that crashed a couple of months after. Ugh, now I'm reminded that I have to think of one again!! Haha! :)

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    1. Ouch, sorry about your computer. You should try Evernote. You could access the information anywhere.

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  5. Hi! I have just started on blogger and I've just started following your blog. Great post by the way! You make great points. I heard once that the name Oz came to Baum while he was looking at a file cabinet containing folders from O to Z. You just never know where inspiration is going to strike. I just though I'd mention that I actually just made a post about choosing character names myself. It's here: http://rummagewriter.blogspot.com/2013/04/8-points-to-remember-when-naming-your.html Anyways, keep up the great work!

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    1. Welcome Sarah!

      I enjoyed your post! Pronunciation is a tricky thing for fantasy writers. You want the name to be unique but, as you said, readers may mispronounce it or skip over it. I usually play around with the spelling or give the character a nickname.

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  6. I'll have to look it up, but one of the bloggers I follow did an etymology sort of blog on the word nothing, and its various combinations. One of the words there seemed ideal for a character name... but could work just as well for a place.

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    1. You could find some great names just by looking at the etymology of a word.

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  7. Yes naming a world is tricky. I cheated and used one I had used way back when for something else unpublished. Towns and villages are hard as well. Although one way is to find something you like, such as Greenwood and see what that would be in say Gaelic, Latin, German or any other language. Or mispell a name- Redwood, Redword, Redward, Refwold.

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    1. That's not cheating ;) I have a lot of unpublished stories I just use for spare parts.

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  8. Lol just discovered I have a blogger account I had forgotten about:)

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    1. That happenes to me too. I have so many social media accounts it gets hard to keep track of them all.

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  9. I was totally stuck until I stumbled across this post and read "Evernote". Yes, my country's name is Evernote fiddled with.

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  10. In my first book I just named the country after my friend's half-sister. In my second, I named a waterfall "Aithne", meaning "Fire Waterfall".

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