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Naming Characters in Fantasy Fiction

Updated on July 13, 2011

How to Name Fantasy Characters

The most important rule when naming characters in fantasy fiction is to make the names pronounceable and easy to remember. There is an unfortunate habit in fantasy fiction to come up with the most incredible names rife with odd vowel combinations and apostrophes.

Example: Luaori'likae Deil'mariua

That definitely sounds like a fantasy name, as no real person would name their child that, but it would be simply impossible for the reader to sound out with any degree of surety.

Where to Get Fantasy Fiction Character Name Ideas

Fantasy character names can come from real world sources, or can be invented completely in your creative mind. Many fantasy stories, especially pseudo-medieval sword and sorcery or high fantasy, can use names from the real world. No fantasy reader will balk at a King Edmund or Princess Rosa. Choosing some of the more unusual names from the real world will work for other fantasy sub-genres. It might help to look at baby name books or websites with international names.

Other possibilities include place names, names of flowers, plants, animals and even gemstones. Latin nomenclature for species and genus of organisms can be interesting names as well. They can be tweaked to sound less Latin if desired. For example, a goldfinch's Latin name is Spinus Tristis. They are in the subgenus Carduelis. You can use these words to create a fantasy character name. Is Tristis Carduelan the prince of a small kingdom, or perhaps Ardueli Trist is a barmaid with questionable morals.

Fantasy character names can be completely fabricated as well. A writer's mind is full of creativity that can turn a random lot of letters into something that sounds like a name. These should be kept to 1, 2 or 3 syllables, as long names get more difficult to remember.

Consider creating a language construction for the race of beings in your short story or novel. You do not have to create entire grammar books and dictionaries. Just invent an overall feel to the language. For example, a race of burly barbarians may use harsh-sounding letters such as K, T, G and D in their names more often, and favor rolling Rs attached to their vowels.  More ethereal creatures may prefer soft sounds of L, S, V, and short vowel sounds.

Some General Tips on Naming

There are a few simple rules to keep in mind when naming characters in any fiction:

Avoid sexual ambiguity. (Terry, Carey, or Pat) Unless ambiguity is the goal.

Avoid alliteration. The reader will have a hard time keeping track of Joe, Jill, Jan and Jim.

Stick with few nicknames. If Robert's brother calls him Bob and his buddy calls him "Wolf" and his Aunt calls him Robbie and his Grandfather calls him "Scooter" and his 2nd grade teacher always calls him Einstein and his girlfriend calls him "Snickerdoodle," your reader will go insane trying to remember it's all the same person.

Make names match the character. The ugly stepsister should never be called "Rosebud" unless you are writing comedy. It can be fun to research the etymology of names and choose ones that fit the personality of the character. While your reader may never grasp the purpose of a particular name choice, it can help you be more comfortable with the people - or creatures - who populate your stories.


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    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 7 years ago

      I happen to have a book called the magical book of names, which is all about choosing a magical name for yourself, but I of course name my characters, not myself. :) It's a useful book.

    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 7 years ago from carthage ill

      creative hub work thanks